Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular among consumers, and now even the U.S. government is getting in on the action. According to a recent federal report, U.S. government agencies are aiming to purchase 9,500 electric vehicles in the 2023 budget year, which is almost three times the number acquired in the prior year. However, they face supply issues and higher costs, making their plan a bit of a challenge.
The Government Accountability Office recently released a report stating that 26 agencies with approved EV acquisition plans estimated they would need over $470 million for vehicle purchases and almost $300 million in estimated costs to design and install the necessary infrastructure and for other expenses. While this is a significant investment, it highlights the government’s commitment to transitioning to cleaner and more sustainable transportation options.
However, implementing such a massive transition does come with its challenges. The report sheds light on supply issues and higher costs faced by the government during the EV purchase process. The vehicles’ purchase would cost almost $200 million more than the lowest-priced comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.
Furthermore, the government agencies are looking to purchase a large number of EVs within a short period of time, making it difficult to keep up with the pace of production, which could lead to delayed deliveries.
The 26 agencies reported three other key challenges in their approved ZEV Strategic Plans that may hinder their installation goals—electrical capacity limitations, costs, and leased properties. What steps have agencies taken, or plan to take, to expand charging equipment at federal facilities?:
- Electrical Capacity Limitations. Ten of 26 plans reported concerns that as fleet electrification progresses, it will become more difficult to supply the minimum electrical current necessary for larger numbers of Level 2 or DC fast chargers. For example, EPA’s strategic plan identified 59 such facilities that deploy up 824 vehicles. Similarly, GSA officials said that many of their buildings have varying degrees of electrical capacity and they are uncertain if some buildings have the additional electrical capacity needed to support the charging equipment for its internal fleet, which operates 730 vehicles across more than 300 locations.
- Costs. Ten of 26 plans reported concerns about the potential costs associated with installing charging equipment. For example, these costs may include, but are not limited to, the site assessment, design, wiring, and trenching. A more straight forward installation of a Level 2 charging equipment (with two ports), according to GSA officials, may cost $45,000 to $50,000 on average, including the cost of the equipment.
- Leased Space. Ten of 26 plans reported concerns about their leased facilities. USDA’s strategic plan identified its leased properties as having unique challenges involving upfront installation costs, maintenance and associated costs, liability, and access, among others. FAA, for example, has selected 22 sites to begin deploying charging equipment. These sites were selected, in part, because they were not leased but owned by GSA or FAA— avoiding negotiations with any lessors, according to DOT officials. According to CEQ’s Implementing Instructions, agencies should use forthcoming GSA guidance to help navigate this challenge.
It’s worth noting that these supply and cost issues are not unique to the government. The global shortage of semiconductors and other materials required in the automotive industry has already affected the production of EVs and gasoline-powered vehicles alike. These issues can sometimes limit the availability of certain models or result in higher prices, making it more difficult for consumers and organizations alike to make the switch to EVs.
Despite these challenges, the report shows that the government is committed to transitioning its fleet to more sustainable options. Federal agencies quintupled purchases of EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2022, from 1% of vehicle acquisitions in 2021 to 12% of light-duty purchases in 2022, or 3,567 total. This is a positive development for the EV industry and the environment, as it could inspire other organizations to make similar changes.
The U.S. government agencies’ goal to purchase 9,500 EVs in 2023 is an ambitious one, showcasing their commitment to sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, they face the challenges of supply shortages and higher costs, which can make the transition more difficult. But despite these setbacks, the government continues to invest in electric vehicles and infrastructure to support them, which is good news for the EV industry’s growth. It remains to be seen whether they will meet their target, but for now, we can rely on this as a sign of progress toward a cleaner future.