Electric Utility Group Urges Members to Put Muscle Behind Plug-In EVs

NAFA Pres­i­dent Claude Mas­ters, CAFM:  “While NAFA has a ‘fuel-neu­tral’ phi­los­o­phy, the Asso­ci­a­tion rec­og­nizes that elec­tric vehi­cles will be a major play­er in how fleets will get to their car­bon foot­print goals.”

By Michael Sheldrick, Senior Edi­tor

If you like a good pun, and you’re inter­est­ed in a top-flight analy­sis of the prospects for elec­tric vehi­cles, you’ll love a com­pre­hen­sive new report from the Edi­son Elec­tric Insti­tute, the trade asso­ci­a­tion for investor-owned elec­tric util­i­ties: Trans­porta­tion Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion: Util­i­ty Fleets lead­ing the Charge.” Even if you hate puns you’ll want to read it if you are inter­est­ed in the out­look for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion — and if you’re not, you should be. This report makes a strong case that EVs have a promis­ing future.

It’s impor­tant to under­stand that there is a strong bias at work here. The report was writ­ten from the per­spec­tive of the elec­tric indus­try itself — not pri­mar­i­ly from the per­spec­tive of its fleets. Quite pos­si­bly for the first time since Thomas Edi­son, the elec­tric pow­er indus­try is con­cerned that its long term growth may be tail­ing off, or at least sig­nif­i­cant­ly mod­er­at­ing. As the report itself writes, “Against the back­drop of slow­ing growth in the elec­tric pow­er indus­try, bring­ing elec­tric­i­ty to the trans­porta­tion sec­tor is a huge, albeit long-term oppor­tu­ni­ty for load growth.” So the indus­try is eye­ing trans­porta­tion — the largest U.S. con­sumer of ener­gy behind elec­tric pow­er gen­er­a­tion, and yet, 93% depen­dent on petro­le­um.

Giv­en this poten­tial, one would have thought that the indus­try itself would be pro­mot­ing the growth of EVs, par­tic­u­lar­ly Plug-in elec­tric Vehi­cles (PEVs). But, as always, the shoe­mak­er chil­dren seem to go unshod. “We are not lead­ing by exam­ple,” the report lament­ed, not­ing that “only about 1.7% of the vehi­cles pur­chased by elec­tric util­i­ties in the last five years were equipped with plug-in tech­nol­o­gy.” Plug-in tech­nolo­gies are avail­able and cost-effec­tive for a num­ber of fleet appli­ca­tions today.

The report says that cost-effec­tive appli­ca­tions are already avail­able. Accord­ing to EEI, the pay­back peri­od for a Chevro­let Volt plug-in hybrid sedan, as com­pared to a Chevro­let Cruze, is only about three years if it’s dri­ven only about 12,000 miles per year, and charged once per day. Sim­i­lar­ly, accord­ing to the report, the pay­back peri­od for an Elec­tric Pow­er Take Off unit could be as lit­tle as five years. In a detailed 8-year TCO analy­sis for a gaso­line-pow­ered Cruze vs. the Volt, both dri­ven 24,000 miles per year, the Volt’s TCO was rough­ly half the cost of the Cruze, as well as cost of gaso­line-pow­ered Ford Fusion. The Cruze beat out the Ford Fusion Ener­gi, with a total cost of about 70% of the Energi’s.

Giv­en all these cir­cum­stances, the report sound­ed a toc­sin to EEI mem­bers: “We must con­tin­ue to inno­vate, invest and work close­ly with reg­u­la­tors, automak­ers, and oth­er part­ners to devel­op poli­cies and best prac­tices that will allow elec­tric trans­porta­tion to flour­ish. Elec­tri­fy­ing our own fleets is an impor­tant first step in mov­ing the indus­try for­ward. The Edi­son Elec­tric Insti­tute in part­ner­ship with and on behalf of its mem­ber com­pa­nies is request­ing each mem­ber util­i­ty to ded­i­cate 5% of its annu­al fleet pur­chase plan to plug-in vehi­cles. In many appli­ca­tions, this choice already makes eco­nom­ic sense. The 5% ask is a start­ing point. It is an invest­ment in the future of our busi­ness. We must lead by exam­ple — show­ing our cus­tomers the ben­e­fits and pos­si­bil­i­ties of mak­ing the switch.”

While I said that the report was writ­ten prin­ci­pal­ly from the elec­tric util­i­ties’ point of view, fleet man­agers played a key role in prepar­ing the report through their par­tic­i­pa­tion on EEI’s Fleet Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, whose mem­bers includ­ed, Claude Mas­ters, CAFM, cur­rent NAFA pres­i­dent and Man­ag­er, Vehi­cle Acqui­si­tion and Fuel at Flori­da Pow­er & Light.

NAFA laud­ed the EEI report with the fol­low­ing press release:

On July 23, NAFA Fleet Man­age­ment Asso­ci­a­tion extend­ed their sup­port of the Edi­son Elec­tric Insti­tute (EEI) and their efforts to advance sus­tain­abil­i­ty regard­ing fleet adop­tion of elec­tric vehi­cles. EEI has released a white paper, “Trans­porta­tion Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion: Util­i­ty Fleets Lead­ing the Charge,” that focus­es on the elec­tric pow­er industry’s effort to accel­er­ate the expan­sion of elec­tric trans­porta­tion in com­mer­cial and retail mar­kets, begin­ning with elec­tric util­i­ty fleets.

NAFA Pres­i­dent Claude A. Mas­ters, CAFM; Man­ag­er, Acqui­si­tion and Fuel Flori­da Pow­er & Light offered his sup­port for EEI’s ini­tia­tives. “This year, NAFA intro­duced the Sus­tain­able Fleet Stan­dard Pro­gram to our Mem­ber­ship and we are in the final stages of its beta phase. While NAFA has a ‘fuel-neu­tral’ phi­los­o­phy, the Asso­ci­a­tion rec­og­nizes that elec­tric vehi­cles will be a major play­er in how fleets will get to their car­bon foot­print goals.” Mas­ters pro­vid­ed valu­able input in the devel­op­ment of the white paper as a mem­ber of EEI’s Fleet Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee.

In agree­ment, NAFA Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Phillip E. Rus­so, CAE, added, “NAFA is enthu­si­as­tic about the poten­tial for elec­tric vehi­cles with respect to fleet usage, and we encour­age all the stake­hold­ers in the entire ener­gy indus­try to look into how the fleet pro­fes­sion can spur on growth. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is an impor­tant sub­ject in the fleet world and EVs are key to mak­ing that hap­pen.”

Accord­ing to the paper, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the trans­porta­tion sec­tor is a poten­tial “quadru­ple win” for elec­tric util­i­ties and soci­ety, poten­tial­ly enabling elec­tric util­i­ties to sup­port envi­ron­men­tal goals, build­ing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, and reduc­ing oper­at­ing costs.

“The elec­tric pow­er indus­try is a tremen­dous leader in sup­port­ing elec­tric trans­porta­tion, but we must con­tin­ue to strength­en our efforts and lead by exam­ple. One way we can do that is by lever­ag­ing our industry’s buy­ing pow­er to pur­chase more PEVs for our fleets,” said EEI Pres­i­dent Tom Kuhn. “The white paper released today is a road map for a long-term, coor­di­nat­ed effort to fur­ther spur the devel­op­ment of elec­tric vehi­cle tech­nolo­gies in the elec­tric trans­porta­tion mar­ket.”

Rus­so con­clud­ed, “I encour­age NAFA Mem­ber­ship to down­load and share this white paper from EEI and to deter­mine how EV might ben­e­fit their fleets.”

The expan­sion of elec­tric-based vehi­cles in util­i­ty fleets expects to help util­i­ties:

  • Reduce oper­at­ing costs for fuel and main­te­nance
  • Extend use­ful lives of the units based on their mechan­i­cal sim­plic­i­ty
  • Improve crew safe­ty through noise reduc­tion (i.e., the abil­i­ty to oper­ate a buck­et truck at height and still com­mu­ni­cate with crew mem­bers on the ground)
  • Extend work hours of crews per­form­ing non-emer­gency work in com­mu­ni­ties with noise restric­tions
  • Reduce car­bon emis­sions
  • Pro­vide anoth­er avenue to engage cus­tomers about the prod­ucts and ser­vices elec­tric util­i­ties pro­vide

Down­load the EEI white paper: “Trans­porta­tion Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion: Util­i­ty Fleets Lead­ing the Charge

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