Here are the top four things fleet managers need to go all-electric. - Photo: Pixabay/paulbr75

Here are the top four things fleet managers need to go all-electric.

In January, President Biden issued an executive order with a commitment to electrify the federal fleet, along with state, local, and tribal fleets. With more than 645,000 vehicles in the federal fleet alone, even significant partial electrification would mean a lot of electric vehicles (EVs)!

Elected leaders setting clean fleet goals is nothing new. But while mayors, governors, and elected officials tout their efforts and mandates for procuring zero-emission vehicles, and have for years, the move to electrification has been very, very slow. Several bigger cities have made larger commitments, but most agencies have just a handful of vehicles — or just one or two.

I spoke to several fleet managers to understand their biggest challenges in electrification. Here are the top four things fleet managers need to go all-electric.

1. More vehicle availability

Several electrified sedans are available, and the number of larger electric vehicles is slowly increasing. This includes all-electric pickup trucks scheduled to debut this year and in the next few years, which is something many early EV adopters have been eagerly anticipating. But there still isn’t nearly enough availability of the vehicles that government fleets actually use.

Until government agencies have the vehicles — including medium-duty and vocational vehicles — that meet their needs, rollout of an all-electric fleet will be hampered.

2. Lower vehicle costs

A battery-electric sedan can cost $10,000 more than a gasoline-powered one. Many anticipate savings in maintenance and fuel costs, but depending on the use of the vehicle and even how large a city or town is, utilization may be too low to make up the initial purchasing  cost. We could certainly focus on purchasing EVs to replace vehicles with high utilization, and fleet operations have, but that doesn’t solve the problem of full electrification.

One solution is, of course, more grants. And, as multiple fleet managers said, not just to big cities that already have deep pockets. Another is to allow public agencies to leverage existing tax credits. If OEMs could reduce electric vehicle costs, that would solve some problems.

3. More charging infrastructure

Charging infrastructure doesn’t just mean the cost of charging equipment. It can cost up to $20,000 to install a charging station, aside from equipment costs. An all-electric or mostly electric fleet means lots of charging stations.

Add to that demand charging costs, and charging your EVs can be more expensive — and cost calculations more confusing.

Funding for charging, with a focus on fleet infrastructure, would help. More collaboration among local agencies on installations, whether that’s a local installation guide or group of fleet managers working together, could also make things easier.

4. Investments in training

Transitioning to a new vehicle type is not easy. Let’s add more training to the list of needs, specifically for technicians.

Fleet managers also need to (or to delegate someone to) be the expert in vehicle availability, state and local regulations, funding, charging infrastructure and issues, battery concerns, resale value, etc. Most of those with EVs have some knowledge on these topics, but keeping up can be overwhelming.

Follow Up With Resources

I fully support efforts to reduce harmful vehicle emissions. But what elected officials and the public need to understand regarding electrification is that it isn’t simple. Making a public announcement and setting a goal is one thing; backing it up with funding, staffing resources, information, and working with the industry to expand vehicle availability and reduce costs is an essential next step. Without it, frustrated fleet managers can’t meet these goals.

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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