Cities Adopt Electric Vehicles More Rapidly Than Individuals

The adoption of climate goals varies across regions, with significant differences even among U.S. cities within the same state. Most large cities have set climate goals, and some are integrating electric vehicles (EVs) into their municipal fleets faster than the general population.

This trend is likely to accelerate as more EVs become available and cities gain awareness of grant funding and tax incentives introduced over the past four years.

Across the nation, cities operate about 4 million cars, trucks, and buses. This number, though larger than the federal fleet, represents just over 1 percent of the 283 million vehicles on America’s roads.

However, cities can make a substantial impact by showcasing the viability of EVs to both businesses and private owners, according to Ian Seamans of Environment Texas. “A large part of the effect is modeling this behavior for the public,” he said.

City policies play a crucial role in Republican-led states like Texas, where state incentives for clean vehicles are scarce, Seamans noted.

Cities are also increasingly interested in EVs due to their lower maintenance and fuel costs. They face pressure from residents and federal regulators to reduce ozone and other vehicle-related air pollution.

Dallas, the ninth-largest U.S. city, announced a deal with Ford Pro for $9.5 million worth of charging equipment over 10 years and 100 EVs annually. Ford estimates Dallas could save over $300,000 in tax credits and reduced fuel costs in three years from its purchase of F-150 Lightning electric trucks. Additionally, Ford is collaborating with the city on software to optimize charger location and operation, promising significant savings.

“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,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.

Approximately 5 percent of Dallas’ city fleet comprises EVs, hybrids, or plug-in hybrids, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Statewide, about 2 percent of vehicles are electric.

In New York City and San Jose, California, 25 percent of the municipal fleet consists of clean vehicles, as per the ACEEE. In contrast, clean vehicles make up only 2 percent of the city fleet in Phoenix and 1.2 percent in Fort Worth, Texas.

Cities have typically started with light- and medium-duty vehicles like sedans and pickups, but specialized electric trucks, including trash trucks and fire engines, are becoming available. For instance, Boise, Idaho, introduced an electric Zamboni for an ice-skating center last year.

“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 Climate Mayors.

Climate Mayors, in collaboration with the Electrification Coalition, has established a purchasing cooperative to help cities find electric models, benefiting smaller municipalities with limited resources.

The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law allocated billions for public chargers, some of which have gone to cities. Additionally, metropolitan planning organizations and city coalitions have secured grants.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act enabled cities and nonprofits to qualify for EV tax credits through “elective pay,” despite not typically paying federal income taxes. The Electrification Coalition is educating fleet managers in smaller cities about these tax credits and other essentials, such as the best times to order EVs.

Many cities have moved beyond initial EV purchases, according to Matt Stephens-Rich of the Electrification 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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