Two case studies outline how Houston and Loveland are saving money with EVs in their fleets
17 December 2013
The Electrification Coalition released two case studies outlining how two cities—Houston, Texas and Loveland, Colorado—are saving money by using electric vehicles (EVs) in their vehicle fleets. The Electrification Coalition, launched in November 2009, is committed to promoting policies and actions that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale in order to combat the economic, environmental, and national security threats posed by US dependence on petroleum. (Earlier post.)
City officials in Houston estimate that the city’s 27 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles will save the city $110,000 annually compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. A similar study examining Loveland, Colo. found that the city’s LEAFs will cost 41% less to own and operate than gasoline-powered vehicles.
Houston first began using electric vehicles for the environmental benefits they offer, but now we are planning to add even more EVs to our fleet because of the cost savings they bring. We project that electric vehicles will save the city $110,000 per year in reduced fuel and maintenance, costs that we would otherwise have to spend on gas-powered vehicles. Also, our new car sharing program FleetShare, which we developed with ZipCar, provides easy access to the vehicles for Houston’s employees.—Laura Spanjian, director of sustainability for the City of Houston
Loveland needed to do something about rising fuel costs, and electric vehicles have proven to be a great solution, saving us about 41 percent overall compared to gas-powered vehicles. In tough economic times, these savings cannot be ignored. Loveland is now aiming to convert all of its light-duty fleet vehicles that work within a close distance of the city to EVs.—Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez
Houston. Houston already has the third-largest municipal hybrid fleet in the country. Its efforts to incorporate alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) into its fleet began in 2002 with an initial purchase of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), mainly the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid. Hybrids now constitute more than 50% of the city’s light-duty fleet.
In 2010, the city converted 15 Toyota Prius hybrids to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Most recently, the city purchased 27 Nissan LEAF battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and has plans to steadily increase that number over the coming years.
Each of these vehicles are estimated to save the city $7,000 in fuel and maintenance over a three-year period.
Centralizing management of capital and operational expenditures under one office was crucial in capturing “total cost of ownership” savings, according to the report. The city also has simplified the transition to electric vehicles by deploying a network of charging stations and an advanced reservation system. To date, the city has installed 77 level two (220v) and 32 level one (110v) charging stations throughout the City.
The city also made it easier for its employees to use electric and other green vehicles by implementing a car sharing reservation program. The city equipped 50 EV, PHEV and HEV vehicles with Zipcar’s Fast Fleet wireless technology, enabling employees to reserve available vehicles in the fleet pool. The program has seven locations, 400 members, and handles nearly 600 reservations per month. The vehicles are currently being reserved at a 47% utilization rate.
Loveland. Between 2009 and 2011, fuel costs for the City of Loveland’s vehicle fleet increased by 29%, according to the case study. This large and rapid upward shift in costs prompted the city to initiate an aggressive alternative-fuel vehicle purchasing strategy, focusing initially on battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
Loveland leased two LEAFs, benefitting from Nissan’s municipal lease program, which allows the federal tax credit of $7,500 per vehicle to be incorporated directly into the lease price (public agencies are not typically able to take advantage of the federal tax credit for purchase of an electric vehicle ).
The city’s lease contracts are structured as full payout (amortization to $1) over a period of three years. They hope that at the end of this period, after approximately 20,000 miles of driving each, the vehicles can either be sold (for as much as 60 percent of retail) or kept in the fleet.
Through seven months of operation, the two vehicles have traveled 4,000 and 2,000 miles respectively. Despite this low total mileage, the city estimates that if the vehicles travel 6,000 miles per year, the total costs of owning and operating equate to just 17 cents per mile in comparison to 29 cents per mile for the fleet passenger cars fueled by gasoline—a 41% reduction in cost.
Based on its experience to date with the two, Loveland ordered another three for 2013 and an additional four for 2014. The city ultimately aims to meet a goal of converting all fleet vehicles for which no heavy hauling is required and with operational ranges within a 35-mile radius of the city to plug-in electric vehicles.
Initial employee skepticism was quickly overcome—usually in one use—by the vehicle’s better-than-perceived reliability, performance, and range. Repeat usage by employees is very high.
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