Electric Vehicle Adoption for Municipal Fleets

 In Fleet Management

In the struggle for cleaner air, many of our nation’s municipalities have made carbon-reduction commitments to combat the issue. This has resulted in a variety of different regulations, rules, laws, allowances, promises, planning, budgeting, and any other action required to meet the goals each city government has set for itself.

The shared objective for a cleaner environment is the common theme, but the rest varies by city and state. One way in which local governments are meeting goals is through the promotion of the electric vehicle market.

The Electric Vehicle Market

In 2016, plug-in vehicles set records in the North American market, as consumers in every major city were jumping on board. Obstacles like costs and infrastructure are slowly being resolved. New tax breaks and charging stations are leveraged for allowances that stimulate the market.

An electric vehicle is typically defined as any car that runs off of energy stored in its rechargeable batteries. Unlike a gasoline-powered or hybrid car, the sole source of power comes from regular, household electricity. Electric vehicles are charged through large outlets, just like you would a household appliance.

Special charging stations must be installed to accommodate electric vehicles. These have charging capabilities referred to as “Levels.” The time it takes to charge an EV depends on a variety of factors like the level of the charging station and the make and model of the vehicle. Charging station infrastructure has proven one of the biggest obstacles for EV adoption in every city in the country. Simply put, they’re expensive to build.

In order to meet the environmental goals set by their governments, many municipalities are adopting light-duty electric vehicle fleets to bear the brunt of city labor. Now that the consumers are on board with EVs, it’s time for every city to catch up.

Light-Duty Electric Vehicle Fleets

As social consciousness shifts and priorities change, cities are now factoring economics and the environment into everything. Fleet managers are searching for the most cost-effective solutions for their cities, and electric vehicles are the answer. This, in turn, builds an environmentally friendly profile of the city and makes a statement about values.

The Benefits of an EV Municipal Fleet

The benefits to swapping out city gas-powered vehicles for electric ones comes down to three main concepts: savings, emissions, and maintenance. San Diego economists project their Climate Action Plan (CAP), which calls to have 90% of their fleet zero-emissions by 2035, will save taxpayers $6.05 million dollars in the next decade alone. In Los Angeles, EV fleet vehicles pay $.21 to operate per mile, compared to $.37 for conventional city vehicles.

Fleet expenses are also decreased with electrification because EVs don’t need as much maintenance as traditional cars. Full electric powertrains never require oil changes, exhausts, air filters, spark plugs, belts, or transmission fluid. Additionally, the regenerative braking mechanisms on EVs extend the life of the brakes.

Federal Government Subsidies

Much like regular consumerism, fleet managers can also take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit for electronic vehicles. Municipalities like Atlanta and Indianapolis are teaming up with a company called Vision Fleet, which monetizes the tax credit by buying the cars and then leasing them to the city. These programs are important for helping to offset the upfront costs of converting a fleet to EVs.

Current Municipal Light-Duty Vehicles

The make and model EV that a city chooses to employ depends on a multitude of factors. The recommended vehicle for a task is based upon vehicle requirements, range, cost, and fleet-specific input. The following are the most popularly utilized models for fleet management:

  • 2016 Ford C-Max Energi
  • 2016 Ford Fusion Energi
  • 2016 Ford Focus EV
  • 2016 Chevrolet Volt
  • 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
  • 2016 Nissan Leaf
  • 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV

Even with funding and the most up-to-date vehicles, there are still some obstacles to face upon implementation.

Barriers to Adoption

Range, cost, and infrastructure pose the three greatest threats to the total conversion of a municipal fleet. The more decentralized a fleet is, the harder it will be to change all of the vehicles over.

Attitude can also be an issue. EVs are a completely new vehicle to drivers, and the super-quiet propulsion makes some people anxious. It starts with government engagement and focused training programs. 2 years ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced their plan to put 160 EVs on the road and to make L.A. the most “sustainable city in America.” Enthusiasm like this serves to curb doubt. It’s all about educating the workforce, from the maintenance workers to the drivers.

The Planning Process 

Adoption must be strategic and planning the transition to an electric fleet requires a variety of assessments. EV Smart Fleets is a site created by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean City Program that provides a Fleet Procurement Analysis Tool to begin the planning process. The tool equips users with decision-relevant information on the environmental impact and financial viability of light-duty vehicle fleet procurements. The tool will make side-by-side comparisons on a cost-per-mile basis and then provide an analysis of location-specific lifecycle emissions and cash flows.

An Electric Vehicle Sustainability Assessment will guide a Fleet Director on when and where to switch to EVs in a reliable and cost-effective way. It will also provide the economic case for transitioning, as well as infrastructure options.

Community-based social marketing campaigns and surveying fleet supervisors, city workers, drivers, and other employees, will help to identify any barriers to an EV program. Surveys can be designed to assess things like vehicle use, comfort level, awareness, and knowledge of EV ownership.

The Placement of EVs in a Fleet

The last step in the planning process involves telematics. Evaluating vehicles currently deployed in the fleet will help to determine EV placement. Studying their fuel consumption, travel patterns, driver behavior, and other metrics, can assist in an accurate procurement of EV fleet vehicles.

The EV suitability assessment will help to direct the exact placement. It can tell a city when and where to deploy vehicles in the most cost effective way. Additionally, using telematics to predict which vehicles are the best fit for each duty cycle is critical to the success of the program.

The Placement of Charging Stations

The number of charging stations needed to accommodate a municipality’s EV fleet can be determined by the number of vehicles being deployed. “Dwell time” (the amount of time a vehicle spends charging overnight) is also taken into consideration. Estimating the time a fleet will take to charge all of their EVs will establish where to build stations and how much electricity you need for each (Level 1 or 2 chargers).

Measuring EV Fleet Success

If a city uses telematics during the planning stages, then measuring the success of an EV fleet is not difficult. The technology is already in place. Telematics can uniquely support the transition to EVs because it continuously measures the success of deployment, at each step of the way. This type of technology will track metrics like:

  • Electric Vehicle range
  • Charging specifications
  • Vehicle utilization
  • Monitoring driver behavior

Detailed reporting from telematics can help a city continuously maintain an EV fleet to the best of its abilities. 

Total Electric Vehicle Fleet Savings

Electric vehicles cost the most up front. That is why there are so many tax breaks on them. It is still pretty early in the game for most cities to gauge just how much electrifying their fleets will save, but municipalities have released projected figures and goals. When Indiana first began shifting their fleet to electric, the mayor predicted a total savings of $8.7 million in the next decade. Los Angeles has predicted it will save taxpayers 40% in operating costs over the next 8 years.

GHG Emissions and Fuel Cost Reductions 

The average electric vehicle gives off 233 kg GHG emissions per 20km driven, with the only source of power being electricity. In comparison to a full size, ICE vehicle which emits 5,029 kg. and outputs pollutants including GHG emissions.

The numbers are staggering and irrefutable. For example, an EV driver in Ontario can reduce their vehicle’s GHG emissions by 67-95% by switching from a comparable compact, full-size or mid-size gasoline car to an electric car. The city plans to have 100,000 EVs on the road by 2050, which they have calculated will reduce the total GHG emissions by as much as 9.19 megatonnes, or 6.5% of Ontario’s total reduction target for 2050.

In terms of fuel cost savings, the numbers vary base on the price of gas in the municipality. One thing is for certain, when a car uses no fuel, you will save money on gas. Figures report that EV owners can save as much as 70% on fuel costs by switching from a gas car to an electric car.

The Universal Impact

Every municipality participating in EV programs in the United States has set a goal for their EV fleet, as well as emissions and economic effects. Los Angeles plans to uphold its “Most Sustainable City” title by reaching a fleet of 80% EV by the year 2025.  Last August, Atlanta got approval for part of its force to go electric under a special pilot project. It will lease 15 EVs and 35 plug-in hybrids.

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