The city of Seattle not only wants to reduce the number of cars it owns, it wants them powered by electricity.
Mayor Jenny Durkan released an executive order late last month pledging to reduce the city’s current 4,150-vehicle fleet 10 percent by 2020. Alongside that goal, the city aims to transition its replacement vehicles with an electric version. Seattle plans to have a “fossil fuel-free fleet by 2030,” according to an April 2018 executive order.
To support this goal, the city will no longer develop traditional fueling stations for its fleet, and instead will move ahead with more EV infrastructure.
“To date, the city has installed over 300 charging stations since 2011 to support fleet electrification specifically,” said Andrea Pratt, climate and transportation policy advisor for Seattle and program manager for the Drive Clean Seattle Program. “We are moving forward on several more large projects to keep the momentum going and prepare for pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and other vehicle types, in addition to sedans,” she added.
Seattle’s fleet currently includes about 200 plug-in electric vehicles, hundreds of hybrid vehicles and “the largest government-owned electric vehicle charging hub,” according to the mayor’s September executive order.
Building out vehicle charging infrastructure is a central goal among government agencies and other organizations seeking to increase the use of electric vehicles. Electrify America, a company formed in the wake of the far-reaching Volkswagen emissions tampering scandal in 2016, is spearheading EV infrastructure projects across 40 states, which include projects like the installation of 30 “ultra-fast vehicle chargers” at more than 30 shopping centers and other locations.
Getting the infrastructure planned, bidded and installed tends to take longer than simply buying an electric car, said Pratt, adding Seattle is working to build out more charging infrastructure in the next three years. “It’s hard to buy EVs if you have nowhere to plug them in,” he said.
Other cities are moving forward with transitioning fleets to EVs. Columbus, Ohio, has already met half of its goal to add 300 electric cars to city fleets. This year, the city purchased 93 EVs with another 32 to be bought in the coming months.
Seattle works closely with other cities in joint procurement efforts to purchase EVs, such as the Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle (EV) Purchasing Collaborative, a “one-stop procurement portal” for cities looking to purchase electric vehicles.
“We all control the vehicles we purchase,” said Pratt. “If we ask the private sector and residents to drive EVs, we must lead by example. This is absolutely where it starts.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.