Challenges to Electrifying City Fleets

Shifting municipal fleets to electric vehicles poses some challenges, but cities can take steps today to prepare for an easier transition to an electric future.

2 minute read

February 10, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Electric Cars

Imfoto / Shutterstock

While many cities have pledged to electrify their municipal fleets—including police cars, transit buses, street sweepers, and other vehicles—meeting their goals may be difficult due to a number of factors. As Sharon O'Malley writes on Route Fifty, in additions to concerns about up-front costs (an electric Ford pick-up, for example, costs around $10,000 more than the gas-powered version), "some fleet managers have complained that electric vehicle technology has lagged behind their eagerness to bring electric-powered heavy-duty trucks and equipment on board." City leaders worry that electric heavy machinery like snowplows won't function as effectively or require too much time to recharge.

Some cities, like Portland, Oregon, which has committed to a fully electric city fleet by 2050, have found ways to save costs on charging infrastructure. "To prepare, the city struck a subscription-type deal with a vendor of charging stations so it pays monthly to plug in its cars and trucks rather than laying out the capital to build the stations itself. In turn, it uses its savings on fuel to help pay for charging, making it an operating cost rather than a capital expense."

O'Malley writes that experts advise cities to make strategic decisions to decarbonize their fleets most efficiently, like replacing the cars and trucks that rack up the most miles, which will save more money on fuel. Alan Bates, fleet business operations manager for Portland, says departments like parking enforcement offer "low-hanging fruit" for electrification, offering Portland's three-wheel parking enforcement scooters as an example. "They’re not driving a ton of miles, they’re stop and go, they easily get enough charge every night to come back in the morning and run their routes." Others encourage cities to at least give electric vehicles a test drive in order to "demystify the process" and win over EV skeptics.

Monday, February 7, 2022 in Route Fifty

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Aerial view of Macarthur Park lake with downtown Los Angeles skyline in background.

LA County Receives Reconnecting Communities Grants

Seven grant awards totaling $162 million will be used for planning, capital projects, and regional partnerships to reduce environmental harm and improve access in disadvantaged communities.

13 minutes ago - Streetblog LA

View from middle of River Seine in Paris with Eiffel Tower on right side.

Seine Pollution Could Hinder Olympic Swim Events

Events like the triathlon could be impacted if tests continue to reveal high levels of dangerous bacteria in Paris’ famous river.

1 hour ago - Euronews Green

Four-story light-colored multifamily apartment building.

How Financing Restricts the Rental Housing Market

The way apartment buildings are financed has a major impact on supply and costs.

2 hours ago - Strong Towns

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.