Cities are tapped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and electric fleets and electric transportation technologies are going to help them get there.
Groups like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, has 80 of the world’s cities tackling climate change together, including U.S. steering cities Boston, Mass., and Los Angeles, Calif. Many U.S. cities across the country have also set emissions targets through a few Federal planning initiatives, like the U.S. Clean Power Plan.
But with transportation accounting for 27 percent of U.S. GHGs, electric vehicles (EVs) are a key part of helping the big cities–and our smaller towns–achieve emissions reductions. Other electric fleet and transportation solutions–like electric buses and electric bikes or e-bikes–are also rising in frequency.
Get Electric Fleets via Partnerships & Grants
Major U.S. cities are all moving to electric fleets, said David Reichmuth, senior engineer in the Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program.
Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 2,000 cars used by New York City agencies would be replaced with electric vehicles over the next 10 years.
But most other cities, like Indianapolis, Ind., which has been focused on moving to EVs for all non-police vehicles since Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order mandating it in 2012, and Portland, Ore., have made more comprehensive electric fleet strides with EVs and plug-in hybrid city-owned sedans.
Jeff Allen, executive director of the EV trade association Drive Oregon, told EfficientGov that cities should be thinking about what charging they need first.
Those that did are actually leading the pack–ahead of the major metros.
The city of Portland reported it is able to favorably operate an electric fleet of 50 sedans because it added EV charging stations at existing city-owned fueling locations where aged underground fueling structures already needed replacing.
But, the city also credited partnerships under its City Climate Action Plan for accelerating charging station infrastructure, and auto manufacturer Nissan for testing the Portland metro region as an EV target market back in 2011.
Andrew Dick, the connected, automated and EV advisor to the Oregon Department of Transportation, said he recommends that cities and towns work closely with states to understand EV policies that can help them electrify local fleets. The eight states involved in the Multi-State ZEV Task Force has created many synergies between municipalities and state-level programs.
In these states, you don’t have to be a major city like Boston or L.A., or even Portland, to get an electric fleet if you take advantage of state incentives for electric fleets.
The town of New Bedford, Mass., recently became the Bay State city with the largest municipal EV fleet after going after state funding for the purpose. According to South Coast Today, New Bedford leveraged $206,000 in Electric Vehicle Incentive Program grants through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental to get its fleet to 25 percent electric.
Target Electric Buses & Electric Bikes
Reducing pollution sources in population centers also has public health benefits. Diesel buses, which may lower city emissions, still have fumes that immediately impact local air quality.
As part of the climate crisis conversation, “we still need to focus on making cities walkable and bikeable, and public transportation” said Christine Grant, senior associate at Collaborative Efficiency a researcher who works with energy utilities.
The city of Philadelphia, Pa., will purchase 25 electric buses to add to its suite of hybrid buses through the Federal Low or No Emissions Bus Discretionary Grant Program (Low-No Program). The grant includes funding for two charging stations that will be located on the routes chosen for the new buses.
According to the Metro, Philadelphia will lead the way in electric bus adoption, surpassing cities like New York, which have none, and Boston, which has plans for purchasing five. Seven other cities are also purchasing electric buses through the recently announced 2016 Low-No grants.
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are also getting a lot of attention–and not just with hipsters.
- In Oakland, Calif., where a solar-powered Ebike charging station was completed in early 2016.
- In the city of Austin, Texas, Austin Energy offers rebates on purchase of electric bikes and other two-wheeled vehicles.
- The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board launched a $2.5 million pilot project for disadvantaged California communities to access zero-emissions car sharing. CalBike is going after the funding and is recruiting Golden State cities like Fresno to join them in pushing the board for e-bike pilots.
The e-bike manufacturers insist that the ease and fun of the e-bike is something consumers will love. Mercury is challenging New Zealanders to #RideWonderful and test drive e-bikes all this month in Auckland and other cities.
Previously, in How To Prepare Your City for EVs, EfficientGov explored:
- The role of local government in electric vehicle adoption
- EV charging and costs
- Building code updating for EV infrastructure in multi-family commnunities and workplaces