Scottsdale's public works director shared concerns about jumping into fleet electrification too...

Scottsdale's public works director shared concerns about jumping into fleet electrification too quickly, including vehicle range and funding.

Photo: Canva/Government Fleet

The public works director for the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, shared concerns about rushing to complete fleet electrification. Dan Worth responded to a recent analysis by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group saying cities and towns across the state can save money by switching to electric vehicles (EVs).

Details About the Report

The two advocacy groups surveyed 10 large Arizona cities for their report. The cities collectively own and operate more than 10,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment, from light-duty vehicles to heavy-duty vehicles.

Around 6,100 of the vehicles currently owned by the surveyed cities and towns are light-duty vehicles, which provide the best near-term opportunities for electrification, the report says. About 70% of those vehicles are pickup trucks and vans, and roughly 40% of those vehicles are one of two models of half-ton pickups: Ford F-150s and Chevy/GM Silverado/Sierra/1500 pickups.

There were only 31 battery-electric vehicles and five plug-in hybrids within the light-duty fleets surveyed for the report, as of late 2021.

The surveyed cities and towns spent a total of $35.1 million to buy the model year 2020 and 2021 vehicles in their light- and medium-duty fleets, for an average of $34,511 per vehicle. Assuming these represent two years of vehicle purchases, the municipalities surveyed spend upwards of $17.5 million on light-duty vehicle purchases per year.

Total fleet maintenance costs exceeded $65 million in the most recent year of available data.

Fuel expenditures totaled $33.5 million in the most recent year of available data.

What the Researchers Suggested

Researchers suggested that replacing light-duty vehicles in categories where cost-effective electric vehicles are available now or will be soon would save the Arizona cities and towns surveyed nearly $80 million in lifetime ownership costs, according to a model developed by the Argonne National Laboratory, reducing the total cost of ownership of those vehicles by 26%, not including one-time costs for the build-out of charging infrastructure.

In Scottsdale's case, researchers calculated a total cost of ownership savings of $11.4 million in replacing light-duty internal combustion engine vehicles with EVs over the next 10 years.

Public Works Director Responds

Worth told the Scottsdale Progress that he has seen this study and other studies make similar claims, but that it's more complicated than simply swapping vehicles.

Worth explained that he is concerned with the idea of maintenance being cheaper on EVs. He said he believes EVs haven't been around long enough to know whether lifecycle maintenance cost reductions are accurate. Worth pointed to the cost of replacing an EV battery.

When it comes to battery range, Worth explained that he's worried because of the size of Scottsdale. He said most performance claims are based in controlled conditions and don't take into account the kind of work that fleets do.

Then there's the concern about funding. Worth said he hasn't been able to find ways to qualify for government incentives that make purchasing EVs easier. Scottsdale doesn't pay taxes, so the city wouldn't be able to take advantage of tax credits.

Scottsdale currently has no EVs aside from 10 carts used in city parks, but Worth believes some of the city's fleet could be replaced at some point in the near future. He is more hesitant with heavy-duty EVs. The city has piloted electric street sweepers and refuse trucks.

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