Electric fleets deliver advantage
By Michael Galhouse, Brandeis University
Michael Galhouse is a student in the Sustainable Development Master's program at Brandeis University and an Oregon Fellow at Portland State University. He's also a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.
Last month, I attended EV Roadmap 5 at Portland’s World Trade Center. The event featured an excellent mix of public and private sector actors, as well as electric vehicle enthusiasts. The theme for the day was to highlight how electric vehicles are ready for the mainstream. But the take-home message was that currently available products actually present very compelling opportunities for commercial fleet upgrades.
Speaker after speaker conceded that while the jury was still out on whether the economics of EVs made sense for the average consumer, the consensus was that businesses with short to medium range routes, especially ones that are predictable, can use this technology to drive serious triple bottom line growth.
Perhaps the most captivating talk came from someone who admitted being a skeptic when his company decided to add an electric vehicle to his fleet. Jim Strickland, service delivery operations manager at Staples, was ultimately impressed by the performance and cost savings of their electric delivery truck.
A particularly pleasant surprise, echoed by many speakers, was that EV maintenance costs were substantially lower than those from conventional vehicles. In addition, the reception from clients was ecstatic. He shared a couple anecdotes about a customer actually hugging the delivery driver when she saw that his truck was an EV, and other customers specifically requesting that orders be delivered using the electric truck. Interestingly, he also said his drivers reported psychological benefits from the more pleasant driving experience.
Seeking to further entice businesses to switch their fleets to electric vehicles, the Oregon Department of Transportation used the event to announce its Commercial Electric Truck Incentive Program. The incentive amounts to a $20,000 voucher to help purchase commercial zero-emission vehicles that weigh at least 10,001 pounds.
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