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Electrification of Federal Fleet Will Result in Reduced Emissions

By Arti Loftus

Early in 2018, Stanford University researchers carried out a national survey on the topic of climate change and global warming. Questions included belief in the existence of climate change, the causes, the impacts, and who should lead in addressing it. The same questions were asked in 2020, with 999 adult Americans interviewed. With dozens of surveys undertaken over the years, including this one, a large majority of Americans believe that the Earth has been warming for at least 100 years and will continue well into the future if left unresolved.

The American general public also believes that governments, businesses, and individuals should take serious remedial action to control global warming and the likely effects that it will cause. The Climate Insights 2020 survey states that “81% of Americans believed that Earth has been warming over the last 100 years—among the largest percentages observed since this surveying began in 1997 when it was 77%.”

In addition, The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that approximately a 1.0 +C increase in global temperature has been caused by human activities and is likely to cause a 1.5 +C rise between 2030 and 2052 if warming continues at the current rate. Thus, we already see the effects of climate change, and if we do nothing about it, further long-term transformations to the environment, such as the rise in sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, ocean acidification, and more and more extreme weather events, are to be expected.

We know that climate change is a global threat to our health and wellbeing, and we must curb emissions. Health issues such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems for people exposed to CO2 emissions within city environments constitute a significant factor, and governments worldwide are working hard to combat it. For example, in the last 30 years and America’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 600 local U.S. governments have embraced their own Climate Action Plans (CAP) and set greenhouse gas reduction targets. Yet, while some progress is being made, there is still a long way to go.

Within the U.S. transportation sector, passenger vehicles and freight trucks added together account for 83% of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, a significant step to reduce emissions and to mitigate climate change would be the extensive adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) that can be powered by electricity that is generated not by fossil fuels but by sunlight, water, and wind or “green energy.” 

As highlighted in Atlas’s Federal Fleet Electrification Assessment released earlier this month, 40 percent of all non-Postal Service federal fleet vehicles and 97 percent of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) vehicles can be replaced with electric vehicles by 2025. It is also stated that electrification of both USPS and non-USPS vehicles could save up to $5.5 billion. This report also assesses the possibility of rapid electrification, suggesting that by reinvesting capital obtained through electrifying TCO-competitive vehicles into non-competitive vehicles, 96% of vehicles included within the federal fleet could be electrified by 2025 whilst witnessing net savings of $8 million. This number would be double the expected rate of electrification without reinvestment. 

Additionally, the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles throughout federal fleets coalesce to bring a variety of reductions that tackle climate change, including a deficiency in greenhouse gas and harmful air pollutants, whilst also improving energy security due to a decreased reliance on natural resources, including oil. For this study, the Dashboard for Rapid Vehicle Electrification (DRVE); an Excel-based tool that takes input variables to predict future trends for each agency and vehicle type, considering parameters such as vehicle and charger prices, mileage, maintenance costs, fuel efficiency, fuel prices, useful life, residual value to compute a TCO for a conventional vehicle and its EV replacement, and social cost of carbon. 

The switch to EVs has been accentuated by the $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill passed by the senate that features a $15 billion investment for E.V. charging stations, twenty-eight House Democrats hope to further this by calling for an additional $85 billion in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that is under consideration in order to rebuild infrastructure for a sustainable economy. 

While a shift to an electric federal fleet could help American manufacturers create new jobs, it also shows more robust dedication to the Paris Agreement. In addition, 7.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, along with reductions in particulate matter and nitrogen oxide pollution, can be cut by replacing the non-USPS fleet by 2030. However, according to the General Service Administration (GSA), with an excess of over 645,000 vehicles in the federal fleet in 2019, replacing them all with EVs could take some time. Still, it could lead to a bolstered adoption for consumers and bring stability to the EV marketplace as the federal government leads by example.

With the overhaul taking place, the need for a remodeled refueling infrastructure will be integral to the success of EVs. Deploying this charging infrastructure will contribute to a large proportion of upfront costs that must be considered in addition to other logistics. Another characteristic of EV charging to consider is the extended charging period compared to refueling liquid fuel; this will require an investment into a greater ratio of charging equipment per vehicle. By facilitating an increased number of charging equipment per vehicle with a more considerable initial investment, the long-term costs of converting to EVs will drop in accordance with the more efficient charging procedure.

As studied in the Atlas, Federal Fleet Electrification Assessment, switching to EVs in favor of conventional vehicles would eliminate direct tailpipe pollutant emissions entirely. Instead, through consuming electricity, EVs will transfer emissions to cleaner and more efficient generators at electric power stations while avoiding dangerous greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

As the benefits of electrification of federal fleets start to mount up over the next decade, significant net savings can be made by as much as 40 percent on non-USPS federal fleet vehicles in 2025, as well as produce a host of environmental benefits. However, whilst an influx of EVs will contribute benefits, the importance of a green power plant providing localized electricity is paramount to remove possible emissions caused by transport and electricity production.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Luke Bellos
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