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Power up: Climate, tourists and even forest animals benefit from GSA Fleet

| GSA Blog Team
Post filed in: Electric Vehicles  |  Fleet  |  GSA Fleet  |  Sustainability

Electric vehicles procured through the GSA Fleet Program are getting a warm welcome—even when they’re keeping people cool. 

GSA oversees one of the largest fleets in the world, providing more than 227,000 vehicles to agencies across the federal government. Among them are electric vehicles, low greenhouse gas-emissions vehicles, E85-flex fuel compatible vehicles, and custom-engineered solutions to other federal agencies and other eligible entities. 

The agency is helping drive demand for new and innovative zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) to support the President’s goal of transforming America’s roads: In the past two years, ZEV orders at GSA Fleet are up sixfold. 

This includes cleaner buses for use in national parks as summer heats up and crowds increase. And electric vehicles that can keep occupants cool even as the car idles—without emitting greenhouse gasses.  

Greenhouse gas emissions

Transportation is the major greenhouse gas emitter in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To put the impact of these ZEVs into perspective, GSA’s FY24 Electric Vehicle Funds Congressional Justification reports 28,480 ZEVs would mitigate 129,949 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

That means each vehicle keeps roughly 4.5 tons – about the same weight as a small school bus – of CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. 

GSA’s history with electric and hybrid vehicles goes back more than 20 years. The agency sold alternative fuel buses – an electric-diesel hybrid – for use in national parks in 2001. Enthusiastic GSA staff at Yosemite National Park in California noted the change a few years later.  

“Eight of the new hybrid buses served all of the valley routes,” wrote GSA staff when the buses were delivered to Yosemite in 2004. “The old noisy, smelly buses are gone!” 

GSA’s partnerships with agencies and industry allow a more resilient fleet to be built, capable of working in challenging environments. GSA partnered with the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal and the U.S. Forest Service to provide electric pickup trucks that can meet their mission needs by performing in remote locations or rugged conditions.

Case study: Zion National Park

At the popular Zion National Park in Utah, the National Park Service will replace the decades-old fleet of buses with 26 electric shuttle buses and 27 charging stations later this year. The vehicles will reduce an estimated 192 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The park received a $33 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to make that change. 

The new buses will reduce another aspect at the park: vehicle noise. Sounds of bus engines carry across valleys and open spaces, disturbing the experience and wildlife. The quieter buses will deliver a more natural environment. Removing the need to fill the tank – and the gasoline or diesel emissions that go with it – will sustain the natural environment. 

Together Yosemite and Zion hosted more than 8 million visitors last year. But ZEVs’ impact extends throughout the country.  

Tribal nations

Under certain circumstances as outlined in current guidelines, tribal nations across the country can buy and lease from GSA Fleet. For example, school buses leased from GSA help transport children to school.  

Recently, over 100 tribal nations joined GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan and GSA leaders for discussions on major topics of interest to Indian Country, including partnering with GSA to procure electric vehicles.

Keeping our users cool

For emergency vehicles, a GSA contractor shared an interesting aspect of low- or no-emissions vehicles among law enforcement and first-responder clients: They’re looking at how to make electric vehicles work for their unique needs, such as keeping K-9 units cool during the dog days of summer.  

“Their vehicles need to constantly provide power to deliver heat or air to the animals as well as the officers and their equipment,” the contractor explained.

Staying charged

To agencies looking to switch to ZEVs, and to reduce range anxiety, GSA recommends focusing on the charging infrastructure.

“The Federal Acquisition Service has contracts in place to simplify getting the stations themselves, including the software and EVSE planning. Also, our Public Buildings Service has awarded contracts across the country for design and construction,” said Laura Farley, GSA Fleet’s chief of staff.

Locations with lots of sunshine can take sustainability to the next level by going off the grid and tapping into solar energy to charge vehicles.  

The Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston, Texas, installed a Level 2 solar station that’s not tied to the electrical grid. According to Farley, they were able to install the station in less than five hours.  

Staying charged on the road

Federal agencies leasing from GSA Fleet looking for a charge are covered at ChargePoint public charging stations.

“You can connect a ChargePoint RFID Card to any electric vehicle,” said Farley. “Right now, GSA Fleet covers the cost for pay-to-use charging for leasing customers, when they use the ChargePoint card to pay.”

An RFID card for electric vehicle charging, also known as a Radio Frequency Identity Card, allows for contactless, encrypted data exchange when used at a public ChargePoint stations; in short, it's a card that you can use to pay for charging your EV.

Farley said recent updates to modernized the platform to match drivers with motor pools that allows agencies to share vehicles. That sharing feature encourages fleets to optimize their inventory and reduce emissions.

“It is also a great way to integrate electric vehicles into a fleet, so that many users can get to know and become more comfortable with the technology,” Farley said. 

Looking to electrify your fleet? Visit our one-stop shop to get a zero-emission vehicle and buy or install charging infrastructure.

Nicole Alberico contributed to this article.