Local Governments Lead the Way on Electric Vehicle Adoption

Electric vehicle sales (EVs) continue to grow in the U.S. market, with total units sold surpassing 1 million in October 2018. EVs offer an economically viable — and in many cases superior — alternative to conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs). In the long run, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are cheaper to own and operate because they deliver price stability, reduce fuel costs, and require less maintenance and service than ICEs.

In 2018, automakers sold more than 362,000 EVs in the United States, an 81 percent increase over 2017 sales — and the best year yet in terms of total U.S. EV sales volume. There are now more than 16 BEV models and 29 PHEV models available in the U.S., an increase from 15 BEV and 24 PHEV models available in 2017. EV sales can be expected to rise further as analysts project dropping battery costs to allow EVs to run further on a single charge and at a lower cost.

Cities, counties, and regions are recognizing that every EV offers an opportunity to improve air quality, while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as half, compared to ICE counterparts. Such reductions are why Climate Mayors, a network of more than 400 U.S. mayors committed to taking meaningful action on climate change, has focused on how cities can collectively demonstrate strong EV demand by transitioning city vehicle fleets to EVs. Climate Mayors has partnered with the Electrification Coalition (EC), a national non-profit organization working to accelerate EV adoption, to launch the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative (Collaborative), a first-of-its-kind, one-stop shop that provides cities and other public agencies with a critical platform to transition their fleets to electric.

Background & Overview of the Climate Mayors Collaborative

In 2017, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led the release of an EV-focused Request for Information (RFI) for thirty U.S. cities to demonstrate demand for more than 114,000 EVs, including trucks and related equipment. Since then, the Climate Mayors effort has evolved into a commitment by more than 400 U.S. mayors representing 70 million U.S. residents in 47 states who have pledged to adopt, honor, and uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

To address these challenges, Climate Mayors, the EC, and Sourcewell, a procurement partner, launched the Collaborative in September 2018. The Collaborative is a one-stop platform for public fleets to make cost-effective EV procurement decisions, bring nationwide cost parity to available EV models, and help cities and other public agencies capture the federal EV tax credit through an innovative municipal capital-leasing purchase model. The Collaborative serves as a catalyst for accelerating the transition of public fleets to EVs, cutting emissions, reducing U.S. dependence on oil, and saving taxpayer dollars. This transition is achieved through the Collaborative by providing cities with tools and resources to facilitate the procurement of EVs and EV-charging infrastructure to support electrified fleets. It also provides equity in vehicle availability to cities across the U.S.

By providing technical expertise as the Collaborative’s implementation partner, the EC also centralizes data and best practices on how to buy or lease EVs, and provides a suite of resources addressing EV-charging infrastructure.

How Cities, Counties, & Regions Can Make an Impact

The Collaborative arose from extensive efforts of the National Association of Regional Councils’ (NARC) Fleets for the Future grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Partnerships and lessons learned from that effort were rolled into the Collaborative to further city and county efforts in transitioning to alternative transportation fuels – specifically to EVs. Fleets for the Future first tested cooperative procurement for vehicles and provided education through webinars, best practices, and presentations to public fleets.

So far, more than 40 cities and counties have committed to the Collaborative to transition almost 1,000 light-duty vehicles to EVs. The City of Los Angeles, an early leader in municipal fleet EV deployment, is transitioning 137 city vehicles to PHEVs through the Collaborative; the City of Austin is integrating 71 EVs into its municipal fleet through the Collaborative; and smaller cities, such as Chula Vista, CA, and Rochester, NY, are taking advantage of EV opportunities as well. These combined fleet electrification strategies promise to transform the U.S. EV market in part by demonstrating local leadership.

Regional councils are the key conveners of cities and counties, and as leaders in transportation planning, they can continue to facilitate opportunities for fleet electrification. The Collaborative can help regional council members challenged by greenhouse-gas emissions goals and the EV procurement process. Regional councils can be engaged to help solve funding issues by exploring pilot programs addressing user fees and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) taxes to improve infrastructure. Regions can also help lead the charge on reducing EV “range anxiety” by planning for EV charging stations and alternative fuel vehicle corridors.

Learn More

By establishing fleet-electrification commitments through the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative, cities and counties encourage other local governments to join the effort. Creating a pathway for cities and counties of all sizes to smoothly and cost-effectively electrify fleets will help drive U.S. EV market growth, while also achieving real progress toward the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

To learn more about the Collaborative, please visit www.DriveEVfleets.org or reach out to NARC to connect with Collaborative project staff.

2018 End of Year Summary

In 2018, NARC advocated on your behalf on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, fostered innovative partnerships between members and with national organizations, and highlighted your daily successes. With active support from members like you, NARC has fostered better connections between members, increased our programming, and expanded our scope throughout the country.

The political landscape is more divided than ever, but NARC will continue to bridge divides with a regional perspective in 2019. The coming year will be another important opportunity to expand the role of regions in transportation, infrastructure, environment, public safety, and human services.

As we prepare for what lies ahead, we took a look back at a few of NARC’s many successes in 2018, successes that were only possible as a result of your generous and ongoing support.

Federal Advocacy
NARC continued to engage and connect with congressional staff as the go-to organization to address concerns that cross jurisdictional boundaries. NARC established relationships with federal agencies and acted as a resource on issues ranging from alternative fuel vehicles to broadband. NARC held a series of summer legislative briefings to keep you up to date on federal issues, including automated vehicles, the Farm Bill, the Federal Communications Commission, and integrated planning.

Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) Program
Emphasizing partnerships and innovation, NARC collaborated with the National Association of Counties Research Foundation (NACo) on a USDA grant supporting rural economic development. In October, NARC and NACo were awarded $139,000 to implement economic development plans and projects. We will steward applicants through capacity-building workshops, mentorships, and webinars.

Fleets for the Future
In 2018, NARC wrapped up our Department of Energy-funded Fleets for the Future (F4F) project. F4F harbored many successes in its 2.5 years, including the creation of best practices guides and templates for alternative fuel vehicle procurement and the development of several regional and national cooperative procurement contracts. Read more about the project and its accomplishments in our condensed F4F Final Report.

Membership Committee
This year, NARC established a membership committee to recruit new members and improve engagement with current members. This member-driven committee encouraged new regional voices to share their ideas, challenges, and best practices amongst the NARC membership. Since the committee was formed, at least eight regional councils have become NARC members.

Major Metros Roundtable
NARC continued to work with the Major Metros Roundtable (MMR), a member-directed and member-supported group that meets regularly to discuss challenges and solutions that are particular to regional councils in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. In 2018, MMR held three in-person half-day meetings in conjunction with NARC’s three conferences in addition to monthly hour-long conference calls which highlighted an individual issue on each call – including transportation, public safety, resiliency, and more.

Sharing Best Practices
To highlight your groundbreaking work, NARC featured best practices, innovations, and creative solutions during our three conferences, in our weekly newsletters, and through monthly webinars. NARC continued to update the repository of best practices from the Rapid-Fire Innovation session at the Executive Directors Conference. Transportation Thursdays and eRegions provided updates on regional council activities and accomplishments across the country. Our webinars and conferences invited members to share their work firsthand and encouraged others to ask questions and bring these ideas back to their own regions.

MWCOG Celebrates 10 Years of Climate Action

On November 14th, NARC staff attended Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (MWCOG) most recent Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy Committee meeting at MWCOG offices. The Committee met to celebrate ten years of climate action since MWCOG adopted their regional program on climate change in 2008. Additionally, Dr. James Kinter, Director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere at George Mason University, gave a presentation on climate change and risks posed to the Metropolitan Washington region. Lastly, the Committee spent time discussing the next ten years of climate action, including identifying what goals and actions may be needed to address climate change in the region.

In 2007, MWCOG’s Board of Directors celebrated its 50th anniversary and at the same time came together to discuss the next fifty years. Recognizing global climate change as a defining force in the decades to come, the Board adopted Resolution R31-07, creating a regional climate change initiative. The program would include developing a greenhouse gas inventory, setting regional goals, identifying best practices for reducing emissions, advocating policies at the federal and state levels, making recommendations on regional climate change policy, and creating a steering committee to guide the initiative. In 2008, MWCOG’s Board of Directors approved the National Capital Region Climate Change Report, which includes significant greenhouse gas reduction targets for the region and 78 recommendations to help area leaders and citizens meet the targets. Since then, MWCOG has been involved in a number of national and regional partnerships, programs, and other efforts aimed at addressing climate change.

Following this portion of the meeting, Dr. Kinter provided attendees with an in-depth look at climate change and the risks it poses to the Metropolitan Washington region. He presented evidence of human-caused climate change and discussed the major sources of carbon dioxide emissions and where that carbon dioxide ends up. Furthermore, he showed some of the possible scenarios – developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – for future global temperature change based on the various levels of action taken by the world’s governments to address emissions. He then discussed the risk that climate change poses to Washington, D.C. and how effects such as increased nuisance flooding have already been witnessed in the region.

Finally, the Committee brainstormed goals and actions that may be needed to address climate change over the next ten years. Some actions included net-zero public buildings, solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) on government buildings, electric municipal and public school buses, getting rid of diesel buses, increased development of electric charging infrastructure, and more widespread use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs.

During closing statements, there was an emphasis on “acting quicker because the damage is coming quicker.” Many Committee members made remarks that there needs to be a realization of the economic benefits of climate action and that jobs such as those in solar installation are top in the country. Lastly, the Committee complimented MWCOG on its role over the last ten years and on its continued commitment to regional climate action over the next decade.

To view documents from the meeting, please visit MWCOG’s website.

Will Electric Vehicles Have Their Year in 2018?

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) became mainstays in the news in 2017, with several big stories focusing predominantly on electric vehicles (EVs). This, combined with several other factors, could mean a big year in 2018 for EVs and a real shift towards an electric, autonomous, and connected vehicle future.

Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

The electric vehicle tax credit ranges from $2,500 to $7,500 for new EVs purchased depending on the size of the vehicle. This tax credit is available until 200,000 qualified vehicles have been sold in the U.S. by each vehicle manufacturer. As a side note, this threshold has yet to be met by any manufacturer.

The threat of elimination of the electric vehicle tax credit in the federal tax overhaul was one of the biggest EV news stories in 2017. The House version of the bill originally eliminated the $7,500 EV tax credit, while the Senate version did not.

Once the EV tax credit was up for elimination, support came rolling in to save it. Even local leaders jumped into the fray, producing a letter signed by 22 mayors that urged Congress to preserve the EV tax credit. The letter cited jobs created in the U.S. automobile industry and the financial savings afforded to American families through owning an EV as direct benefits of this tax credit.

The House and the Senate were ultimately able to reach a deal on the EV tax credit, protecting it from elimination in the final version of the tax bill. While it is not clear what pushed Congress to save the credit, there is little doubt that it will help the EV market grow beyond 2018.

Transportation as a U.S. Greenhouse Gas Pollutant

Another overarching factor contributing to a potential EV boom in 2018 is the designation of transportation as the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. This is the first time in 40 years that power plants have not been recognized as the largest polluters.

While electricity use has not declined, its production has become much cleaner compared to the transportation sector. Wind, solar, and natural gas have replaced a sizable portion of coal-produced electricity, reversing negative trends of power plant emissions. This shift may help make the case for implementing policies or other mechanisms to increase EV adoption in states and localities.

EV Volkswagen Settlement Funds

The release of Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds will be another big variable for the 2018 EV market. As a part of the VW emissions settlement, $4.7 billion will be used for zero emission vehicle (ZEV) investments and Environmental Mitigation Trust funds for states.

The $2 billion ZEV investment will install more than 2,500 EV chargers during the first national ZEV investment cycle, according to Electrify America, with more plans to come.

The plans for the $2.7 billion for Environmental Mitigation Trust funds vary from state to state, but a portion can be invested directly in EV infrastructure. Vermont, for example, plans to spend 15% of its $18.7 million settlement on electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The state is polling the public on how the rest should be spent. Other states are following suit to build up their EV infrastructure as well.

While beneficiaries have several years to implement plans, the initial investments may push consumers to consider buying an electric vehicle as early as this year.

Improvement of EV Options

The surge in affordable and reliable electric vehicle options in the market may also lead to increased adoption in 2018. The three options below show that EVs are beginning to achieve long-range trips at an affordable price – two of the biggest concerns with EV technology:

  • Chevrolet Bolt EV:
    • 2018 will be the first full year this very popular vehicle is available.
    • Range: 238 miles
    • Price: Starts at $37,495
  • Tesla Model 3:
    • The Tesla Model 3 may become more widely available in 2018 following production challenges in 2017.
    • Range: 220 miles
    • Price: Starts at $35,000
  • Nissan LEAF:
    • Range: 107 miles
    • Price: Starts at $30,680

How Regions Can Participate in the 2018 EV Opportunity

The convening of these factors in 2018 marks an exciting year for AFVs. As EVs become more affordable and can travel longer distances, we are likely to see a growing shift in their use.

To help make these options available to public fleets, NARC’s Fleets for the Future project has been working to consolidate bulk purchases for public fleets nationwide. The project team is also closely following the tides of AFV procurement, looking for ways regions can capitalize on the EV movement. For example, many regions will be looking to invest in many emission-reducing vehicles, ranging from EV sedans to propane school buses over the next year. Fleets for the Future will play an important role in reducing costs on these vehicles to help more public agencies transition to AFVs in 2018.

How Does This Impact Regional Planning?

The need for planning for charging stations and AFV corridors will certainly create demand for metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), regional councils, and their members. This shift will impact gas tax revenues for states and will also increase the need for pilot programs on user fees and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax to help solve funding issues at the regional, state, and federal levels.

These regional impacts may also depend on the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan. While there are not many details available, the package may change the market and could have specific provisions that dictate how much the EV market expands.

NARC and its Fleets for the Future project team will keep you updated on these factors converging in the new year. We will be watching with anticipation to see if 2018 is the year of the EV.

Fleets for the Future Website and Best Practices

The Fleets for the Future (F4F) project, led by NARC and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, has recently released four extensive best practices documents on alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) procurement. The guides, which are available on the new Fleets for the Future website, cover gaseous fuel and electric vehicle procurement, fleet transition planning for AFVs, and financing strategies for AFV procurement.

F4F seeks to achieve nationwide economies of scale for AFVs through aggregated procurement initiatives. Following the kickoff of the five regional procurements led by the regional council team members, a national procurement initiative will be spearheaded by the Mid-America Regional Council with support from NARC and several Clean Cities from around the country. The F4F national procurement will include a public and private fleet component with a national bid process and promotion of national AFV contracts. Visit the new website to learn more the program and download the best practices guides.272