Public Fleet Electrification

Support local development in King County of specific plans for electrification of fleets 


State law requires electrification of municipal fleets but allows them to be phased in and allows waivers. The State released a plan for public fleet electrification in Nov 2020 detailing how Washington’s state, county, city, and public transit agencies can convert to electric  vehicles by 2035

Early action by Seattle and King County area agencies would provide significant leadership and evidence for other public agencies and for private vehicle fleets. Using information being developed by the State, the plans should detail when vehicles will be replaced, what charging infrastructure will be needed and when it can be installed, and what funding and revenue sources will be required. Although electric vehicles cost more upfront, there are huge savings in refueling because electricity is so much cheaper than fossil fuels, and in maintenance because the engines have fewer moving parts.

Seattle Public Schools has passed a resolution calling for clean energy in all operations, including transportation. This is complicated by the fact that SPS does not own its own buses, but contracts with First Student. These buses are part of a private fleet, and not directly under the school's control. The contract is put up for bid, but historically there has been only one bidder. Moreover, SPS does own a fleet of vehicles for operating its system, and that fleet should have a plan for electrification.

The State report on public fleets finds that about 3% of the State's public fleets are electrified; of the light duty vehicles in the fleets, it's about 7%. This is based on incomplete inventory, but the study notes that it is "low relative to targets already established." About 8% of the vehicles can be electrified cost effectively today; electrifying these vehicles would result in a savings about $38 million, not including the savings from reducing climate warming and improved health outcomes.

From: Electrification Assessment of Public Vehicles in Washington

Current Programs

King County Metro has a plan for converting to electric by 2040. This could be accelerated, but without additional funding that would require service cuts. It began in 2018 by leasing electric buses from different vendors for evaluation, is scheduled to order 120 electric buses in 2020, and will begin operating them in 2021 in South King County. Update: the 2021-2022 King County Metro budget has money for 40 additional new electric buses and related charging. Metro has budgeted $270 million between 2021 and 2028 for 260 more electric buses and chrarging infrastructure. The Metro proposed budget notes: "While these investments make progress toward the goal of a zero-emissions fleet by 2040, funding has not been identified for further battery electric bus and related charging infrastructure investments after 2028. Additional investments in electrification of the fleet will require a new revenue source, significant increased revenue forecasts, or a reduction in service levels."

The City of Seattle has a Green Fleets program, which requires reducing GHG emissions from the city's fleet by 50% by 2025, and to use only fossil free fuel by 2030. The City fleet includes vehicles in use by SCL, SPD, SDOT, FAS, DPR, SDCI, SFD, HSD. It does not include vehicles used by SPS. Seattle is also part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative’s West Coast Electric Fleets initiative.

In Feb 2019, King Country issued the Implementation Plan for a Carbon Neutral King County Government. In Feb. 2020, King County passed Ordinance 19502, which requires that all light duty vehicles purchased must be electric, that they pursue grant opportunities for a pilot program on medium and heavy duty vehicles, and that a full plan for fleet electrification be completed by Sept 14, 2020 (however, there is a 60-day extension on all KC work products for COVID-19). The county has committed to building out facilities necessary to support the electrification of 50% of the light duty fleet by 2025, and 100% by 2030; 50% of the medium duty fleet vehicles by 2028, and 100% by 2033; and 50% of the heavy duty fleet by 2038, and 100% by 2043. 

The State recently commissioned a study on how municipalities and local jurisdictions can convert their fleets to electric. The study is due to be released in Sept., but a preliminary report is available here. In addition, the State recently purchased 40 electric school buses, using funds from the VW diesel settlement — this is a great start, but the State estimates there are 10,000 school buses in Washington.

Current Programs Elsewhere

In the Media