Adding electric, hybrid, and other alternative fuel vehicles to municipal fleets reduces carbon emissions while cutting spending on gasoline and diesel fuels – but the benefits and potential of these technologies aren’t widely known. Municipal fleet managers and departments of public works are wary about buying battery electric or hybrid electric vehicles for their fleets without examples of cost savings, operations, and maintenance benefits. That’s where MAPC and the Fleets for the Future Initiative have been trying to fill the gap.
In the spring of 2016, the Department of Energy selected MAPC as one of a handful of organizations nationwide to pilot a program helping fleets across our region procure fuel-efficient vehicles and related technology. Led by the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), MAPC and four other regional councils, nine Clean Cities Coalitions, and five technical partners launched what would become Fleets for the Future.
Three MAPC departments – Clean Energy, Transportation, and Municipal Collaboration – worked together to develop an approach to group purchasing that filled gaps in the Massachusetts clean vehicle landscape. The MAPC team set out to make it easier for municipalities and state agencies to integrate clean vehicle technology into their fleets, while saving money by buying together at a discounted cost.
Launching a Statewide Contract
Through the fall of 2016, MAPC staff worked with Massachusetts’ Operational Services Division and Department of Energy Resources to develop a statewide contract for public entities to purchase “advanced vehicle technologies” from qualified vendors. This included equipment like electric vehicle charging stations, idle-reduction systems, and aftermarket conversion technologies. In October 2016, MAPC awarded the contract (referred to as VEH102) to 10 vendors.
The contract’s structure is different than others MAPC has worked with before. Its terms request that vendors provide volume-based discounts along with their product pricing, allow public entities nationwide to use the contract, and make it easy to add new products or new vendors as technologies change or more vendors are needed.
Having a statewide contract means that cities, towns, and other public entities avoid the administrative burden of doing their own procurement. Instead, they can access the products and services provided by the preselected vendors and get quotes quickly.
Testing New Models for Group Purchasing
With the statewide contract in place, the MAPC team turned to helping cities and towns understand the potential uses for the available technologies and how to use the contract to purchase together and receive bulk discounts. In December 2016, MAPC hosted a kick-off meeting for the Green Mobility Purchasing Advisory Committee with representatives from Gloucester, Newton, Somerville, Wayland, Winchester, Woburn, other regional planning agencies, utilities, and state agencies. The advisory committee provided input and guided MAPC’s development and launch of the Green Mobility Group Purchasing program in 2017.
Based on input from the advisory committee and analysis of municipal fleet vehicles, MAPC decided to pursue a group purchase of hybrid electric retrofits for light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles owned by municipalities. Hybrid electric retrofitting makes an existing vehicle more fuel efficient by adding an electric motor and battery.
MAPC worked MA DOER’s Leading by Example team and XL Hybrids – one of the vendors on the state contract – to secure discount pricing to convert existing vehicles owned by public fleets to hybrid electric. The vehicles eligible were some of the most common vehicle types and highest fuel consumers within municipal fleets.
MAPC simplified the process for participating fleets by managing the necessary paperwork and coordination and made it easier for the vendor by combining multiple sales opportunities during a particular timeframe. The structure gave participating fleets the opportunity to take advantage of the bulk discounts and provided an additional discount for purchase orders submitted earlier in the pricing agreement.
During this round, the City of Cambridge and three state fleets retrofitted 29 internal combustion engine vehicles to run as hybrid electric, cumulatively saving $54,000 and improving their vehicles’ fuel economies by an average of 25 percent. This was the first time MAPC has partnered with state agencies to leverage the larger volume of their purchases and provide discounts for a municipality.
MAPC ran into a few barriers during this first purchasing round. We wanted to make a program that could meet what communities wanted, but many didn’t have the subject matter expertise to know what the potential was. Many wanted to hear from other cities and towns who had completed hybrid conversions about cost savings and impacts on the vehicles.
Staff members had already been hosting workshops, holding webinars, and creating best-practice guides; but for the second round of purchasing, MAPC increased efforts to educate potential buyers about the possibilities for their towns and fleets and worked one-on-one with communities to determine specific opportunities.
MAPC expanded the program in 2018 to include a group purchase of electric vehicle charging stations on behalf of eight communities: Boston, Cambridge, Charlton, Concord, Lowell, Marlborough, Medway, and Newton.
MAPC issued a Request for Quotes off of the statewide contract for charging station equipment and software and facilitated site assessments in each of the communities. We awarded a low bid to two vendors for four types of electric vehicle charging stations in August. If they purchase charging stations by the end of November, the participating cities and towns can save 13 percent off the MSRP price for Level II Dual Head stations and seven percent off the MSRP price for Level III/DCFC Dual Head stations. If all eight communities move forward, they will save approximately $27,000 total.
During the course of the project, MAPC gained expertise in fleet analysis: understanding what vehicles in a fleet are best suited for replacement with electric vehicles or retrofit with other clean vehicle technology.
In a fleet telematics pilot with Natick, MAPC assisted with the installation of GPS devices on over 35 Department of Public Works vehicles. The GPS devices tracked vehicle usage patterns and assessed which vehicles would be the best candidates for replacement with electric vehicles and other suitable clean vehicle technology based on miles traveled, time spent idling, and frequency of use. Details on the results of this pilot in Natick will be available later in 2018.
What's Next For MAPC?
The Department of Energy grant and pilot program came to an end last month, but MAPC has a lot to show for it. Our team came up with new, innovative ways to provide collective purchasing for our cities and towns. Traditionally, MAPC will issue contacts, get pricing, and let communities decide whether to purchase or not. But with our Green Mobility Purchasing Program, MAPC actually engineered the buy, helping communities reach volume thresholds together and increase cost savings. We’ve also learned how to bring municipalities and the state together to get bulk discounts for cities and towns looking to make smaller purchases.
Staff members have gained subject matter expertise on everything from fleet analysis to siting electric charging stations to anti-idling technology. By piloting these technologies in several communities, we’ve provided an example to others considering similar projects. Now, MAPC is positioned to be a greater resource for communities who want to save money on fuel costs and lower their greenhouse gas emissions by switching to clean vehicle technologies.
As we continue to expand our support for cities and towns, we are looking to hear from your community on what clean vehicle technology focus areas and forms of technical assistance would be most helpful. Take just a few minutes and let us know what you would like to see MAPC do next. MAPC will be collecting community feedback and input until November 23, 2018.
Click here to learn more about our Clean Vehicle Projects and Green Mobility Group Purchasing Program. Interested in what other groups across the country have done to encourage green technologies? Learn more from Fleets for the Future.
If you are interested in MAPC providing technical assistance or would like to sign up to learn more about future programs, please contact Meg Aki at firstname.lastname@example.org.