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Electric utility vehicles, in particular, seem to have drawn greater interest from managers. In fact, Claus says some customers might see electric utility vehicles as more attractive because the EPA's requirements are likely to mean higher costs for vehicles with diesel engines.
But some managers question the hauling power and overall performance of electric vehicles.
"Some customers continue to have concerns about the viability of electric vehicles at their facility," Haddock says. "The reality is that for many of those who are nervous, the electric vehicles will easily handle the task. But the user or fleet manager must understand the differences between gasoline and electric vehicles and the nuances of managing an electric-vehicle fleet.
"Electric vehicles require different forms of maintenance and attention than gas-powered fleets. The biggest single issue that we find is poor battery care, which, although easily prevented with regular maintenance, can result in costly battery replacements."
Haddock points out promising advances in battery technology that managers will have to research and consider.
"The big improvements are coming in terms of battery life for electric vehicles, due to better charging systems and more efficient vehicle power trains," he says. "Lithium battery solutions are close, but some of the battery claims have not been proven."
Manufacturers also understand that managers are wary of moving away from products they have been able to rely on for years.
"Gasoline is easy to obtain and store, and every mechanic worth his salary knows his way around the gasoline engine of a utility vehicle," Haddock says. "This is not always the case with alternative-fuel vehicles. Managers should be careful to examine the full and true switching costs when determining whether to replace a gasoline-powered fleet with an alternative."
In the end, managers know they need to end up with a utility vehicle they and their workers can trust.
"The biggest thing is that they want a vehicle, no matter what power source they are using, that is as good as a diesel or gasoline [vehicle] because those have run times that last all day long," Gilbeck says. "They're very reliable and durable under different environmental conditions."
In turn, manufacturers know they will have to deliver reliable and versatile products to succeed.
"This is a market that has seen substantial growth since the early 2000s, and it will continue to grow," Gilbeck says. "The major reason for that growth is because manufacturers offer a wide portfolio of products, and customers realize that they can have smaller fleets of trucks to drive off-road. In lieu of those, they use a utility vehicle to do those tasks. So their operating costs are a lot less, and their maintenance costs are less. The market will continue to grow as people become more aware of how much you can do with a utility vehicle."
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