Skip to content
<p><iframe allow="autoplay" frameborder="0" height="110px" src="https://player.acast.com/5a7367eb2219bdf808ec93f8/episodes/electrifying-your-fleet-ep-110?theme=white&amp;latest=1" width="100%"><!--cke_bookmark_692S--><!--cke_bookmark_692E--></iframe></p>

Listen to episode 110

Josh catches up with Eric Foellmer, Director of Marketing for XL Fleet, about vehicle electrification that’s helping fleets have better energy efficiency and sustainability in fleet operations. Learn about this new technology for creating hybrid vehicles! 

Show Notes:

Show Script:

Josh Peach  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

Hello, Operate Intelligently listeners. This is Joshua Peach, and I am in beautiful Brighton, Massachusetts with an old Dude friend Eric Foellmer. Eric welcome or thank you for welcoming me to your office.

Eric Foellmer  
Hey, thanks Josh. It's really good to see you. I've missed you and my former Dude colleagues quite a bit. So this is a great opportunity and an honor for me to be on the other side of this microphone.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, a little backstory on you, you actually kind of rebranded the Operate Intelligently podcasts. We monitored the new title of it and you were instrumental in helping get this thing kind of going a few years ago. And then, you know, you've taken on another role, which is really exciting we're going to talk about, I'm glad we've been able to stay in contact.

Eric Foellmer  
Definitely and I'm very glad that is in such capable hands now between you and Grace. You know, you guys are really doing a great job kind of taking it over and taking it to the next level. 

Josh Peach  
Yeah, it's all Grace. She's the best director extraordinaire and editor and everything. I can't say enough about what she does and makes this thing pop. So you're at a company now, which is XL, and that's the letter X, the letter L. And you do something really, really cool. Well, I find really, really cool. So tell us a little bit about XL. Where'd it come from? What is it today and where's it going tomorrow?

Eric Foellmer  
Sure, absolutely. So XL, or XL fleet, as we're kind of known in the industry, we are a vehicle electrification company. So we make an add on technology that turns standard gas-powered commercial fleet trucks into hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of those vehicles. So we don't make the vehicles themselves. We add on to existing vehicles that fleet managers are already buying, already using in the day to day operation of their jobs and we electrify them. So we create a system that bolts onto those vehicles and can actually increase fuel economy by 25 to 50% depending on the vehicle in the system and reduce emissions by up to a third. So we effectively take you know some of the heaviest polluting vehicles on the road, which is the commercial trucks you know, the bigger, the real gas and diesel guzzling engines, and we add a system on it that helps to propel those vehicles forward using electrical power. And really cuts down on the amount of gas that has been used and the amount of CO2 emissions that are emitted into the atmosphere. So we were founded about 10 years ago by several MIT grads, so they wanted, they were very into the energy space, saw an opportunity at the time, because nobody was doing fleet electrification. There had been some trial and error early, early on, you know, a lot of the OEMs you figure electrification is really kind of just taking off now at the consumer level. But at the commercial level, you know, it's a fairly immature market right now. And you can imagine what it was 10 years ago. So XL really grew up in that ecosystem and really just sort of forged a name for ourselves. We were founded as XL hybrids, because we exclusively made the hybrid vehicle systems. And now we've expanded to a plug in hybrid electric solution as well so we broaden the brand a little bit to be more XL or XL fleet to really capture not only that, but the telematics that are involved in a vehicle as well, all the data that gets tracked over that time. So we've really grown as a company over that time, over the last 10 years and in celebrating our 10 year anniversary this past year, we also celebrated over 100 million customer miles on the road, who have collectively reduced their gasoline consumption by 2 million gallons of gas, and over 20,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. So we're pretty proud of those metrics and we continue to sell into fleet managers who really value and prioritize sustainability in their operations.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, that little hundred million mile, like when you think about, you know, I think it was a social studies or science class that said the circumference of the Earth is 25,000 miles. It's a lot of that's a lot of drives around the world that you guys are doing with these trucks and vehicles and NGL vans. You guys do cater to that, it was one of the vehicles that I saw which was a prisoner van. But that's really kind of a just such a neat, I mean, just to think about the idea of it that that this is really in its infancy for people to be thinking outside about the fleets and you know, let's try to improve. We're always looking to improve our gas mileage, but 25% 50% that's significant. And you're right, those trucks and those heavy vehicles, I got a big Dodge pickup truck. You know, if I could increase my gas mileage by 50%. All day long, I should be thinking about that. I love my truck. I love the usability of it, the utility part of it and the ability to carry all of the racks and everything. So, you know, somebody just let's do a look just now I'm thinking about it. You know, I got my truck and let's say I've got five of them, I've got an HVAC company or you know part of a team of facility folks at a school or manufacturing facilities and I need five van or five trucks like they don't come here there's not a lot you don't have like a dealer a lot or anything how does that look? Like what is someone's process, what does that process look like?

Eric Foellmer  
So it's a very similar process to how they buy their fleet vehicles usually so we partner with Ford, GM and Isuzu on up fitting their trucks so they can go to a dealer, any Ford or GM dealer that they're currently buying. Ford Transit vans, F250s, you know GM passenger vans, cargo vans, strip chassis', anything that they normally buy in their current operation today. They can, you know, provided it's a fit for our system, can order through the same dealers that they're buying their vehicles from today, they can just have our kit installed and order as part of their add-on process. So in the fleet world, there really isn't much off the shelf purchasing. Fleets really do customize their vehicles substantially. So as part of that customization, whether they're adding a specific box on the back of a chassis, or whether they are, you know, adding additional tool capacity or ladder racks, what have you, and the daily operation of their job, they're checking a lot of boxes when they spec that vehicle out. So our system just gets added on to that process and specked into that order. And then it gets delivered to them with all the other accessories that they have ordered, plus our hybrid or plug in hybrid system bolted on to the to the vehicle as well. So it just becomes a hybrid truck and it gets delivered to them brand new as it would have been even if it was a standard gas powered engine. And the best thing is we don't disrupt the OEM factory warranties. So all of the service and all of the maintenance that they are accustomed to doing on those vehicles, they can continue to do. And our system doesn't disrupt that at all, operationally, from a maintenance perspective, and then certainly, you know, you get the residual benefits of, you know, you're getting more gas mileage out of the vehicle, you're reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, you have a hybrid sticker on the back of your truck. If you're a municipality, and I'm driving around, you know, the neighborhoods where you where your constituents live every day. And that's a great sort of testament to a township or a state government that they are investing in cleaner, greener transportation for their constituents. So, you know, there's a lot of value in sort of the sustainability angle, and I think that's really what's driven our business and what is compelling our business forward, even over the next 10 years. There's a lot more emphasis around sustainability, even more so than than the fuel economy.

Josh Peach  
Are you looking for a way to get inspired about your work as a facility or operations professional? Join us at our annual maintenance and operations conference, Dude University in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 3-6, 2020. You'll be able to attend educational sessions about your day to day work, meet professionals from across the country that work in your and other industries, enjoy food, friends and fun in the Dude's hometown. Learn more and register at university.dudesolutions.com.

So I didn't go to MIT, but I really wish I could have, but I definitely don't have the wherewithal or the know how on how to even start with a hybrid system. And when I came here, you were saying what you said here, which is a hybrid or hybrid plugin. And I got educated on the difference. And I think that it's important. I think some folks don't know, you know, I think that some folks that are listening are probably like, 'Oh, great, another, you know, place I gotta go plug my vehicle into', like, we see the Tesla stations all over the place. You know, it's just another aggravation or if I go to bed at night, I forget to plug it in, or at the shop, you know, because you can't take the vehicle home, I'm going to have a dead battery or it's not going to run. Run through the differences between the hybrid and the hybrid plugin. And again, just reiterating that I that this isn't taking the gas motor out because that's what I came here and I've been following along and I thought that that was kind of a big part of what you guys did. It has nothing to do with that. So if you could give a little more insight on that?

Eric Foellmer  
Sure. No it's a great question and a great distinction and you think about the the relative charging maturity or the level of charging infrastructure that exists in most cities. You know, it's it's really not sustainable for a large scale all electric fleet either at the consumer level or certainly the commercial level, right? So there are some limitations around battery cost and charging maturity etc. for all electric vehicles right now, which is really kind of the biggest impediment for those vehicles becoming adopted in wide scale, you know. If all things being equal, there would be a huge demand for electric vehicles both commercially and at the consumer level. But there are obstacles, there are challenges in place right now that are preventing, you know, the wide scale adoption of those vehicles. So, as those issues continue to get solved, and we're certainly headed in that direction, and we, as a business want to head to that direction, but the reality is today, you know, commercial and municipal fleets are somewhat reliant upon that infrastructure and the cost of the systems that they are, you know, driving around every day. So, our systems, let's start with a distinction between the hybrids and the plugins as opposed to a battery electric vehicle, which has no other source of propulsion, it's exclusively electrical power. So as you said, if you forget to charge it, right, if you drive outside the range of that vehicle and you could get stuck somewhere you know, you'd be hunting around looking for a charging station. You know, you could be in a tough spot. The advantage with our vehicles because we never take over the full propulsion of the of the vehicle, they're still gas powered engines. We simply supplement the power that they already give that vehicle and help to propel it forward during the acceleration process. So during the least efficient drive cycles of that vehicle, we have an electric motor that we install on the drive shaft that propels the vehicle forward as the driver is accelerating. So it takes less work by the engine, burns less gas, and is really just a supplemental source of power that helps push the vehicles forward. So the big difference in our systems between the hybrid and the plug in hybrid, hybrid, all of that power is generated natively through the system, they never have to plug in. If they have no infrastructure in their shop, it's a great solution because you're going to get that 25% mpg improvement without having to do a thing operationally. Your drivers are out driving around, you know, people ask what the range is, I say, well, the range is a tank of gas plus 25%. Basically, you know, there are variables to that but that's the way you kind of look at it, they're not going to get stuck. You know, they're not going to run out of power unless they run out of gas. You know, so the infrastructure there to support that out there. There's always a gas station for them to be able to fill up that The plug-in hybrid, it's a bigger battery pack. And we have that same process where we're giving an electric assist during acceleration and recharging the battery through regenerative braking, which is actually how the hybrid system gets its power exclusively. So every time you hit the brake, it's generating power storing in the battery pack, every time you hit the accelerator is using that power to propel the vehicle forward. The plug-in hybrid is designed exactly the same way, it does the exact same thing. The difference is you supplement that power, that regenerative braking energy that is created by plugging the vehicle in every night. And when you do that, you have a larger battery capacity. You are extending the time period where our system is in play during acceleration. It's a longer assist, so now you're getting up to a 50% mpg improvement and a third reduction in emissions versus the 20-25% relatively on the hybrid side. So it's a little bit of a bigger upfront cost, but you're getting a bigger sustainability value and more significant fuel economy value moving forward.

Josh Peach  
And what do you see? Or what do you think the future of the hybrid is? I mean, you know, what is today. But do you think the hybrid is going to be the way to go that people are going to, you know, naturally go to and stay with? Or do you think this plugin unit is going to pick up based on you know, interest in that added 25%? And then, you know, the what's next up at all? What's your take on that?

Eric Foellmer  
Yeah, so that's a, you know, it's great because we market it and sell it to the same types of companies. It really depends on what your current infrastructure is and what makes sense for your fleet. So for example, that there are very small shops, and even some bigger shops. You know, some fleets that use our hybrid system that don't have you know, they don't access to, you know, charging infrastructures and they won't for many years. Hybrid systems are an ideal fit for them because they want to improve their sustainability. They want to get better MPG, they want to get better fuel economy, they want to reduce their operational costs in that way. So the hybrid system makes absolute sense for those folks. For the plug in hybrid side, you know, you're dealing with a little bit more of an infrastructure, you know, maybe you've got a business or you've got a municipality that has some access to charging infrastructure, level two chargers, that can have some capacity to plug in some vehicles overnight. But they don't want to be limited by exclusively running vehicles on electric power and worried about well what if you know our driver does not plug it in at night then you know that that vehicles down all day the next day? And with our systems, you don't have to worry about that so that the way that I always sort of informally, casually characterize it is, you know, the plug-in hybrid is sort of that stepping stone to get fleets used to plugging in their vehicles, to get drivers used to plugging in their vehicles. Until such time as all electric is more pervasive, and we've got a better infrastructure in place, and we've got lower costs of those systems to make them more compatible at a broad scale. You know, so when that happens, the fleets that are adopting the plug in hybrids right now are able to sort of get ahead of that curve and they're sort of getting their drivers used to that. But for the foreseeable future, for the next decade, hybrids absolutely are going to continue to be the lion's share of the electrification space because of the minimal to no disruption in their operations. And that's, you know, today that's cool there are no added steps and really no added cost beyond the upfront cost of the system.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, so I was going to say it's not like I can get the plug-in hybrid and I just get an extension cord out of the closet, plug it in, you need to have a pretty heavy duty load to plug it into.

Eric Foellmer  
Well actually, so in a best case scenario, you've got a level two charger because you're going to be able to charge the vehicle a bit faster that way, it's like a four hour charge on a level two plug that you see, you know, if you see a charger at a grocery store or at a business, that's typically a level two charger so that you can charge effectively.

Josh Peach  
So they're all they're all the same for those?

Eric Foellmer  
There are some, you know, the Tesla's of the world who make proprietary charging mechanisms that the interfaces for their chargers are a little bit different. But by and large on the commercial level, everybody tries to make it standard because that's just going to help everybody in the long run. But with our systems, you can actually do what you just described as plugging into the wall will give you an adapter that has a level two charging port on what goes into the vehicle. and a, you know, 220 amp electrical outlet that you can just plug into your wall jack. Now it takes longer to charge the vehicle. It's more like a 12 hour charge versus a four hour but you can get it done that way. And you don't absolutely have to have that infrastructure. But typically our customers will have some level of infrastructure for that. But like I said, you don't need it and you can plug it into the wall. If you get home at night and want to just plug it into your outlet in your garage, you can certainly do that, so we give you that option.

Josh Peach  
Curious question, may or may not know the answer to this, but just popped in my head. And that's what happens in life, just random thoughts. So you get a plug in. And this might be my MIT creative brain genius here, but a lot of our people are in cold climates. Would this tie into an engine block heater, like you're charging your battery would it also be able to tie into an engine block heater?

Eric Foellmer  
Yeah. So there's a great application longer term that is we call that exportable power. So, you know, one of the big limitations of really hybrid, plug-in hybrid in general is if you're idling. A lot of our customers, commercial customers, if you think about a, you know, a power company that is doing work on you know, a utility line, and they're parked there for several hours, it's the middle of winter, of course,  they have to run their heating system. So they today you have to run the engine in order to drive that system. So the ability to draw supplemental power to run your HVAC system without running the engine is really kind of the holy grail of where technology-wise like companies like us and other partners that we could potentially work with are moving towards, to really help fleets cut down on the amount of idling. Because if a big class, you know, 678 truck is sitting on your street idling, it's emitting CO2, it's probably pumping out some some stinky fumes. And it's not really making the people who are in the area very happy. If you can eliminate that, because our system isn't taking over our system is isn't doing anything in that respect, because we are only control what happens when you accelerate the vehicle. So if you're idling, there's really nothing that we can do or really any other hybrid plug-in, hybrid system, right? So that is really kind of where we are headed and where the industry is headed, to help overcome some of the supplemental or exportable power, which will give people that power to run HVAC systems or plug in you know, drills or power equipment on a job site, that sort of thing. So that's definitely where a lot of the industry is kind of looking at right now is how do we take that next step, and that's certainly one of the one of the frontiers that we're pursuing.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, as you're saying it, I'm just sitting here saying there's more communities that I go to, that have no idling laws, which you never, you never mean, no one ever paid attention to that. But I mean, my son when he was in second grade, and I would drive him to school, there was a sign that says, 'No idling'. You know, a lot of people don't pay attention to it, right. But I'm sure that there's gonna be tickets being given out and there's going to be environmentalists that, fight that and show that and I think that it would only show you know, for you guys. I'm not telling you where to sell to. But I mean, for utility companies, like you're right, they're doing details, they're doing work. They're working on the poles, the municipal police vehicles that are required to do the details that are in the dead of winter that they're sitting in the car, and keeping it running to stay warm. If there's a way to do that, what a great problem solved, and not compromising, you know, the people's ability to stay warmer orstay cool in these really extreme weather conditions. I didn't even think about that. That's, that's great.

Eric Foellmer  
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And it's funny, you mentioned utilities, that's actually one of our biggest market segments, and particularly electrical utilities, for the simple fact that they own the grid. So they they have, you know, they have the access.

Josh Peach  
They get a good deal, they get a good deal on the fuel.

Eric Foellmer  
Exactly, so you know, it's no issue for them to be plugging in vehicles at night. So that's, that's probably the market that adopts our plugin units, more prevalently right now than than anyone else. So they're they're definitely the early adopters of that technology. But you're right, you know, to really solve the the the idling problem on the job site, will add huge value to just our general push towards sustainability. And as companies really draw the line and how they affect their carbon footprint, that's one place that they're all going to have to look at sooner rather than later.

Josh Peach  
Well, it's a game changer, because you said earlier, 100 million miles driven. If you take the impact of idling, and add that into the mix, because that's gallons of gas going away, that's wear and tear. There was just a study done on vehicles. They're saying that, you know, us in New England, cold day or even a hot day, we get extreme weather we go out, we start the car, we let it run for 15 minutes and idle and they're saying now that actually doesn't loop and do all the things that it's supposed to do that we we've been thought of forever and actually produces more wear and tear on the vehicle. They can actually drop back the lifecycle so you can actually extend the vehicles motor, you can extend the time that you have with it if you cut down on the gas consumption. I mean, I'm sitting here, I own a spring water delivery business. I don't know if you knew this, but I in the 90s and early 2000s with my dad, we drove water trucks and water vans and delivered five gallon bottles actually right down the street from where we're at, and you know, all of this stuff, I'm sitting here going, 'Oh my God, if this was around in the 90s and 2000s'. So we'd sit in the summertime in downtown Boston, even in the late 90s, early 2000s those loading docks have a no idle policy. You can't just sit there because your fumes are going into the loading dock. They're going into the building. So this is fantastic stuff. I mean, you guys are onto something. I'm glad I had this idea to come out here and check this stuff out. So people want to get a hold of you or want to talk to you learn more about what you do. How do they do that? You know, how do they get one of these systems? Or where should they be following it?

Eric Foellmer  
Yeah, absolutely. So we're everywhere on social media and our website is xlfleet.com. And, you know, if you want to send us an email it's info@XLfleet.com, but we're on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. And if you're a commercial fleet or a municipal fleet, you know, if you are a fleet manager who buys you know, volumes of vehicles that you use commercially, you know, the chances are, and certainly if you use a GM or Ford vehicle as part of that process everywhere from light duty all the way up to the mid and heavy-duty stuff, chances are we have a vehicle for you. So there's a full list of the vehicles that were compatible with on our website. And you can certainly follow us there and we're putting out new information all the time, and we've got some big announcements coming up this year. So if you want to keep your eyes on us, there's some new platforms that we're coming out with this year that will be pretty exciting.

Josh Peach  
And you're on social media on LinkedIn.

Eric Foellmer  
Yes, I am as well. So my Twitter handle is Eric_Foellmer. And then I'm on LinkedIn as well.

Josh Peach  
Cool. Well, this has been a fantastic reunion. It's been a couple of years since we've actually seen each other in person. So glad that you're doing some amazing things and making an impact in the way we drive and how we drive and how we're going to drive in the future for our workforces. So keep up the great work and looking forward to that exciting news.

Eric Foellmer  
Yeah, well thanks Josh. And thanks to to all the Dudes out there too. You guys are doing some great work as well and I've been excited to follow your progress too. So so keep up the good work and to everyone and Dude Nation, I say Hello!

Josh Peach  
Thank you. We're hopefully gonna have some exciting news over the course of the year too. I know we are, we're going to share it as we go along here and I'm going to go along and get my truck and head back to my galactic headquarters on the south shore. And that'll do it from Brighton, Massachusetts. Have a great day. Thanks for listening to the Operate Intelligently podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions.com or check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Interested in learning more?

Request a demo Talk to an expert
Back to top