Cities Are Switching to Electric Vehicles Faster Than Individuals

Cities Are Switching to Electric Vehicles Faster Than Individuals

CLIMATEWIRE | City governments are adopting electric vehicles faster than individual car buyers.

While the results vary by region, and often differ widely among U.S. cities in the same state, most large cities have adopted some kind of climate goal, and some of them are buying EVs for their municipal fleets at a faster rate than the general public.

And that progress could speed up as more EVs enter the market and as cities get educated about grant funding and tax incentives that were passed over the last four years.

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Nationwide, cities operate about 4 million cars, trucks and buses. That’s far bigger than the federal fleet, but still only a little more than 1 percent of the 283 million vehicles on America’s roads.

But cities can punch above their weight by helping demonstrate that EVs are viable, both for businesses and private owners, said Ian Seamans, who works with city governments at Environment Texas.

“A large part of the effect is modeling this behavior for the public,” he said.

City policies are particularly important in Republican-led states such as Texas, where there are few state incentives for clean vehicles, Seamans said.

Cities also are warming up to EVs because of their lower costs for maintenance and fuel. A lot of cities are under pressure, too —both from residents and federal regulators — to cut ozone and other localized air pollution caused by vehicles.

Dallas, the ninth-largest city in the country, announced an agreement Tuesday with Ford Pro, the company’s commercial-vehicle division, to buy $9.5 million worth of charging equipment over 10 years, along with 100 EVs a year.

Ford estimates Dallas could save more than $300,000 over three years in tax credits and reduced fuel costs, just on its purchase of F-150 Lightning electric trucks. Ford also is working with the city on software to help optimize both the location and operation of its chargers, which could result in “substantial” savings, the company said in a statement.

“The City of Dallas is committed to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, and we’re making great strides in our efforts to reduce emissions and improve air quality,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in the statement.

About 5 percent of Dallas’ city fleet is made up of EVs, hybrids or plug-in hybrids, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which tracks cities’ clean-fleet investments. Statewide, about 2 percent of vehicles are electric.

In New York City and San Jose, California, 25 percent of the municipal fleet is made up of clean vehicles, according to the ACEEE.

At the other end of the scale, only 2 percent of the city fleet in Phoenix is comprised of clean vehicles. Fort Worth, Texas, is even less: 1.2 percent.

Typically, cities have started by buying light- and medium-duty vehicles such as sedans and pickups. But a growing number of specialized trucks are coming on the market, including battery-powered trash trucks and fire engines. The city of Boise, Idaho, rolled out an electric Zamboni last year for an ice-skating center.

“Most cities have taken the approach of ‘Let’s be as ambitious as possible and start to socialize and change the norms around light-duty and medium-duty vehicles,’” said Kate Wright, executive director of the nonprofit group Climate Mayors.

Climate Mayors has worked with the Electrification Coalition, another nonprofit, to set up a purchasing cooperative for cities that are looking for electric models. That’s important for smaller municipalities that may not have the staff or the time to search for EVs.

The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law set aside billions of dollars for public chargers, some of which have gone to cities. In other cases, metropolitan planning organizations or groups of cities have banded together to win grants.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act allowed cities and nonprofit groups to qualify for EV tax credits even though they typically don’t pay federal income taxes through a process known as “elective pay.”

The Electrification Coalition is working to educate fleet managers in smaller cities about the tax credits, and help them understand other basics, such as the best time of year to place an order for a fleet.

A lot of cities have gotten past their initial EV purchase, said Matt Stephens-Rich, director of technical services for the coalition.

“Now the attitude is shifting to not just ‘How do we buy one or two of these, but tens, dozens at a time?'” he said.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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