8/28/2019Feds Ditching Electric Cars As Impractical
Federal agencies find electric cars not worth buying, despite executive order mandating alternative vehicle use.
US government agencies are finding expensive all-electric cars not worth buying because of the cost and infrastructure challenges involved. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Monday, federal agencies are meeting the requirements of a 2015 executive order (revised in 2019) meant to reduce use of gasoline-powered vehicles by slashing their vehicle fleets and buying flex-fuel fuel cars that can also be filled up with regular gasoline.
The Obama administration's executive order was intended to force federal agencies to embrace hybrids, ethanol-powered and all-electric cars, but the government auditors counted just 81 fully electric cars out of the 16,000 sedans and minivans added to the federal fleet in 2017. Hybrids accounted for 28 percent of those purchases. The report noted that the intended carbon dioxide emissions reductions from buying this these types of vehicles came with tradeoffs.
"For example, flex-fuel vehicles, if fueled by E85, reduce petroleum use because E85 consists of up to about 85 percent ethanol, and according to DOE, using ethanol as a vehicle fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions, along with emission of other harmful toxics," GAO researchers explained. "However, using ethanol increases other harmful emissions deemed carcinogenic and may also contribute to ozone formation."
The report found that federal regulations do not require agencies to track where the electricity used to power plug-in vehicles was generated or the environmental impact of disposing of old batteries. Over the life of the vehicle, the report estimated an overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that varied depending on the region of the country where they were driven.
"Of the five case study agencies we spoke to, no agency officials said that they specifically worked to locate electric vehicles where the production of electricity was likely to produce fewer greenhouse gases," the report explained.
GAO investigators interviewed officials from the departments of Interior, Veterans Affairs and Transportation as well as the Army and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get their perspective on the choices they made. Several met the executive order requirements simply by eliminating cars. The Army slashed 16,400 non-military vehicles between 2011 and 2015.
The federal fleet now totals 604,000 cars and vans. By 2017, 38 percent of those were classified as "alternative fuel," which includes vehicles that can be fueled by E85 or regular gasoline. This option added between $4000 to $7000 to the sticker price of the vehicle. The choice of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars boosted the sticker price between $5300 and $19,400, and the vehicles proved difficult to use in the field.
"The costs of these vehicles and charging infrastructure make it challenging for agencies to acquire them on a large scale," the report explained. "Second, a lack of fuel and infrastructure availability limits agencies use of alternative fuel, specifically E85."
GAO auditors calculated that the lower operating costs of electric cars did not offset the increased up-front cost over the life of the vehicle under the usual five-year lease.
A copy of the report is available in a 2mb PDF file at the source link below.