Stop Your City From Buying Polluting, Climate Destroying Vehicles

Help Electrify Your City’s Fleet

We’re in a climate crisis. The IPCC tells us that if we don’t make enormous carbon emission reductions now, within 10 years we could set off chain reactions and feedback loops which could imperil all life on the planet.

Gasoline and diesel are the biggest source of carbon emissions, at 29% of the US carbon footprint, 41% for California, 55% for San Mateo County, and 47% for Washington State. Passenger cars and trucks cause most of the carbon pollution. 

Cities must lead and model the transition from fossil fuels. Electrifying public vehicles is a top priority. With their predictable use patterns and opportunities to install EV charging on site, cities can electrify many of their vehicles, and save money in the process.

Some cities are already making the transition (see stories here) but many are not. Despite the climate crisis, many cities, counties, and other jurisdictions are stuck in old polluting ways, even buying new gasoline powered vehicles that are going to still be spewing carbon and toxic emissions for years to come. If we are taking the climate emergency seriously, we can’t allow our tax dollars to purchase polluting vehicles when a better alternative is available. It is up to citizens to speak up to ensure that their cities are not investing unnecessarily in polluting vehicles.

You can make a big difference to the planet just by making your voice heard on this issue.

A new citizen’s movement is emerging among the 38,000 municipal fleets in the U.S. to stop the purchase of gas vehicles.

How Citizens Can Advance City Fleet Electrification

Long-Term Fix: Get your city to pass an “EV First” ordinance or Green Fleet Procurement Policy

A growing number of cities and the state of Washington have passed green vehicle procurement policies (see specific examples here and here). All cities, and especially those that have declared a climate emergency, should pass an ordinance like Sacramento’s requiring that all city fleet vehicle purchases be zero emissions or electric vehicles unless there is no feasible zero emissions option. Speak with the sustainability staff and/or mayor and city council about passing an “EV First” ordinance or green vehicle procurement policy, or at least establishing a practice of prioritizing zero emissions vehicles.

Until a policy is passed or practice established and enforced, help ensure that no new gasoline-powered vehicles are purchased unnecessarily, by taking these steps:

1.      Get informed:  Find out what’s going on in your city by asking key city officials. Individuals on city staff and in government will make key decisions about electrifying the city fleet, usually during the budgeting process or when a large number of vehicles is being replaced. Each city is different, so it’s important to understand the players and the concerns in your city.

  • City Fleet Manager: Often getting the city fleet manager on board with city fleet electrification is critical, as s/he decides which vehicle options to offer department heads for their new purchases, and has the power to limit the options to electric vehicles only. Ask the fleet manager about plans to replace retiring vehicles with electric ones in upcoming years. (If you can’t get an answer, you have a legal right to obtain it via a State Freedom of Information Act request.) The fleet manager may also make determinations about “right-sizing” the fleet (getting rid of vehicles that are under-utilized), which may help fund the purchase of electric vehicles.

  • City Finance Director: It’s important to make the case that electrifying city vehicles will save money. The finance director is likely the staff member who would direct a fleet electrification assessment — compiling data on the total cost of vehicle ownership, identifying new fleet compositions and establishing a long-term program for replacing gas with electric vehicles. Ask if an assessment has been done; if not, the electric utility may be willing to fund it. This person may explore public-private partnerships to reduce costs — such as having a utility or charging company install/own/operate the charging infrastructure. The finance director may also determine how to bucket various costs of fleet electrification for budget purposes — such as whether to take charging infrastructure costs into account when making the decision to purchase electric vehicles, and whether to allocate the cost of electric vehicle fuel to the city’s electricity costs.

  • Sustainability Director: This person can make the case for fleet electrification in terms of environmental benefits and progress towards the city’s climate action plan goals.

  • City Council members: Find out which city council members are ready to champion strong climate action, and meet with them about options for electrifying the city fleet.

2.       Provide resources: You can help accelerate city fleet electrification by providing resources to city staff and leadership. The Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative and Electrification Coalition EV Fleets Program are great places to start no matter where you live. For jurisdictions in California’s San Mateo County, technical assistance and a new Green Fleets Toolkit are available. Also check out the following:

  • The Economic Case for City Fleet Electrification: Point to resources on the economic benefits of city fleet electrification, such as this analysis showing fleet electrification in the 25 largest cities can save 37% on fueling costs (or 60% with well-managed charging), this report on the savings in Austin, and this one on New York City.

  • Assessment Tools: My Green Car is a free app that assesses electric vehicle options based on current driving patterns. My Fleet Buy helps cities make data-driven assessments and electric vehicle procurement decisions.

  • EV charging infrastructure: The city will need to install chargers to fuel the city fleet if it has not done so already. The US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center has information and tools for charging infrastructure, including a Handbook for Fleet Managers with guidance on charging infrastructure. FleetCarma reviews the Four Questions cities should ask when planning charging. The City of Atlanta issued a detailed report on how it planned its city fleet charging. Greenlots offers a complete charging infrastructure solution.

  • Incentives: Click here for a nationwide overview of incentives for green fleet purchases and charging infrastructure.

  • Specialized Vehicles: Passenger vehicles are the easiest to electrify, with many makes and models already available with up to 240 miles of range. However, electric options are emerging for other types of vehicles as well:

  • Converting existing vehicles to electric or plug-in hybrid: See here and here for companies that will convert existing vehicles (trucks) to electric or plug-in hybrid.


For more information about public fleet electrification, see Coltura’s white paper about fleet electrification in Washington State, called Recharge Required, and the following resources:

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An excerpt from the Recharge Required white paper.

An excerpt from the Recharge Required white paper.

Why should cities invest in gasoline-powered fleet vehicles that will continue emitting carbon dioxide and air pollution for many years, when cleaner electric alternatives are available?

Why should cities invest in gasoline-powered fleet vehicles that will continue emitting carbon dioxide and air pollution for many years, when cleaner electric alternatives are available?

 
Citizen advocacy works!

Citizen advocacy works!