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 is the biggest source of carbon emissions, at 32% of the US carbon footprint, 41% for California, 60% 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 the vast majority of their vehicles, and often save money in the process.
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 after 2030. 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 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 to stop the purchase of gas vehicles. A growing number of cities and the state of Washington have passed laws requiring that fleet purchases be zero emissions, unless no zero emissions option is feasible.
How Citizens Can Advance City Fleet Electrification
The Long-Term Fix: Get your city to pass an “EV First” ordinance
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 for city vehicles.
Before the ordinance is passed, ensure that no new gasoline-powered vehicles are purchased, by taking these steps:
1. Obtain info: Ask the city’s fleet manager for an inventory of all city vehicles, and ask about plans to purchase new vehicles in upcoming years. (If you can’t get an answer, you have a legal right to obtain it via a California Freedom of Information Act request.) Find out from the fleet manager and/or sustainability staff what plans the city has to electrify its fleet. Also inquire about plans to “right-size” the fleet to current needs. Many cities own more vehicles than they actually need.
2. Provide resources: Direct the fleet manager/city council to the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative and the resources we list below. If you want to educate yourself further, check out the cost savings from EVs, and read up on the following resources on electric fleet vehicle options and charging.
EV charging infrastructure: The city will need to install chargers to fuel the city fleet if it has not done so already. California incentives are listed here. California Bay Area residents can direct the city to these resources on charging infrastructure grants, or check with PowerFlex. In addition, monitor the Peninsula Clean Energy EV page — rumor has it that fleet vehicle incentives are coming this Fall.
Passenger vehicles: The Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative aggregates local government EV purchases to obtain discounts. Additional info is available at California’s Plug In Electric Vehicle Resource Center. Coming Soon: San Mateo County city fleet electrification toolkit and technical assistance program.
Police vehicles*: For police pursuit vehicles in particular, note that Ford currently offers a plug-in hybrid sedan with up to 25 electric miles, as well as a hybrid sedan rated at 38 mpg. Additionally, the City of Fremont is piloting a Tesla Model S police vehicle, and Chevy Bolt EVs are being used by other police forces.
Larger Vehicles: See the incentives here.
Parking Enforcement Vehicles: See the vehicles here (or the city can use electric scooters or bikes, or purchase used EVs such as Nissan Leafs, which are available in many parts of California for well under $10,000.)
3. Monitor Upcoming City Council Meeting Agendas: To be double triple sure the City is not about to commit to 10 years of owning new gasoline-powered vehicles, assign someone to check the agenda for upcoming city council meetings for vehicle purchase agenda items. Smaller dollar purchases may not require city council approval, so you’ll need to catch them by finding out purchasing plans from the fleet manager or city council. But larger purchases often require city council approval, and thus will show up on the agenda.
4. If a gasoline vehicle purchase is planned, SPEAK UP: If you learn of a plan for the city to purchase gasoline vehicles, and can’t otherwise head it off at the pass by meeting with sustainability staff and the fleet manager, it’s time to get citizens to advocate for:
getting electric vehicles instead; or
postponing the purchase, if the particular type of vehicle is expected to hit the market within the next year or two in electric (like pickup trucks); or
making only a short-term commitment to a gasoline powered vehicle until an electric one is available, if there’s no electric version on the horizon.
Once you’ve determined the appropriate action, here’s what to do:
a. Email as many city residents as you can, asking them to email the city council. Your email should:
Explain the situation: Keep your email short by providing background via a link to a Google Doc. The link can be to the detailed email that you’re sending to City Council.
Put a clear call to action in the subject line (e.g., “Action needed by 10 am on June __: write City Council opposing purchase of 4 gasoline pickup trucks.”)
Bold, enlarge and highlight the email address you want citizens to write to. Usually this will be the email address for the entire city council, or council members’ individual email addresses if there is no one email address that goes to all of them.
Include a very short sample email that citizens can copy and paste, or modify if they like. In general, citizens will take actions if they only require a few minutes.
Send your email to yourself, and blind copy (BCC) the recipients to preserve their privacy.
b. Plan to attend the City Council meeting where the issue will be addressed, and restate the contents of your letter as a public comment. In-person comments can be more impactful than emails.
c. Check your city’s public email log (as an example, Menlo Park’s is here) to see who/how many wrote emails to the city.
d. Follow up with your fellow citizens, especially those who wrote to City Council, to let them know the outcome.
e. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story, so we can collect and share them.
*Note: Tesla needs more evidence of city interest in electric police vehicles to merit investing in a program to outfit their electric vehicles for police use. Have your city leaders email Tesla expressing interest and stating how many police vehicles the city has.
For more information about public fleet electrification, see Coltura’s white paper about fleet electrification in Washington State, called Recharge Required.
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