Transportation is a significant source of GHG emissions in most municipalities. Therefore, a transition towards a low carbon fleet is needed. Clean Air Partnership works collectively with fleet managers across more than 30 municipalities in Ontario. Here are some of the challenges and opportunities for fleet electrification.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure
Significant resources are needed for building EV infrastructure for fleets. Planning, time, expertise, and collaboration are required to correctly size EV parking and charging for fleet applications. Also, it is expensive and that is why, funding is crucial. The 2019 Canadian government budget provided $130 million over five years to support the deployment of EV charging infrastructure at workplaces, commercial and multi-unit residential buildings, public places, on-street and projects for fleets and transit. This is an important step to enable municipalities to prepare for their fleet transition.
EV availability on the market and high upfront cost
For smaller personal vehicles, EV market penetration has grown from 0.5% to 2.5% over the past 5 years. The number of models available on the Canadian market increased from 10 in 2015 to 48 in 2019. Despite the high upfront cost, research shows that looking at the total cost of ownership, buying an electric passenger vehicle is cheaper than internal combustion engine cars. This is true because EVs are cheaper to fuel and maintain. However, fleet managers are facing an urgent need for low carbon medium and large vehicles. Currently, there is a lack of commercial options for EV pickup trucks, vans, and class 3-5 trucks, which represents a large portion of the municipal fleet. While these will be available in the near future, it will take time to test the new technology and to make the business case for purchasing them.
Meanwhile, some ways to overcome the availability barrier is to retrofit current cargo vans and trucks to use alternative fuels. Furthermore, processes such as fleet utilization (tracking the usage of a vehicle), and right-sizing (assuring that cars are appropriate for the work they do) will support the reduction of the fleet size. Optimizing fleet allows to minimize the assets and reduce capital investment in the fleet, while still completing the needed tasks.
In times of extreme weather events, electricity blackouts, or technology failure, it is essential for the municipal fleet to be functional. For this reason, it is important to diversify the fleet: using alternative fuels, and powering EVs from different sources. Fortunately, emerging technology, such as solar-powered EV charging stations and better battery storage options, are on the rise and can support the resiliency of the fleet. Moreover, autonomous vehicles will soon add another layer of challenges and opportunities to the municipal fleet and its resiliency.
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If you want to learn more about emerging technology and fleet management, access the recording and resources from our July 9th, 2020 webinar.
By Desislava Stefanova, Outreach Coordinator, Clean Air Partnership