Claude Masters, CAFM: Sparking the Future of Fleet Electrification


By Mike Sheldrick, Senior Edi­tor, Fleet Man­age­ment Week­ly

Fresh from his accept­ing the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s 2014 Clean Air Excel­lence Award for inno­v­a­tive pro­grams on behalf of Flori­da Pow­er & Light Co., we caught up with Claude Mas­ters, CAFM, NAFA Pres­i­dent and FPL’s Man­ag­er of Vehi­cle Acqui­si­tion and Fuel. We found that Claude’s long­time enthu­si­asm for the poten­tial of elec­tric vehi­cles to save ener­gy and con­tribute to our ener­gy inde­pen­dence remains undimmed — in fact, even brighter.

Tell us about some of the elec­tric vehi­cle ini­tia­tives that are in the fore­front right now at Flori­da Pow­er & Light Co.

Our ini­tia­tives are also impor­tant for the indus­try as well: help­ing move along the fleet elec­tri­fi­ca­tion process for not just our fleet, but for the coun­try and the indus­try as a whole.

How elec­tric­i­ty is pro­duced and used is a large com­po­nent of the effort we are mak­ing to achieve ener­gy inde­pen­dence. I serve on an Edi­son Elec­tric Insti­tute (EEI) com­mit­tee that is writ­ing a white paper for the CEOs of investor-owned elec­tric com­pa­nies across the coun­try that will help them under­stand what fleet elec­tri­fi­ca­tion means and why it is impor­tant to them.

Vehi­cle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is fur­ther along than many think. We already have a gen­er­a­tion infra­struc­ture. What is not ful­ly devel­oped yet is the final attach­ment point. But that dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work is being worked on very active­ly. For exam­ple, you see a lot of media relat­ed arti­cles about what Tes­la is doing. Flori­da Pow­er & Light has actu­al­ly helped the com­pa­ny with the instal­la­tion of a “super­charg­er high­way” in Flori­da, and we look for­ward to doing more of that.

If you look at the elec­tric vehi­cles that we have in place today, they have played an impor­tant role in help­ing the whole indus­try get to where it needs to be. For the OEMs to meet future CAFE stan­dards, elec­tric or plug-in hybrid elec­tric vehi­cles have to be a major part of the OEMs plans. There is just no oth­er way for them to meet those num­bers with­out it.

There have been sub­stan­tial improve­ments in these vehi­cles. Take hybrids, for exam­ple. Some ear­ly mod­els didn’t even have elec­tric air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems. With some of the ear­ly offer­ings, you had to take it out of “econ­o­my mode” to run the air con­di­tion­er because there wasn’t enough vol­ume in that mar­ket space to dri­ve devel­op­ment of a cost effec­tive elec­tric air con­di­tion­er. Today that is a stan­dard fea­ture on hybrid vehi­cles. More­over, all of the ancil­lary com­po­nents — pow­er steer­ing, pow­er brakes, etc., that were for­mer­ly dri­ven off the engine are being elec­tri­fied. Remov­ing that “par­a­sitic loss” saves 40 to 65 horse­pow­er, mak­ing the engine that much more fuel-effi­cient.

In today’s truck mar­ket, most of the heavy over-the-road trac­tors still have belt-dri­ven water pumps, belt-dri­ven air con­di­tion­ers, pow­er steer­ing, etc. Even­tu­al­ly, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of these ancil­lary com­po­nents will migrate into the heavy truck mar­ket and you will see the same thing hap­pen. Over-the-road trucks and trac­tors can start down­siz­ing their engines to make them more fuel effi­cient. Mea­sured over the size of that fleet, it will be a big deal.

It’s true that we need bet­ter, low­er-cost bat­ter­ies. Nev­er­the­less, with today’s tech­nol­o­gy, Tes­la has proved that elec­tric cars can be suc­cess­ful. Tes­la may not have ful­ly solved the range anx­i­ety issue but they have cer­tain­ly dimin­ished it great­ly. It’s not uncom­mon in West Palm Beach or Los Ange­les to go to an upscale mall or restau­rant and see two or three Tes­las in the park­ing lot at the same time. That tells you that the accep­tance of those vehi­cles is here. Grant­ed, not every­body can afford a Tes­la today but they are cer­tain­ly not any more expen­sive than oth­er pre­mi­um cars.

Do you think Tes­la has sig­nif­i­cant pro­pri­etary tech­nol­o­gy or are there oth­er advanced bat­tery tech­nolo­gies being devel­oped?

I don’t pro­fess to be an expert on it but what I do know about the mil­i­tary and the defense indus­try is that every day their reliance on high per­for­mance bat­ter­ies is increas­ing. There is always going to be a mar­ket for some type of advanced bat­tery. They need to get lighter and they need to get more ener­gy dense. It is like a race, much like any oth­er busi­ness: what­ev­er chem­istry you use to build the bat­tery that pro­vides the high­est ener­gy den­si­ty at the low­est price will be the win­ner.

If some­body comes up with an inex­pen­sive, rel­a­tive­ly high ener­gy-den­si­ty bat­tery two or three years from now, I think they will con­tin­ue to work on that and refine it, and keep play­ing with chemistries until we get the one that is the right one for the indus­try. Just like cell phones, the tech­nol­o­gy changes so fast that, four years from now, we will look at it and say, “This thing is archa­ic. I can’t sur­vive with this ver­sion.”

If you are just build­ing bat­ter­ies for cars you are prob­a­bly not going to stay in busi­ness very long. If you look at a lot of the larg­er, suc­cess­ful bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ers they are build­ing bat­ter­ies not only for the auto­mo­tive indus­try, but for the aero­space indus­try, the med­ical indus­try, the solar indus­try, etc. That explains Tesla’s deal with Pana­son­ic to joint­ly pro­duce bat­ter­ies.

As fleets become more elec­tri­fied, what will be the effect on main­te­nance costs and resid­u­als?

Most peo­ple don’t ini­tial­ly grasp the changes in resid­u­als but when you talk about it in detail then it starts to make more sense. The rea­son why it is hard to set resid­u­als on battery/electric vehi­cles today is because there’s so much debate about what the true life cycle of a bat­tery is. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers war­ran­ty their bat­ter­ies from eight-to-ten years. That has more to do with the charge cycles than it has to do with actu­al age of the bat­tery.

The bat­tery-life stud­ies that the man­u­fac­tur­ers do run like this: They cycle it, and every full dis­charge and recharge is con­sid­ered a cycle. Most bat­ter­ies are approx­i­mat­ed to live between 3,000 and 4,000 cycles. If you used your car 300 days a year times ten years that is 3,000 cycles. They feel very con­fi­dent that that bat­tery will live for that ten year peri­od and they feel com­fort­able giv­ing you a war­ran­ty on that. Most peo­ple don’t keep a car ten years.

Let’s say that you bought a ten or eleven year old vehi­cle and the bat­ter­ies fail on it at eleven years. What we don’t know is what bat­tery costs are going to be in eleven years. There are a lot of stud­ies that have been done on bat­tery costs by doing for­ward pro­jec­tions. Almost no one will tell you what the exact num­ber is because it is pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion, and nobody wants to give their com­peti­tors knowl­edge of what their costs are. But most of the peo­ple that I talk to that do research on this say that today’s prices for a lithi­um ion bat­tery, which is what most peo­ple are using, is about $450.00 per kilo­watt hour. The Ford pro­jec­tion for that in five to sev­en years can vary from $150.00 to $250.00 per kilo­watt hour.

After a bat­tery is not suit­able for use in a vehi­cle, it hasn’t reached the end of its use­ful life. There are many appli­ca­tions, such as solar pow­er, where they can be put to per­fect­ly good use. Beyond that, the bat­tery mate­ri­als them­selves can be recy­cled. A sec­ondary mar­ket in bat­ter­ies is already begin­ning to devel­op. When the Prius first came out over ten years ago, peo­ple said the Prius was not going to have any resid­ual val­ue because nobody is going to want to buy one. They don’t know what is going to hap­pen to the bat­ter­ies. Well, today there is a great sec­ondary mar­ket for Prius. Its resid­u­als are typ­i­cal­ly high­er than a com­pa­ra­ble vehi­cle in its class.

The one thing that every­body does agree on is that you do see a reduc­tion in main­te­nance cost. But most peo­ple have not had elec­tric vehi­cles in oper­a­tion long enough to do a ten year com­par­i­son or com­par­a­tive analy­sis, so that part has not been agreed upon. There are some Six Sig­ma tools that you can use to do pro­jec­tions. But, again, every­body agrees that your typ­i­cal elec­tric car has about one-third of the com­po­nents of a con­ven­tion­al inter­nal com­bus­tion engine vehi­cle. Typ­i­cal­ly you are talk­ing about no trans­mis­sion, no cool­ing sys­tem, and no exhaust sys­tem. On the heav­ier-truck side of it, the exhaust sys­tem pro­file for a medi­um- or heavy-duty truck is a big expense — $7,000-$10,000 worth of after-treat­ment devices on a truck that you didn’t have ten years ago. That is a big cost com­po­nent.

Sum­ma­riz­ing what we’ve talked about, can you give us your pre­dic­tions for vehi­cle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion?

Pre­dic­tions are always dan­ger­ous, but cer­tain­ly in 30 or 40 years, maybe soon­er, we will prob­a­bly be look­ing at vehi­cles that have elec­tric motors to pro­pel the vehi­cle, in con­junc­tion bat­ter­ies or with some type of pow­er sys­tem such as a hydro­gen cell reformer that gen­er­ates the need­ed elec­tric­i­ty. Elec­tric motors —how­ev­er they are pow­ered, by bat­ter­ies, or fuel cells, or even an onboard gen­er­a­tor, have a sig­nif­i­cant edge in effi­cien­cy. In a con­ven­tion­al gaso­line engine, only 30 to 40 per­cent of the ener­gy actu­al­ly makes it to the dri­ve wheels; with an elec­tric motor it is 100 per­cent. We still need high­er-ener­gy-den­si­ty, low­er-cost bat­ter­ies.

In sum­ma­ry, vehi­cle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is a real­ly big deal to our indus­try and to the coun­try. I think it is going to play a major role in the trans­porta­tion indus­try for the future, and I am going to do every­thing I can to help sup­port that.



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