Charlotte, North Carolina only has 88 electric vehicles (EVs) in its city fleet, but that number is soon to change. Over the next 8 years, the city will convert its fleet of more than 4,200 vehicles — from fire trucks to small sedans — to electric. “Our sustainability goal is bold — some people would like to say it’s unattainable, but we don’t use that word here in Charlotte,” Mayor Vi Lyles explains.
Charlotte is only one of many US cities that is working to convert its fleet to all-electric. Let’s look at some of these cities and their low carbon stories.
In efforts to create cleaner air for the region, Charlotte has set a goal to become a low-carbon city by 2050. An essential component of that plan is to convert its vehicle fleet and facilities to zero-carbon sources by 2030. “We haven’t been doing the work for decades, so there is a lot to do in a short period of time,” Eric Zaverl, urban design specialist at Sustain Charlotte, said. Zaverl acknowledged that, to help combat a problem that’s been ongoing for years, it’s necessary to advocate for smart land use alongside transportation choices.
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. This approach supports local economies, protects the environment, and furthers opportunities for all.
For the next year and a half, 18 Charlotte electric buses will undergo testing, with the data that results to inform the expansion of all buses from diesel to electric. Already the difference has been noticeable. “I’ve been inside while it’s turned on, and it is silent, it does not vibrate, it’s incredible,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Leigh Altman said.
The city of Los Angeles plans to convert its fleet of 10,000 vehicles to EVs by 2035, in line with the LA100 initiative to be 100% carbon free, as reported by the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. The city currently has 124 electric sedans, 46 plug-in electric hybrids, and two hybrid electric street sweepers. Four light-duty electric trucks are also expected to arrive in Los Angeles this year.
The conversion is part of the city’s Electric Vehicle Master Plan, which also includes the expansion of an EV charging network. Los Angeles authorities project that it will need about 97,000 charging stations by 2030. Los Angeles’ Department of General Services is expected to plan out the installation of EV charging stations across 600 city-owned facilities, such as parks and libraries. It is hoped that the city’s actions will incentivize the private sector to deploy charging stations.
The city of Houston was among the first municipalities in the nation to use EVs in their municipal fleet-share program. The pool-vehicle program saw a 50% increase in use of vehicles placed in the program, with 44 older vehicles sold due to the increased efficiencies and 84 vehicles reassigned. The city’s use of EV and hybrid vehicles has also resulted in annual savings compared to the cost of running internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. As one of the 11 cities selected under the Electrify America program, Houston is working with local businesses and neighborhoods to expand public EV infrastructure throughout the city.
To support electric vehicle infrastructure and accelerate early adopters of the infrastructure, the city has partnered with eVgo, ECOtality, GRIDbot, and Coulomb Technologies to study, plan, and install electric vehicle charging stations (EVSE). Houston has actively pursued grant opportunities and was able to secure funding from a SECO grant for the creation of Electric Vehicle Deployment Guidelines, a Long Range Electric Vehicle plan, and a Micro-Climate plan.
New York City has a goal of electrifying its municipal fleet of nearly 30,000 vehicles, from ambulances to the car that carries the mayor, by 2035. The city operates over 2,260 on-road EVs and plug-in hybrids. All-electric vehicles include over 250 Nissan Leafs and over 300 Chevy Bolts, among others. The City has over 600 additional off-road EV and solar units.
A recent New York Times article scolded New York City, though, for its inadequate EV planning, saying the city “will have to work much harder to adopt greener options.” The Times acknowledges that this year, New York City plans to purchase another 1,084 all-electric vehicles, including 148 Ford Mustang Mach-E police patrol cars and 7 more electric Mack garbage trucks.
Boston has a goal of making its transportation operations carbon neutral by 2050. Boston Public Schools (BPS) will be launching an electric school bus pilot program, deploying 20 electric buses that will replace existing diesel buses during the 2022-2023 school year. This initial procurement is the first step toward full electrification of the school bus fleet by 2030. BPS will also train the next generation of green economy workers through a “train the trainer” EV maintenance program at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.
The city has made some progress on its commitment to install EV charging stations throughout Boston’s neighborhoods for both municipal use and for residents. The City currently has 66 active EV charging plugs, with 15 additional charging plugs planned for 2022 and 2023. This builds on the City’s efforts to reduce vehicle emissions as outlined in the Fleet Utilization Policy,through Recharge Boston, and as in the ZEV Roadmap.
Smart Columbus has a goal of working with central Ohio public, private, and academic partners to place 850 EVs into operation in public and private fleets by the end of the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies grant period in 2020. Smart Columbus wants to deploy 300 vehicles in public sector fleets, and the city of Columbus, Ohio State University, the city of Dublin, and Franklin County were early partners.
In 2016, Columbus initiated the Fleet Electrification Coalition, which focused on different types of fleets from municipal to corporate, infrastructure options, and suggested training and outreach efforts. They discussed procurement cycles, timelines, and EV Suitability assessment tools for specific vehicles to help a create a formal fleet transition plan and explore any existing or perceived procurement and purchasing barriers.
Final Thoughts about How a City can Convert its Fleet to All-Electric
Not sure how to get your city to begin the process of embracing municipal EVs? A thorough operational assessment will help an organization understand how to operate and maintain a fleet every day. It may seem rudimentary, but this is the first step on the electrification road map, and it serves as the foundation for every other stage.