By Roy L Hales
It has been nine months since the Governments of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia embarked upon a shared initiative. In their joint press release, group spokesperson Governor Kate Brown explained “The West Coast Electric Fleets initiative leads the way in helping fleets scale up zero-emission vehicles to reach our goal that, by 2016, 10 percent of all new purchases are electric vehicles.” How is the West Coast Electric Fleets Initiative Doing?
How is the West Coast Electric Fleets Initiative Doing?
“We are part of a consortium of states that is working on a national contract for electric vehicles with multiple dealers. So we expect that the buying power that comes from that contract will make the electric vehicles available at very attractive prices. Non-state fleets – cities, counties and other public fleets – buy through us and they will be able to take advantage of that same purchasing power,” said Dan McConnon, Washington’s Director of State Efficiency and Environmental Performance then you’ll need fleet insurance to protect your team and vehicles. 
More Than A Third of America’s PEVs
More than a third of America’s plug-in electric vehicles are in California, where 146,000 EVs were sold between March 2011 and July 2015. There are also close to 8,000 charging stations, of which almost 700 are fast charge outlets 
“The EV purchase goal is part of California State government’s wider efforts to get toward 1.5 Million Zero-Emission Vehicles on California Roadways by 2025. These goals were set forth in March 2012, when Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a sweeping executive order directing state government to help accelerate the market for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California,” explained Alex Barnum, Deputy Secretary for Communications and External Affairs at the California Environmental Protection Agency.
Though he did not supply any figures for the state’s fleet, Barnum said, “State EV vehicles go wherever there is state business from San Diego in the South to the Oregon border. From urban office buildings, DMV and EDD offices to rural back roads where CalFire fights blazes and where park rangers keep public recreation safe.”
Many Californian cities are homes to large numbers of electric vehicles, and their governments are taking part in the West Coast Electric Fleets Initiative.
With 280 electric vehicles actively in service or on order, Los Angeles has the largest pure battery EV fleet of any city in the U.S..
A spokesperson for the city says “The current procurement guideline calls for 50% of all new light duty vehicle purchases to be full battery electric.”
There were 25,156 EVs registered in Los Angeles during 2014.
San Francisco and San Diego, which are also also in the Fleets initiative, are homes to 27,417 and 6,329 EVs, respectively.
20% Of All Washington’s New Purchases
At COP 21 in Paris, last December, Governor Jay Inslee announced that Washington state will “double down” on the 10% target set by the Pacific Coast Collaborative.
“The target is to begin with the coming model year, to ensure that 20% of all of our new passenger vehicle purchases are electric. The reason is that in the fall we will start to see vehicles with ranges of around 200 miles (322 kilometres), which makes it much more practical for fleet use,” said McConnon.
George Carter, Fleet Manager at Washington State DES, said the state currently uses more than 100 plug-in and hybrid vehicles.
Carter said his department is in charge of about 4,000 of the 12,000 vehicles used by the various Washington state agencies and universities.
Approximately 5,000 of these vehicles are sedans, which can be replaced by electric vehicles.
His department is currently working on a tabulation of how many vehicles will be replaced by 2017.
Carter did not know how many charging stations there are in Washington, but the 488 cited in a recent media account “sounds low.”
Statistics from the Department of Energy agree: 601 electric stations and 1,497 public charging outlets in Washington
There is a solid network of DC fast charging stations along Interstate 5, US 2 and parts of I-90.
There are currently 13,000 EVS in Washington.
More than 8,200 of these are in Seattle, where the City has a fleet of 148 battery operated vehicles.
McConnon said the state of Washington’s first question, in evaluating future fleet vehicle purchases, will be “can they use an electric vehicle. “
“We do enough purchasing that hitting 20% is a reasonable goal and in about seven years you turn over almost the entire fleet. By that time we can be essentially an all electric fleet.”
America’s Most EV Friendly City
At first glance, one would not expect Oregon to be the home of America’s most EV friendly city.
There are many states with more incentives.
Yet Oregon is one of the five states with more than twice the national average of EV sales.
This is in part because of 436 electric stations strategically placed and 1,156 public charging outlets.
A large number of these are in Portland, which researchers at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs named the most EV Friendly City in the U.S.
The city has a fleet of 113 EVS.
Portland also has a network of 265 charging stations, 12 of which are DC fast-charger stations.
It is home to one of the largest EV charging installation at a U.S. airport. 
Portland is a participant of the West Coast Electric Highway initiative, which placed charging stations every 30 to 40 miles along the I-5 as it runs through Oregon.
By the end of this year, the state’s two largest investor owned utilities must propose programs and investments to “accelerate transportation electrification.”
A spokesperson for the Oregon Government explained the state’s EV development in the larger the context:
“Governor Brown believes Oregon’s special way of life is being threatened by climate change. Oregon is already experiencing the impacts of increased drought, devastating forest fires, fish die-offs from increased water temperature, and less snowpack that leads to less water supply. Future generations will rightly judge the morality and leadership of this generation not by the fact of climate change, but by how we responded. That includes balancing Oregon’s work on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the continued need for low-cost energy and economic development opportunities.”
B.C. Agrees To Consider Electric Vehicles
In the original press release, BC’s Premier Christy Clark is quoted, “Over the next three years, our government is investing $7.5 million in purchase incentives to promote clean-energy vehicles for both private and fleet owners. By working with our PCC partners on the West Coast Electric Fleets initiative, we’re also encouraging companies and governments to look at zero-emission fleets – it’s good for the environment, as well as our economies.”
The key words in that quote are ”look at,” which a Ministry of Energy spokesperson emailed was the extent of BC’s commitment to electric vehicles. (However the province has long had a “buy hybrid” priority, when suitable vehicles are available.)
There are three tiers of commitment for fleets in the initiative:
- On-Ramp: Evaluate ZEVs as part of all fleet purchases (including, but not requiring, purchasing and piloting the use of a small number of ZEVs) and annually revisit this pledge to consider a higher commitment to ZEV purchases.
- Highway: Procure at least 3% ZEVs for all new fleet purchases and annually revisit this pledge to consider a higher commitment to ZEV purchases.
- “Express Lane: Procure at least 10% ZEVs for all new fleet vehicle purchases.
“The government of British Columbia has committed to the West Coast Fleets Pledge at the On-Ramp level,” she said.
“British Columbia has the largest public charging infrastructure network in Canada with over 550 public Level 2 charging stations, and 30 DC fast-charging stations.”
Largely as the result of provincial incentives, there are 3,100 battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in British Columbia.
Though 6 of these belong to BC Hydro, the spokesperson explained there are no electric battery vehicles in the provincial fleet.
Vancouver was one of the first Canadian cities to purchase EVS and currently owns 31.
The Ministry of Energy spokesperson explained her government’s position:
“In 2007/08, the Province made a significant investment in hybrid vehicles, and those vehicles continue in operation throughout our fleet. It is highly likely that the type of use most suited for ZEV adoption is being met by those hybrid units still in operation.
“ZEV availability in Canada is currently limited to light-duty cars and SUVs, while approximately 85% of the provincial fleet is comprised of light and medium-duty trucks.
“In addition, the higher capital cost of ZEVs continues to be a barrier to ZEV adoption across government ministries. In B.C., the purchase price of ZEVs is still approximately 25% more than comparable conventional internal combustion vehicles.
“The Province is developing a Fleet Champions Program that will support public and private fleets in adopting ZEVs and installing charging infrastructure which will be launched in fall 2016.
She acknowledged, “Encouraging environmentally-friendly transportation is part of our broader plan to ensure British Columbia remains a climate action leader. Transportation represents over a third of B.C.’s total provincial greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, 98.3 % of the electricity generated in B.C. was from clean or renewable resources, so stimulating the purchase of electric vehicles is one of the most effective ways we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Top Photo Credit: Mayor Charles Hales’ hybrid vehicle parked at the EV Charging station at City Hall, in Portland, Oregon
- Roy L Hales interview with Dan McConnon, Washington’s Director of State Efficiency and Environmental Performance]
- As of August 2015 there were 7,687 PEV charging outlets in operation, 659 of which are fast charging – Plug-in Electric Vehicles, California Energy Commission – Tracking Progress
- Roy L Hales interview with Alex Barnum, Deputy Secretary for Communications and External Affairs at the California Environmental Protection Agency
- There were 8,234 EVs in Seattle as of 2014 – CLEAN TECH LEADERSHIP INDEX, State & Metro June 2015, Clean Edge, p 26
- Email from City of Los Angeles
- CLEAN TECH LEADERSHIP, p 36
- Roy L Hales interview with George Carter, Fleet Manager at Washington State DES
- Email from City of Portland
- Email from Press Secretary at Office of Governor Kate Brown
- Email from BC’s Ministry of Energy