County proceeds with vehicle electrification effort
Thursday, October 21, 2021 by Seth Smalley
On Tuesday, Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources staff updated the county on the vehicle fleet electrification plan, as directed by a resolution commissioners adopted in June.
The resolution notes that as transportation is the primary contributor to carbon emissions in the county, fleet electrification is an important climate initiative.
The county will be working to identify charging station locations until spring 2022, at which point TNR will update the commissioners again and submit budget requests. Currently, the fleet electrification project is submitting grant applications, holding stakeholder meetings and conducting training and education.
Emily Ackland, environmental program director for TNR, explained that the county has been working closely with the Electrification Coalition (at no cost to the county) to develop best practices and create the framework for the county’s electric vehicle program. TNR is also meeting with Austin vehicle manufacturers to help inform program design.
“We’ve conducted a preliminary facilities assessment to help figure out where charging stations can go. We sent out a survey to employees who drive county vehicles and we conducted a stakeholder meeting in August to let vehicle users know what we’re up to,” Ackland said.
Travis County did apply to one grant, from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which was not awarded because the county’s air quality is not considered sufficiently dire. However, Ackland mentioned there is an opportunity for Travis County to get grant funding from Volkswagen.
“We realize that having buy-in from the county’s employees who drive and/or maintain vehicles is key to success of converting our fleet to EVs,” Ackland said, going on to mention TNR has sent out a survey to employees who frequently drive county vehicles.
According to the survey, the availability of charging stations was the most common concern from employees, followed closely by vehicle range and charging time.
“None of these concerns are too surprising,” Ackland told commissioners, adding that the EV team would work to address any fears about transitioning to electric vehicles.
Ackland noted that TNR needs to update at least 11 county policies surrounding vehicle operation and will bring them to commissioners for approval.
“It is a technology that’s evolving fairly rapidly, and because vehicle emissions are such a huge part of overall greenhouse gas emissions, it’s really critical to transition fleets in particular to electric vehicles,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said.
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