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 , the trade association for investor-owned electric utilities: “.” 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: ”

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