The General Services Administration (GSA) ordered 5,600 gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles earlier this year, and the first batch arrived about a month ago. More new vehicles will continue to arrive throughout the summer as they roll off assembly lines. The purchases, announced last March, are in addition to the 3,100 hybrid vehicles agencies received last year as part of the 2009 Recovery Act. This brings the total of the federal hybrid vehicle fleet to more than 11,000 cars and trucks, slightly less than two percent of the 600,000 vehicles the government operates.
GSA leases the new hybrids to federal agencies as they trade in their older gas-guzzling vehicles, which GSA sells at auctions. Proceeds from the auctions, in addition to taxpayer funds earmarked for the purchases, help fund the hybrid purchases.
The Department of Energy is a leader in the government’s transition to fuel-efficient hybrids and has committed to an all-hybrid fleet within three years. This year the agency is leasing 753 vehicles from GSA: 334 Ford Fusions, 273 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, 145 Ford Escape sport-utility vehicles and one Honda Insight.
Three all-electric vehicles are on the GSA schedule for the first time this year. All are light- and medium-duty cargo vans and trucks that can travel between 50 and 100 miles on a single charge. To date, GSA has received just one order, an electric van produced by Enova Systems of Torrance, Calif. The Army will lease the van for use at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.
Another part of greening the government fleet is plug-in vehicles. Last March, the Obama administration announced plans to buy “the first 100 plug-in electric vehicles to roll off American assembly lines.” While that would seem to leave the Chevrolet Volt as the only choice, General Motors in response stated while it was “pleased to see that the Federal government is interested in the greening of their vehicle fleet,” it had “no further details regarding these purchases.”
Regardless of which vehicle model will be first, GSA has committed to purchasing 100 plug-in vehicles that will either be leased or sold to government agencies. The vehicles will be placed in clusters near auto dealers who are selling them to ensure that trained technicians can service the vehicles.
GSA is considering partnering with industry or other users to share the cost of charging stations located where the vehicles will be housed. In addition to standard electric power, the agency wants to be a leader in different energy sources for the stations, including solar and wind power.
This is a good first step to meet the mandate of a 30 percent reduction in the government’s vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020. However, unless there’s another round of stimulus funds, don’t look for announcements of additional hybrid, plug-in or electric vehicle purchases anytime soon.