We’re in a climate crisis. The IPCC tells us that if we don’t make enormous carbon emission reductions now, within 10 years we could set off chain reactions and feedback loops which could imperil all life on the planet.
The transportation sector is the biggest source of carbon emissions, at 29% of the US carbon footprint, 41% for California and 47% for Washington State — with the majority of emissions coming from burning gasoline in cars and trucks.
Cities must lead and model the transition from fossil fuels. Electrifying public vehicles is a top priority. With their predictable use patterns, dedicated lots for charging and ability to be branded as clean electric vehicles, city fleets are prime candidates for electrification and taxpayer savings and education. Suitable light duty EVs are already here, and other city vehicles such as work trucks, garbage trucks and transit vehicles are close behind.
Some cities are already making the transition (see stories here) but too many are not. Despite the climate crisis, many cities, counties, and other jurisdictions are stuck in old polluting ways, buying new gasoline powered vehicles that will be spewing carbon and toxic emissions for years to come. If we are taking the climate emergency seriously, we can’t allow our tax dollars to purchase polluting vehicles when better alternatives are available. It is up to citizens to speak up to ensure that their cities are not investing unnecessarily in polluting vehicles.
A new citizen’s movement is emerging among the tens of thousands of municipal fleets in the U.S. to stop the purchase of gas vehicles.
You can make a big difference to the planet just by making your voice heard on this issue.
HOW CITIZENS CAN ADVANCE CITY FLEET ELECTRIFICATION
LONG-TERM FIX: GET YOUR CITY TO PASS AN “EV FIRST” ORDINANCE OR GREEN FLEET PROCUREMENT POLICY
A growing number of cities and the state of Washington have passed green vehicle procurement policies (see specific examples here and here). San Francisco has committed to electrify its non-emergency fleet sedans by 2022 and its remaining diesel transit buses by 2035. All cities, and especially those that have declared a climate emergency, should pass an ordinance like Sacramento’s requiring that all city fleet vehicle purchases be zero emissions or electric vehicles unless there is no feasible zero emissions option. Menlo Park’s Sustainable Fleet Policy imposes a ‘ZEV First” standard for new fleet vehicles, and requires the public fleet to reduce gasoline use 5% a year from 2018 levels. Speak with the sustainability staff and/or mayor and city council about passing an “EV First” ordinance or green vehicle procurement policy, or at least establishing a practice of prioritizing zero emissions vehicles.
Until a policy or practice is established and enforced, help ensure that no new gasoline-powered vehicles are purchased unnecessarily, by taking these steps:
Find out what’s going on in your city. Individuals on city staff and in government will make key decisions about electrifying the city fleet, usually during the budgeting process or when a large number of vehicles is being replaced. Each city is different, so it’s important to understand the players and the concerns in your city.
You can help accelerate city fleet electrification by providing resources to city staff and leadership. The Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative and Electrification Coalition EV Fleets Program are great places to start no matter where you live. For jurisdictions in California’s San Mateo County, technical assistance and a new Green Fleets Toolkit are available. Also check out the following:
To be sure the City is not about to commit to many years of owning a new gasoline-powered vehicle, check the agenda for upcoming city council meetings for vehicle purchase agenda items. Smaller dollar purchases may not require city council approval, so you’ll need to catch them by finding out purchasing plans from the fleet manager or city council. But larger purchases often require city council approval, and thus will show up on the agenda.
If you learn of a plan for the city to purchase gasoline vehicles where there is an electric option available, and can’t otherwise head it off at the pass by meeting with sustainability staff and the fleet manager, it’s time to get citizens to advocate for:
Once you’ve determined the appropriate action, here’s what to do:
a. Email as many city residents as you can, asking them to email the city council. Your email should:
Include a sample message like the one in the box, that citizens can easily personalize and send to city leadership.
b. Plan to attend the City Council meeting where the issue will be addressed, and restate the contents of your letter as a public comment. In-person comments can be more impactful than emails.
c. Check your city’s public email log (as an example, Menlo Park’s is here) to see who/how many wrote emails to the city.
d. Follow up with your fellow citizens, especially those who wrote to City Council, to let them know the outcome.
e. Email email@example.com with your story, and share on the Facebook Group “Electrifying Public Vehicles”.
*Note: Tesla needs more evidence of city interest in electric police vehicles to merit investing in a program to outfit their electric vehicles for police use. Have your city leaders email Tesla expressing interest and stating how many police vehicles the city has.
For more information about public fleet electrification, see Coltura’s white paper about fleet electrification in Washington State, called Recharge Required, and the following resources:
TAKE THE NEXT STEP TO ELECTRIFYING CITY FLEETS!
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