Navigant Research Blog

The Rise of Connected Vehicles Is Changing the Approach to Vehicle Maintenance

— June 14, 2018

In late April, I attended the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California. One of the main themes at the Expo was how the penetration of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies enhances commercial vehicles. Currently, commercial vehicle maintenance is preventative; meaning maintenance is scheduled to occur after some interval of mileage or time, and whenever an engine light notifies a driver that maintenance is needed. However, with the increasing application and prevalence of connected sensors throughout vehicles, fleet owners are shifting away from the traditional approach to maintenance.

From Interval Maintenance to Maintenance On-Demand 

As more vehicles become connected and as more sensors are added to track more parts, there is a shift away from preventative maintenance toward new models.

Vehicles equipped with connected sensors are already enabling changes to the maintenance chain. OEMs have begun using telemetry data to offer remote diagnostics services for fleet managers who own vehicles with connected sensors. Remote diagnostics can enhance vehicle maintenance by providing real-time analysis of engine fault codes and other component issues to enable faster, more informed maintenance. However, these remote diagnostics tools are often reactionary in nature, and work alongside preventative maintenance strategies. And for fleet managers, the holy grail of connected vehicles is predictive maintenance.

Using connected vehicle sensors, predictive maintenance would enable fleet managers to stay on top of maintenance requests and fix parts before they fail. By aggregating telemetry data collected from a vehicle fleet and correlating it with component failure history, predictive models can be built that project the service life of components. As the real-time data of components, such as the starter battery or brakes, begins to resemble what happens leading up to a failure, the vehicle can be serviced before it needs unscheduled downtime. This enables fleets to reduce their vehicle downtime and reduce costs by avoiding catastrophic maintenance events. As fleets become more reliant on predictive maintenance and vehicles come equipped with more sensors to track most—if not all of—a vehicle’s components, there will be less need for preventative and scheduled maintenance to take place.

The Future of Predictive Maintenance and IoT

IoT technologies are also expanding into the connected vehicle space. Edge analytics of vehicle components, in particular, will be hugely impactful on fleet management. Currently, most of the telemetry data gathered for remote maintenance is not analyzed at the point of data collection (also known as the edge). Rather, much of the remote diagnostics data analysis happens in the cloud. As vehicle component sensors become more advanced and IoT-enabled, more of the data analysis used for remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance will occur at the edge by embedding the lifecycle models that were developed in the cloud from aggregate data. As the number of sensors on each vehicle grows and becomes more sophisticated in collecting data, so too will the volume of data grow. Moving large amounts of data will become a consideration in the costs of real-time analysis. A shift toward edge maintenance, where the analysis used to make maintenance decisions happens at the sensor, will reduce the amount of data needing to be sent to the cloud.

These changes will require the status quo of vehicle maintenance to change over the next 5-10 years as the technology continues to penetrate the vehicle population and as fleet managers realize the added value in such services. Stakeholders on the maintenance side and those upstream will need to adapt to new business models where predictive and edge maintenance replace current business models that revolve around scheduled and catastrophic maintenance. These new maintenance models may have to become more integrated with other platforms to remain competitive with their service delivery and parts availability.


Test Failures Show Drone Delivery Services Are Still Working out Growing Pains

— May 22, 2018

At face value, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, seem to be an excellent solution for last mile and last meter logistics. In the past view years there have been a number entrants into the drone delivery service (DDS) space; both Amazon and Google have completed proof of concept deliveries using their drones, as has Reno-based Flirtey, to name a few.

In addition to these test deliveries for e-commerce orders, there are some ongoing pilot programs transporting higher value goods (i.e., medical supplies) in an effort to both speed up deliveries and reduce travel times. Startup Matternet is working on establishing automated deliveries between hospitals, and Zipline is delivering blood in Rwanda where traditional delivery methods are time prohibitive.

The Value Add Is There

UAVs seem like a logical fit for many of these deliveries, and they also have the potential to reduce the cost of the most expensive piece of the logistics supply chain. According to research by Honeywell in 2016, last mile logistics make up over 50% of the costs of a delivery process. UAVs can reduce costs by decreasing delivery times, complementing human delivery drivers in some scenarios (such as UAV-integrated delivery vehicles), and removing them in others (like transporting your online order directly from a warehouse to your front door).

Challenges to Overcome

As with all things, the devil is in the details. Deliveries in rural areas are costly for logistics companies, with routes that are often longer and have fewer drop-offs—reducing efficiency. Earlier this month, the Russian Postal Service set out to showcase its proof of concept in Serbia, using a UAV to deliver the mail. This application seems to fit the bill on adding value. The route for this event and the payload were preplanned, and a crowd gathered to watch the future of delivery. However, just seconds after takeoff the drone crashed into a wall and forced onlookers to jump out of the way to avoid the falling vehicle.

Regulators Value DDS, but Not More Than Public Safety

There are many variables that need to be understood and accounted for before we begin to see these applications take hold. These include the following:

  • How DDS will navigate within an urban environment and around infrastructure
  • What safety measures are needed when operating DDS above people
  • How DDS will tackle the intricacies of apartment deliveries
  • How DDS will operate with wind shear and inclement weather
  • How to manage UAV traffic when there are much larger fleets

Test runs and pilot programs that end successfully are great for the industry. The ability of UAVs to safely and reliably carry out tasks will be an indicator for regulators around the world to allow for the technology’s commercial operation. But tests that end in failure—such as the Russian Postal Service’s attempt—are the reason why regulations are important and why they will be slow to change until these technologies are proven and reliable. Companies operating in this space will need to keep their noses to the grindstone in order to show success and win over regulators.

Navigant Research’s recent report, Capturing New Commercial Opportunities with Unmanned Vehicles, provides insight into the growing commercial unmanned vehicle space. It includes details on the regulatory environment, which many UAVs will need to work alongside until governments feel the technology is capable of tackling more complex challenges.


California Ports Look to Strategies for Reducing Port Emissions

— April 19, 2018

At the end of 2017, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (LA-LB) jointly announced aggressive emissions reduction goals in the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) Update. The intent of the CAAP is to provide stakeholders with high level guidance to drive down port emissions. Mayors of both cities have declared their desires to eliminate emissions from cargo-handling equipment by 2030, and share a zero-emissions goal for on-road drayage trucks by 2035.

LA-LB’s focus on emissions reductions from port and other non-road transport aligns with broader California plans. In 2017, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed resolutions to develop air quality regulations to achieve 100% zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) compliance for cargo-handling equipment by 2030. Additionally, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and CARB will work to develop concepts for an Indirect Source Rule to control pollution from large freight facilities, including ports, and any alternatives to achieve emissions reductions.

LA-LB are committed to supporting a host of regional and state regulations to reduce port emissions, including ZEV standards for on-road trucks; engine standards for locomotives and vessels; emission controls from non-regulated vessels; fleet turnover requirements for harbor crafts and cargo-handling equipment; and idling restrictions for cargo-handling equipment.

However, future regulations will have few teeth. Signed in April 2017, the State of California Senate Bill 1, while it supports developing a funding mechanism for transportation infrastructure, prohibits the development of new regulations that would create requirements for the replacement of trucks before 800,000 miles or 18 years from the engine model year. Unable to require changes, LA-LB will have to advocate for significant voluntary incentive and grant programs to entice fleets to opt in.

Balancing Immediate Results with Long-Term Strategies

LA-LB want to reduce their port emissions as much as possible, as quickly as possible. However, finding strategies to immediately bring port emissions reductions before certain technologies are available will prove challenging. ZEV and near-ZEV trucks are not yet broadly commercially available, though demonstration projects are underway. According to CAAP, the only near-ZEV engines available are fueled by natural gas, while near-ZEV diesel will come to market sometime after 2020. The ports have suggested an update to the Clean Truck Program to limit drayage vehicle registrations to newer engine years beginning mid-year 2018, as well as establishing a rate trucks must pay for entry to the port, with exemptions for near-ZEV and ZEV trucks.

LA-LB can still move toward the electrification of off-road vehicles while waiting for heavy-truck electrification technology to become commercially viable. The electrification of cargo-handling equipment provides another path toward reducing port emissions. Port of LA has several cargo-handling electrification projects, including demonstration projects of plug-in yard tractors and the electrification of 10 rubber tire gantry cranes. A full list of cargo-handling electrification projects and implementation can be found on the Port of LA’s Zero Emission Technologies page.

Will Improvements Pull in or Drive Away Business?

LA-LB’s adoption of the CAAP Update signals the market that there is an increasing demand for cleaner vehicles operating within the ports. This plan could hasten the development of commercially viable ZEV vehicles for ports, helping spur the market beyond Los Angeles and Long Beach. While the CAAP Update is an ambitious plan for emissions reduction in the region, it comes with a possible $14 billion price tag, with the assumption that businesses and taxpayers will foot the bill. LA-LB hope the quality and emissions improvements will make them more desirable than their competitors, but the potential for increased costs and fees may drive cargo shippers to other, less expensive ports.


Colorado Charges Forward with Plan to Support EVs

— February 8, 2018

While California garners deserved headlines for being the most ambitious state in promoting EVs, Colorado is pushing with its own aggressive agenda. On January 24, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced the debut of the Colorado EV Plan to a crowd outside Colorado’s Alliance Center. The plan, developed in support of his 2017 executive order Supporting Colorado’s Clean Energy Transition, outlines specific programs, strategies, and goals to electrify travel corridors around the state to support the widespread adoption of EVs.

In his speech, Hickenlooper announced Colorado was eighth in EV market share last year, and that the Colorado EV Plan is “a big step toward pushing that forward.”

The plan’s five goals include:

  1. Increase adoption of light duty EVs to reach goal of 940,000 EVs in Colorado by 2030
  2. Increase the number of electric transit vehicles to 500 by 2030
  3. Increase the number of employers that provide workplace charging to employees
  4. Develop strategies and partnerships that prepare property owners for future investments in EV charging infrastructure and electrify challenging facility types
  5. Lead by example by accelerating the purchase of EVs for agency fleets and investment in EV charging infrastructure

Charging Infrastructure Expected to Benefit

The plan details that 15% of the $68.7 million Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds that the state will receive will go toward light-duty EV charging infrastructure, the maximum allowable under the settlement terms. Colorado also intends to capitalize on public-private partnerships and the grants provided through new and existing programs.

Hickenlooper spoke to how the plan fulfills Colorado’s commitment to the Regional EV West memorandum of understanding (discussed in a previous blog). This bipartisan effort brings together eight states (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana) to connect and electrify over 7,000 miles to establish the Intermountain West EV corridor. The plan also mentions that Colorado will investigate opportunities to partner with cities, manufacturers, and transportation network companies (i.e., Lyft and Uber) to support the electrification of a variety of mobility options.

While the plan is good news for EV enthusiasts, it also marks declining support for other alternative fuel vehicles. The plan commits to changing the ALT Fuels Colorado program—which since 2014 has provided grants for the construction of publicly-accessible compressed natural gas, propane, and EVs—to begin directing funds toward the build out of the EV fast-charging corridors.

Colorado currently has only 53 DC fast-charging stations, and Hickenlooper stated that, “we probably need 4 times that, but the demand [for charging infrastructure] is not going to decrease, it’s only going to increase.” Increasing public charging infrastructure will relieve some of the anxiety that prospective and current EV owners may have about vehicle driving range.

Demand Is Great, but What’s the Cost?

The high estimate scenario for the goal of 940,000 EVs on the road by 2030 requires as many as 632 fast charger stations to support the EV population, or 580 additional chargers in the next 12 years. According to Navigant Research’s recent report, DC Fast Charging Equipment for EVs, this would require approximately $60,000 per charger, or $34.8 million. With the VW settlement funds of just over $10.3 million allowed to be used for EV charging infrastructure, this leaves the Colorado Energy Office looking for another $24.5 million from the private sector, the ALT Fuels Colorado budget, or other funding opportunities to build out the infrastructure needed to support almost 1 million EVs in the state.


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