A 2021 Executive Order calls for most federal fleet acquisitions to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035. This means moving to 100% light-duty vehicles with no carbon emissions by 2027 and all vehicles by 2035.
Across the country, states and cities have made similar commitments. California passed stringent regulations on the sale of internal combustion engines (ICE), and fourteen states so far have adopted California’s ZEV plans.
Benefits of a carbon neutral fleet
Moving to a carbon neutral fleet provides significant benefits for communities.
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Switching from gas/diesel vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) reduces tailpipe emissions. EVs have no direct emissions, so adopting them reduces a fleet's overall carbon footprint. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Electrifying a fleet of 1,000 vehicles could reduce annual emissions by 4,600 metric tons.
Improvements to electric grids to add more renewable resources over time will make charging EVs even cleaner in the future.
Improved air quality and health
Gas and diesel vehicles emit air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which contribute to smog and health issues. Transitioning to EVs improves air quality, especially in urban areas. One study found that for every twenty EVs per 1,000 people, there was a 3.2% drop in asthma-related ER visits.
The American Lung Association suggests that reducing pollution from cars and trucks could save as many as 89,000 lives and billions of dollars in healthcare costs.
Mainstreaming sustainable transportation
Governments need to lead by example on sustainability initiatives. Transitioning government fleets demonstrates the feasibility of EVs to the wider community and encourages broader EV adoption.
Preservation of natural resources
Carbon neutral fleets decrease the demand for fossil fuels and promote energy independence by reducing oil consumption.
The transition creates jobs for infrastructure buildout. EVs also have lower operating costs than ICE vehicles, reducing the cost of fuel and maintenance. One study found that EVs produce an average lifetime savings of $4,600 per vehicle vs. gas-powered vehicles. This money can be redirected to other public services, magnifying the impact.
Transitioning to carbon neutral fleets
So far, most EVs in use are in the private sector, either purchased by individuals or corporations as passenger vehicles. Commercial and government fleets have yet to pursue widespread adoption. Commercial vehicles are heavier and generally consume more energy, which has strained lithium-ion batteries, and the cost of building fast-charging stations is significantly higher.
However, as technology evolves, costs are dropping and battery life is improving, making a successful transition to carbon neutral fleets possible for all types of vehicles. That said, fleet managers need to focus on four areas.
1. Vehicle and use cases
Managers should evaluate vehicle requirements and create a procurement strategy focused on available zero-emission models that can fulfill required duties. This includes:
- Conducting an analysis of the current fleet and vehicle use cases to determine the optimal mix of battery electric, hybrid, and other alternative fuel vehicles
- Prioritizing vehicle procurement with sufficient range and cargo capabilities in relation to the use cases developed
- Leveraging collective buying power through joint procurement programs with other local governments also transitioning their fleets to get the best pricing deals
Purchasing vehicles is only part of the equation. Governmental units must also build out the charging infrastructure to support fleets. This requires:
- Studying charging requirements
- Determining the right mix of fast-charging stations and locations
- Adopting smart-charging software to optimize energy use and avoid peak demand charges
Multiple incentives and grants are available through utility companies and governmental bodies at the federal and state levels. Fleet managers need to research available funding for sustainability programs to determine the cost-effective approach to procurement. There are also opportunities for public-private partnerships to help fund the transition.
When evaluating the economics of transitioning to ZEVs, fleet managers should also:
- Conduct total cost of ownership to ensure adequate cost savings
- Assess the value of greenhouse gas emissions through carbon credits or offsets to use funds to support the transition
- Analyze future resale value and project residual value of EVs vs. ICE vehicles
4. Fleet management
Fleet managers must also right-fit vehicles for particular jobs. Nearly a quarter of fleet managers report that they are not confident in their knowledge of vehicles and capabilities, so more research will be necessary. Training will also be required for fleet drivers and maintenance teams.
Fleet managers need to plan to adopt telematics to ensure optimal performance. For example, telematics for fleets can track:
- Real-time vehicle and engine health
- Fuel consumption and charging patterns
- Fault alerts to automatically transmit diagnostic codes
- Proactive maintenance
- Driver behavior, such as sudden acceleration or braking, speeding, or idling
Telematics can also produce the data needed to analyze usage and vehicle duty cycles to improve fleet assignments and charging schedules to inform future procurement.
Transitioning to carbon neutral fleets
The benefits of moving toward an environmentally friendly fleet are numerous. Fleet managers must start planning now to build a more sustainable future. Sourcewell’s cooperative purchasing program can help.
See how easy it is to smoothly adhere to any greening initiatives using Sourcewell’s cooperative purchasing program. Streamline the process by choosing from hundreds of suppliers already on contract. Sourcewell’s procurement experts competitively solicit and award contracts on behalf of 50,000 participating agencies in North America. Check out our contracts here.