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Companies Partner to Integrate EVs into Traditional Fleets

Synop and Geotab are combining their fleet management expertise into one platform to serve the needs of both internal combustion vehicles and their electric counterparts as government fleets continue to evolve.

The growth in electric vehicle adoption by fleets is accelerating the growth in partnerships among fleet management technology providers with a focus on optimizing the use of EVs to both serve fleet needs and the needs of the electric grid.

Synop, a maker of fleet management technology for EVs, is partnering with Geotab a leader providing fleet management tech for both the public and private sectors. Synop will integrate its EV fleet management into Geotab’s platform, which generally serves internal combustion fleets.

Fleet managers want “a single pane of glass, or one place to go see all of their assets. They don’t want to be flipping back between different systems, different interfaces,” said Mark Braby, chief commercial officer for Synop, adding, the integration is a “one-stop shop, single pane of glass for fleet managers.”

Synop specializes in perfecting the innovations between the vehicle and the charging hardware.

“What we do is we really make sure the vehicle is charged at the state of charge it needs to be for its mileage,” said Braby. “We also manage around the utility rate. So the utility rates are, obviously, the new fuel costs, and they’re not as straightforward as pulling into a station.”

The company is also working with electric utilities like National Grid, which serves the Northeast, to develop vehicle-to-grid operations, which Braby describes as “a massive opportunity.”

Rather than building new capacity, utilities and others in the tech industry can develop technology to tap fleets, said Braby.

“We’re integrating directly with the utility in some cases where they’ve give us some sort of signal where they need capacity on a certain day, a certain time … and so what we need to figure out at Synop is, does this work with the depot schedule for the fleet manager? If we do this, does it mess up their schedule?” Braby explained. “[Fleet managers'] biggest thing is keeping the vehicles on the road, making sure the charge is there. The worst thing we could do is mess that up.”

The concept of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) is already being explored by fleets. In Southern California, electric school buses are part of a pilot project with San Diego Gas & Electric to tap battery storage on the buses for managing the grid during peak demand periods.

School buses, with their predictable use patterns could be good candidates for V2G use cases, said Braby.

“We look for the fleets where there’s a lot of dwell time to work in the vehicle-to-grid area,” he added.

Geotab customers — like the state of Ohio which uses the fleet management platform — say they welcome new forays into EVs.

“The Department of Administrative Services appreciates the many features and capabilities that fleet management technology provides to help better manage the state’s fleet resources, including in the EV space,” said Melissa Vince, communications director for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS). “Currently, the state does not have any EVs in the fleet but is exploring if there are opportunities for limited use cases with agencies.”

DAS has partnered with Geotab to provide connected vehicle technology across hundreds of vehicles in more than 40 state agencies.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.