Although President Obama has mandated exclusive reliance on alternative fueled vehicles by government fleets, in practice these goals are proving tougher to truly implement.
According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, higher costs associated with purchasing and maintaining hybrid and electric vehicles, along with lack of infrastructure, has resulted in federal agencies turning to conventional cars and trucks for their fleet needs.
This was determined after interviews with industry analysts and after noting that the government’s major fleet acquisition arm, the U.S. General Services Administration, purchased only 2,645 hybrid and electric vehicles in 2011 – a 59-percent decrease compared to 2010.
Granted, total vehicle purchasing by the GSA was also down, yet some 32,000 vehicles powered by internal combustion engines were ordered in 2011. The GSA says that these cars and trucks are all E85 capable, but while that may sound OK, only around 2,512 stations exist that serve E85 out of approximately 162,000 filling stations nationwide. This means the majority of federal fleet vehicles must burn regular gasoline.
Not surprisingly, the government’s approach to Obama’s acquisition policy has drawn criticism in some quarters, especially considering political rhetoric that’s emerged from the White House regarding the push towards greener transportation.
Allegations are that top levels of government are only talking about leading the way, but in practice agencies within government are finding ways to skirt mandates, said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive.
“You can say you’re engaged in this behavior – saving the world but it’s not a true picture of what you’re doing if the vehicles aren’t using alternative fuels,” she said.
Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which is pushing for higher fuel economy targets, added, “it’s disappointing that instead of buying as many advanced-technology vehicles as they should [the government is] buying cars that run on ethanol and gasoline.”
Making matters trickier still for the government is that, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010 (the latest year in which information is available), U.S. government gasoline use stood a 50.3 trillion British thermal units, which represents the highest rate of consumption in 25 years.