How to Make your Fleet Greener with ZEVs

Charging an electric vehicle fleet

In the urgent fight against climate change, gas-guzzling vehicles have long been a key target. As a fleet manager, this buying decision is more complex than that of your average consumer who may not know what fleet management is. In this article, we’ll dive into the three main clean energy transport solutions: electric vehicles, biofuels, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The Biden administration’s plan to transform the way Americans use transportation is underway, with the 2030 emission reduction deadline edging closer. The latest proposal announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could result in two thirds of all new vehicles sold in the US being electric by 2032, in a bid to reduce approximately 10 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2055

This, coupled with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, allows EV manufacturers and buyers to benefit from tax incentives, and ensure zero-emission vehicles are on the rise.

With many greener vehicle alternatives available, which is the best choice? Below, we’ll also look at and explain the benefits of various categories, including cost, environmental impact, range and accessibility.

Electric Vehicles

When it comes to electric vehicles, it is generally referring to battery electric vehicles (BEV) as well as plug-in electric vehicles (PEV). Both of these are already common occurrences on US roads and we can expect to see a lot more of them in the future with Biden’s measures in place.

The general definition of a BEV/PEV is that it only runs on a battery– usually lithium-ion – rather than the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE). You also have plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) which are a combination of the two, featuring a chargeable electric motor as well as a traditional ICE. We’ll focus on the fully electric, zero-emissions EV in this comparison.

How Much Do Electric Vehicles Cost?

Cost has typically been a big hurdle in the process of electrification, especially when it comes to revamping a whole fleet. Bought new, an electric car can cost anywhere up to well over $100,000. For larger commercial vehicles, this figure can be even higher.

However, the total cost of owning a vehicle doesn’t stop at the point of purchase as you’ll need to look at running costs. The good news is that the average annual cost to charge an electric vehicle is less than filling up a gas car. Additionally, you may be eligible for federal tax credits when purchasing electric vehicles. If you qualify, you could save up to $7,500, which makes going electric significantly more cost-effective and accessible than in the past.

How Green Are Electric Vehicles?

It goes without saying that EVs are an environmentally friendly alternative to ICE vehicles, lessening both air and noise pollution. With an output of zero emissions, they are a key player in Biden’s plans to overhaul American transportation habits and create cleaner, greener roads.

When you consider well-to-wheel emissions alone, EVs are greener than ICE vehicles. However, there is a new argument that claims the battery production process means they are not as green as we think. During the production process, the lithium-ion battery does create more pollution than ICE production. That being said, a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that no matter where you are in the world, EVs are less polluting than ICE. This is because EVs cannot outweigh the lifetime emissions of an ICE, which continues to pump harmful emissions into the atmosphere each time it is used. In the US, EVs are responsible for less than half as much CO2 as ICE vehicles.

Did You Know?

 74% of US fleet managers felt that the federal government should provide more financial support and guidance to help them transition to electric vehicles.

What Are The Drawbacks of Electric Vehicles?

In terms of distance, this is where EVs reach their biggest roadblock. It’s great that, in theory, we can fully replace ICEs with electricity but they do still need to be charged. Part of Biden’s blueprint includes strengthening the infrastructure surrounding electric vehicles, to ensure that EV drivers won’t get stuck with a dead battery. As it stands, electric charging stations are nowhere near as prevalent as gas stations, meaning drivers will have to plan routes according to the availability of charging stations. For large vehicles, stopping at charging stations can also be a time-consuming process that will need to be taken into account when planning.

Not only do electric fleet vehicles require large batteries, but they usually drive long distances. Long-distance, heavy-duty vehicle drivers may encounter more issues when running out of charge than drivers of smaller EVs or lighter-duty vehicles that drive inner-city routes.

Charging EVs can also be time-consuming. Depending on the charger and battery size, charging can take as quick as 30 minutes or more than 12 hours. It’s also pretty difficult to keep your entire fleet charged at your depot without blowing your fuse as, of course, your limited electricity supply may not be sufficient to charge multiple large batteries at one time. Planning fleet operations around battery charging may be another thing to stay on top of, in an already hectic schedule.

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In terms of availability, demand often outweighs supply. That is becoming the case with lithium-ion batteries. As well as being a pollutant, they are also difficult to source due to a shortage of lithium, nickel, and cobalt.

Electricity is also a finite resource, and the US grid, in particular, is struggling to keep up with the demands of the country’s usage. If all fleets were to bypass hurdles and electrify overnight, there would simply not be enough electricity for all of these electric cars to run. Whether the US grid can upscale enough to accommodate the necessary electrification of transport remains questionable.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Another green alternative is the hydrogen fuel cell. These vehicles run on hydrogen and produce zero tailpipe emissions, only emitting warm air and water vapor. Hydrogen vehicles use a propulsion system similar to that of electric vehicles, with the fuel cell transforming hydrogen into electricity. The biggest pros of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the short filling up time and their long driving range. They can be fully reloaded in less than 4 minutes as well as have a range of over 300 miles. This makes them a worthy replacement of ICE, and makes up for many of the shortcomings of battery powered electric vehicles that cannot drive as far without lengthy recharging periods.

Hydrogen fuel cells really perform in their range of distance, matching that of ICE vehicles. Their energy density is very high, which means they run out of energy slower, and need to be charged less frequently. When they do need to be charged, they also charge as quickly as ICE vehicles can be filled with gas, meaning less time is lost to recharging and more time in action.

How Much Do Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Cost?

In terms of cost, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are even pricier than BEVs. The cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is not currently competitive with its alternatives, meaning it’s not an accessible choice for many fleet managers looking to decarbonize.

A joint venture from Volvo and Daimler Truck, Cellcentric, is researching and developing hydrogen fuel cell systems for long-haul trucking purposes. With customer testing set for 2024 and large-scale production the following year, long-haul fleets may soon be powered by hydrogen. Hopefully in time to hit emission reduction targets.

How Green Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells?

Environmentally speaking, hydrogen fuel cells are a clean form of energy as the only byproduct is heat and water vapor. It was a popular topic of conversation in the 1990s and 2000s as the next big thing in terms of clean energy, but the dreams never materialized. This could have been due to shortcomings in infrastructure, expensive manufacturing, as well as complicated storage processes.

While EVs are considered green, their production process is not. With hydrogen production, the same is sort of true. To extract hydrogen, it often goes through a process called reforming, which emits a lot of CO2. So much energy is needed in this process, that it’s almost energy-neutral – meaning it uses as much energy as it creates. There are greener ways to extract hydrogen, such as via solar or wind power, but these forms of energy are not readily available worldwide. These production difficulties are some of the reasons why hydrogen fuel cell vehicles remain a complicated and expensive choice.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?

The biggest roadblock for the progression of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is currently the scarcity of publicly accessible charging points. As of April 2023, there are only 107 hydrogen refuelling stations in the US, most of which are in California.

A plus is that the government aims for a total of 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations in the US by 2030, which is also its target year for greenhouse gas reduction. Since a typical station can only fill 50 to 60 cars before running out of hydrogen, if whole fleets were to be replaced with hydrogen fuel cells, they’d quickly run into difficulties with refuelling.

While this is a solid green alternative, it seems that the existing infrastructure around hydrogen fuel cell vehicles means they aren’t a realistic replacement for the everyday road user, let alone for replacing an entire fleet.


Not ready to replace your vehicles? Biofuels can be a great step. Biofuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, can be made of many renewable “feedstocks” such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans. Offering reduced emissions, rather than zero emissions when burned, they are a greener alternative to fossil fuels. They are often used in conjunction with fossil fuels as blending components, or they can be used interchangeably in some cases, such as with biodiesel for large fleet trucks.

In terms of range, there are thousands of gas stations already providing biodiesel in the US. With around 16 billion gallons already being consumed per year, it’s a very accessible solution that doesn’t require you to change your entire fleet.

How Much Does Biofuel Cost?

In terms of cost, it all depends on the fluctuations of the market, but in recent years biofuels have been up to 130% more expensive than regular fuels. However, after prices plummeted in the beginning of this year, they are set to stay much lower than 2022’s peak after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which set fuel prices into a volatile upward spiral.

Furthermore, there’s a number of tax incentives currently available from the US government, such as a $1 rebate per gallon of biodiesel, agri-biodiesel, or renewable diesel used in your trade or business. So all in all, it could mean that biofuels are the same price or even more cost-effective than regular fossil fuels.

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How Green Is Biofuel?

Environmentally speaking, biofuels do have many benefits. When burned, they produce less carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other air toxins in tailpipe emissions than pure fossil fuels. To illustrate the difference, burning enough biofuel to create one megajoule of energy creates a byproduct of around 39g of CO2, whereas fossil fuels would give off 75.1g of CO2. So, biofuels create roughly half as much harmful emissions as pure fossil fuels. Furthermore, carbon emissions as a result of burning biofuels are not typically counted in greenhouse gas inventories as the belief is that they are offset by biomass feedstock grown in the production process.

Another benefit is that if spilt, pure ethanol and biodiesel are not nearly as harmful to the environment as fossil fuels, since they are non-toxic and biodegradable.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Biofuel?

It’s not all good news, as there are concerns with regard to the growth of biomass feedstocks to create biofuels. Some believe that resources, including land, fertilizer, and water, should be used to plant and grow crops for food rather than for biofuels.

There’s also concern that the production of crops for biofuel could mean that food prices rise in competition for land use. However, there’s also a growing encouragement for the regenerative use of “lipid” feedstocks, which are basically waste products, meaning that less crops are grown with the sole purpose of becoming fuel. Furthermore, since biofuels can be made domestically, it relieves some pressure on the need for foreign oil and the emissions involved in the importation and transportation of fuel.


It’s no easy feat to undergo the process of greening your fleet but one that will become increasingly necessary to hit upcoming carbon emissions goals. Whether it’s full electrification, swapping to hydrogen fuel cells or sticking with your existing fleet and considering the use of biofuel, there are many options if you do want to take steps towards a greener fleet. All three options have their pros and cons, but overall are all kinder to the planet than traditional ICE vehicles.

Written by:
Alice is one of Expert Market's resident software experts, helping businesses improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on productivity software, CRM and telecommunications.