By: Kaylan Wade, Transportation Assistant Director
The department was asked to explore and report on current options of fleet electrification, up to and including feasibility of establishing a small fleet of electric vehicles (EVs). This was to include the vehicles themselves, charging stations, renewable power generation infrastructure, and any other noteworthy equipment which may be necessary to maintain and operate such a fleet. Electrification of transportation is widely seen as beneficial because it presents an opportunity for consumer cost savings, increased local jobs and business, localized benefits of transportation expenditures, improved public health and environmental outcomes, and innovation in and modernization of the electric utility and transportation sectors. The purchase price of current offerings for commuter type vehicles range between $36,000 and $170,000 depending on desired range and features. Trucks range between $40,000 and $140,000. Transit type vehicles are only available from post-production electric retrofitting entities, and price varies greatly depending on which internal combustion engine vehicle is supplied to the retrofitter. Operating costs of electric vehicles is perhaps the most attractive aspect of an electric fleet. Electric vehicles cost much less per mile than their internal combustion or hybrid electric vehicle counterparts. Partially due to the lower cost of electricity per mile versus fuel, and partially due to fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs. When considering lifecycle costs, which includes purchase, operation, and maintenance costs, electric vehicles are typically less expensive than their traditional counterparts.
EV chargers vary greatly. Some are plugged into a standard 110-volt wall outlet and takes a day or more to fully charge an EV, while others use 220-volt “dryer” outlets and can charge an EV in as little as 8 hours. Fast chargers are standalone purpose-built chargers which must be installed by a certified electrician and are typically located on their own either inside or outside of a building. These chargers can typically bulk-charge (to 80%) most vehicles within an hour. While the fastest fast chargers have twice the charging throughput capability of those without batteries, they must be kept inside to avoid damage to the battery. In addition, maximum battery input also depends on the vehicle’s maximum charge capacity.
Ambient temperature has a large impact on the range of electric vehicles. A rule of thumb with electric vehicles in our climate is only count on half the battery capacity and vehicle range claimed by the manufacturer when temperatures fall well below zero Fahrenheit. This is primarily due to the need to use battery power to keep the vehicle and batteries onboard warm. The best way to combat this is to provide a warmed parking space where the vehicles can be kept at maximum battery level and warm before they are driven. While the range does decrease, modern EVs typically perform well in cold weather, with similar or better handling than comparable models of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Most EVs outperform ICE vehicles for cold weather starts and near-instantaneous cabin heating.
Electric vehicles are not completely without environmental impact. Power producers are still generating electricity with fossil fuels to charge the vehicles, and minerals need to be mined to produce the vehicles. Carbon emissions from the operation and charging of EVs on Matanuska Electric Association’s fossil-fuel-heavy resource mix results in about half the carbon emissions as compared to fueling a comparable traditional vehicle. As the grid decarbonizes, with more renewable energy on the system, the emissions benefit from switching to EVs grows.