Bridgewater explores electric opportunities for fleet

Recommendation made for ten alternative vehicles

A Clean Nova Scotia study recommends replacing one of Bridgewater’s current fleet of vehicles with something electric.

The recommendation follows a study that took seven months to complete. Twenty light-duty vehicle operators and fleet managers had monitors inserted in their vehicles for three weeks to gauge their use, operation, speed, energy use and fuel demands. The data was then uploaded to FleetCarma, a fleet monitoring company’s software, and analyzed to measure the total ownership cost including operating, maintenance, fuel and resale. Two of the devices malfunctioned so the project ended up providing data for 18 fleet vehicles.

“It came out that for ten of the 18, there was a business case for switching over which meant the total cost of ownership was lower by having an electric vehicle then it would be by having the vehicle you have right now,” said Andrea Macdonald, programs director at Clean, an environmental organization helping provide people with tools and knowledge to make good environmental decisions. She presented the results of this study to council April 7.

“It will be a higher capital [cost], but the operational cost will be significantly lower and so those have to be recognized together when we’re talking about integrating electric vehicles,” said Ms MacDonald. The study said if all ten vehicles were switched to electric, $114,000 would be saved over the lifespan of those vehicles, emissions would be reduced by 50 per cent or 282 tonnes, and there would be a 76 per cent reduction in fuel – almost 120,000 litres.

However, the study’s authors recommended that just one electric vehicle be acquired, recognizing the Town’s budget constraints.

The town’s staff proposed looking into a number of energy related projects a year ago. “The biggest and most interesting initiative that crossed our path was the opportunity to apply for participation in a study by the Clean Foundation with the idea of understanding whether the integration of electric and hybrid vehicles would be feasible for municipalities,” said Leon de Vreede, the sustainability planner for the town. Bridgewater and New Glasgow were selected for the study. The presentation was part of its grant.

“The data shows the average range for your fleet is about 64 km a day and 60 per cent of the time it’s less than 40 kilometers a day and it’s almost always less than 100 kilometres a day, which is well within the range of what an electric vehicle can do,” said Ms MacDonald. It also said 44 per cent of the drivers monitored could use improved driving habits in terms of eco friendly driving and behaviour training.

The largest pay back and biggest cost savings all related to changes to the police fleet.

Part of the study involved looking at the benefits and barriers of electric vehicles. Some of the barriers explored were range anxiety, limited access to battery charging, aggressive driving styles, right sizing and high capital costs. The benefits included environmental sustainability and supporting and reinforcing existing initiatives. The study was based around the vehicles being able to be charged once, at the end of the day. Bridgewater already has seven charging stations open to the public at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre.

The study is not recommending these vehicle changes to be implemented right away, but would like the data considered. It would like the town to identify the top three vehicles from the study it feels appropriate to replace with an electric vehicle and at least one electric vehicle integrated into the 2016/17 budget. “The final piece was to make sure you really measure that total cost and the environmental cost and use it as a pilot to see if we want to keep integrating this,” added Ms MacDonald, who will also being doing case studies to share with other towns and municipalities once this project is completed.

The study was funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, the Nova Scotia Moves grant program, Nova Scotia Power, CrossChasm Technologies Inc. – FleetCarma and the Shell Fuelling Change program.

The town plans to integrate this study with some of its other work and bring options forward for future discussion.

“If you buy an electric vehicle it should be branded proudly,” said Ms MacDonald.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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