In an era marked by profound changes in transportation, the shift towards alternative fuel vehicles within the public sector is driven by more than just environmental consciousness — it's guided by a transforming regulatory landscape. Robust emissions standards and a growing emphasis on reducing the carbon footprint have prompted governmental bodies to institute policies favoring the adoption of AFVs.
From strict emission limits to the rollout of prohibiting the sale new gas-powered vehicles within a set timeframe, regulations serve as potent catalysts for public sector fleets to transition to cleaner options such as electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles. As municipalities adapt to these regulatory currents, the procurement and integration of AFVs into public fleets are not just choices; they are imperatives for a future defined by eco-conscious mobility.
Transitioning to AFVs is a complex journey for public sector fleets, requiring a deep understanding of various alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. Currently, more than a dozen alternative fuels are in production or development. These include biodiesel from renewable sources, electricity for an increasing fleet of electric vehicles, ethanol blended with gasoline, and hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.
Natural gas and propane are additional alternatives while renewable diesel further adds to options aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. With public sector fleets navigating this shift, fleet leaders have to look beyond vehicle selection, involving considerations like installing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and alternative fuel nozzles. This emphasizes the crucial role these fuels play in achieving sustainable and environmentally conscious transportation solutions.
Finding Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Specific City Needs
The city of Cape Canaveral is charting out its own journey of adding BEVS, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, along with the need for infrastructure, with the goal to convert 100% of the fleet to low or zero-emissions AFVs by 2035. Currently, 30% of the fleet consists of AFVs.
- The city has eight hybrids, six of which are Toyota RAV4 SUVs, while the other two are Ford F-150 pickup trucks.
- The city has two BEVs, with one being an all-electric Ford Focus (Community and Economic Development Department) and the other being a 2021 all-electric Nissan LEAF (Public Works Services Department).
- The city has six public level-2 electric vehicle universal charging stations with 12 total charging ports.
Hybrids are especially useful in a small urban environment like Cape Canaveral, which covers only 1.9 square miles.
“They kick into battery load at idle or at very low speeds, which is what you're doing most of the time in a city like this, especially for someone like a code enforcement officer whose vehicle idles a lot,” said Zachary Eichholz, chief resilience manager for the city of Cape Canaveral. “And the small side streets have very low speed limits so you're not using much gas to begin with.”
Cape Canaveral’s most common vehicle type is a pickup truck, the next major sector of vehicles targeted for electrification within the city. The city’s plan is to continue to diversify the fleet with more electrified vehicles. The 2021 Resilient Cape Canaveral Action Plan calls for a completely alternative fuel fleet makeup by 2035.
The city is currently putting in for a grant to purchase two Ford F-150 Lightnings, which would be especially valuable for an island location like Cape Canaveral that is susceptible to hurricanes. There are also plans to add more hybrids over the next fiscal year as well.
President of Space Coast Electric Vehicle Association President Will Smith said a vehicle like the Ford F-150 Lightning is beneficial for municipalities as it can work as an emergency backup allowing a peak charging power of 19.2 kW enabled by the battery's dual onboard chargers.
With a 15-year implementation period, the city plans to research and procure AFVs as older internal combustion vehicles are retired. This could include hydrogen, biofuels, hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fully electric vehicles. As a member of the Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle Purchasing Collaborative, the city also has the opportunity to acquire new EVs at reduced costs.
But what about cost savings around the vehicles themselves?
“You can go to lunch and come back and the price of fuel can go up,” Smith said. “Drive a diesel vehicle, like an F-250, the cost of that vehicle per mile can range from 16 to 20 cents per mile. Or you can drive an electric vehicle for one to five cents depending on your source of electricity and solar panels and that type of thing. The cost savings for a fleet is probably the best selling point.”
Emissions and Producing Electricity Within the Fleet
“EVs don't have any tailpipe emissions, and that can help a lot of things,” said Eichholz, citing not only public health within the immediate vicinity but also local ecosystems such as the Banana River Aquatic Preserve, a 31-mile-long lagoon that lies between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida. According to Eichholz, much of the nutrient pollution of the lagoon comes back into the lagoon through atmospheric deposition.
“Internal combustion engines release things like nitrous oxides, a derivative of nitrogen, and nitrogen pollution is one of the bigger issues in there,” he said. “So changing things that run on gasoline and diesel to all-electric goes a long way to help with things like that.”
Additionally, the city plans to have a vehicle fleet-wide carbon dioxide emissions tracking program to allow the city to baseline its transportation emissions load, and allow for a better understanding of what specific vehicles emit the most emissions.
Set to be implemented within five years, staff will design and implement a tracking program based on fuel consumption, vehicle make and model, and miles driven to determine an emissions portfolio for each individual fleet vehicle. This tracking program will apply to all vehicle types, including alternative fuel-based vehicles. The city is also looking at partnering with a local university to have the initiative become a student design project to reduce staff time and resources.
Preparing for Electric Transition Infrastructure Needs
Alongside the addition of EVs, the city is prepping for the infrastructure that will need to be added, particularly looking at renewable energy installations as an option for powering the city’s EV charging stations. According to the Action Plan, this will support clean energy production in the event of a grid outage.
By ensuring all city facilities are universally EV accessible, the aim is to not only support EV use but also allow the city to continue building the infrastructure necessary for EV fleet deployment. These charging stations are meant to allow the city to run independently during storm operations, becoming grid-independent when connected to renewable energy systems and batteries, or when traditional fuel may be in limited supply.
The city of Cape Canaveral cannot produce its own gasoline or diesel fuel on-site. However, it can produce its own electricity in the form of renewable energy like solar.
“We can have installations that are hyperlocal where you're feeding from a solar array down to an EV that's plugged into the building,” Eichholz said. “And if there's a hurricane, we can make that solar array operate off-grid, and therefore have the EV work off-grid and continue to do relief operations.”
Renewable Energy and Public Charging Considerations
The city is also looking at renewable energy systems that would aid in powering each charging station, especially in locations where existing electrical lines may not be feasible for connection. The charging stations will need to be able to digitally inform staff how much they are being used and enable payment abilities.
The implementation period for these more resilient charging stations is set at 15 years. Each EV charging station will be reviewed to determine energy requirements and public usage. Along with taking into consideration renewable energy generation methods, the city will also be taking into consideration battery storage options in order to allow for continuous off-grid operation with solar power being the primary consideration. Success will be determined by the ability to transition all city EV charging stations to renewable energy while ensuring 24/7 operation without interruption.
The city’s six public charging stations, with two plugs each, are currently non-network stations that do not currently provide any type of information in the form of usage stats, or electricity consumption. However, because the city has seen an uptick in usage in the area with the increase of residents and visitors, these stations will be switched over to “pay-to-use” models to help offset some of the costs and to continue with a more financially stable model of public charging.
The fleet can use those stations as well.
“That will give us room for at least 12 more plugs for the fleet,” Eichholz said. “That will go a long way allowing for that infrastructure to take place and help us be able to electrify.”