What is net zero emission for fleets in state and local entities?

what is net zero emission

Achieving net zero emissions for vehicle fleets can provide significant benefits for state and local governments. For one thing, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fleet vehicles improves local air quality and public health. Transitioning to electric vehicles can also reduce operational costs over the lifetime of a vehicle. Just one zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) in your fleet can reduce your carbon output by 4.6 metric tons a year.

With federal, state, and local targets aiming for 100% zero emission fleets in the coming decades, now is the time for public fleet managers to chart a path toward net zero emissions. In this article, we explain what net zero emission is and how state and local entities are transitioning to this brighter future.

What is net zero emission for fleets?

For public sector fleets, zero net emissions refers to a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from fleet vehicle operations and emissions removed from the atmosphere through carbon reduction projects.

In practical terms, reaching net zero emissions would involve:

  • Transitioning from traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles to battery electric or other ZEVs powered by renewable energy sources (this covers lighter fleet vehicles like sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks)
  • Using lower carbon alternative fuels like renewable diesel or biodiesel for heavier vehicles that cannot yet transition to electric due to range or capability limitations
  • Implementing technologies and policies to maximize fuel efficiency for any remaining conventional fuel vehicles (this helps minimize emissions until those vehicles can also be replaced)
  • Investing in verified carbon offsets to neutralize any hard-to-avoid emissions that remain after all other reductions have been implemented.

Federal, state, and local targets and timelines

Governmental units must move quickly if they want to align efforts with mandates and zero-emission targets. The federal government has set a target of 100% ZEV acquisitions by 2035 for its vehicle fleet. There is an interim target of 100% light-duty ZEV acquisitions by 2027. Many state and local governments have aligned policies and targets to support and exceed these federal timelines. For example, more than a dozen states have committed to ZEV targets, including:

  • California: 100% of state vehicles to be electric by 2035
  • Michigan: 100% of light-duty vehicles to be electric by 2033 and 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2040
  • New York: 100% of light-duty vehicles to be electric by 2035 and 100% of all state vehicles by 2040
  • Washington: 100% of light-duty vehicles to be electric by 2035 and 100% of all state vehicles by 2045
  • Oregon: 100% of light-duty vehicles to be electric by 2035 and 100% of all state vehicles by 2040

Demand for ZEVs will increase with similar deadlines, but planning must start now. Building out charging infrastructure can take more than a year, and there can be significant bottlenecks if state and local entities wait.

Steps to net zero emissions

Reaching net zero emissions for fleet vehicles requires careful planning and preparation across four key readiness areas.

1. Team readiness

Fleet managers will need to clearly define roles, responsibilities, and processes to guide the transition. Coordinating with facilities managers, local utility companies, and community stakeholders is also essential to success.

2. Vehicle readiness

Conducting a full assessment of the current fleet inventory enables managers to identify the best vehicles to prioritize for replacement with electric models. Vehicles with regular routes under 200 miles per day are generally the easiest to transition to battery electric power. Fleet composition, real-world driving ranges, and charging capabilities all impact readiness.

3. Charging readiness

Determining charging infrastructure needs is paramount, both at vehicle home bases and public facilities. Close coordination with utilities is vital for securing special EV charging electricity rates and planning grid upgrades if needed. Many local grids cannot currently accommodate additional charging demands, so it’s crucial to work with utilities now to identify sites and begin upgrades.

4. Commitment readiness

Transitioning a fleet to ZEVs requires allocating funds over multiple years to cover incremental procurement costs. While fuel and maintenance savings compared to conventional vehicles provide ROI over the typical lifecycle of a fleet vehicle, state and local governments must align budgets with net zero goals to make sure funding is adequate to meet targets.

Achieving net zero emission goals

Achieving net zero emissions across an entire fleet takes careful planning, but help is available. As you define what is net zero emission for your state or local government fleets, these third-party resources can help:

  • U.S. Department of Energy: Tools and checklists that fleet managers can use to ensure organizational readiness
  • Electrification Coalition: EV tools and calculators, along with case studies
  • Climate Mayors: Guidebook to understanding climate provisions in federal legislations
  • Sourcewell: Cooperative purchasing agreements to streamline procurement and leverage bulk buying for cost savings.

The electrification of fleet vehicles can save city leaders and public fleet professionals money and time—and accelerate the progress to net-zero emissions in government fleets. Is your public fleet ready to transition to electric vehicles? See how Sourcewell can be a trusted partner in your EV journey.