Canada government green fleet
This week representatives from the Government of Canada told a gathering of 60 countries how it is taking meaningful steps to green its vehicles as it works to transition the federal fleet to zero-emission.

Natural Resources Canada is focused on transitioning the government’s 40,000 vehicles to zero-emission, starting with 18,000 conventional light-duty vehicles by 2030 — this week, the Treasury Board gave 60 countries an update on the effort

This week the Canadian government told a gathering of 60 countries how it is taking meaningful steps to reduce the carbon footprint of its fleet of vehicles as it works to transition the federal fleet to zero-emission.

The fifth meeting of the Greening Government Initiative — a forum cohosted by the White House Council on Environment Quality (CEQ) and the Government of Canada’s Centre for Greening Government — was the latest in a series of meetings held in the past year in which countries trade information, advice and progress updates on their efforts to “green national government operations and build climate resilience in the public sector.”

The occasion also provided a window on the status of the Canadian government’s efforts for everyone watching at home.

Leading by example

For Canada, the journey to decarbonize the government fleet began in 2017 with the launch of the Greening Government Strategy. It is an initiative spearheaded by the Treasury Board and Natural Resources Canada that is putting the Canadian government on track to match the national 2030 and 2035 zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) passenger fleet targets it set in 2021.

“I think it’s a really important project just from sort of a leading by example standpoint,” says Craig Miller, program officer at Natural Resources Canada in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada about the government fleet efforts.

“It’s a really good use case to show the average Canadian that these vehicles are absolutely viable.”

In total, the government fleet has over 40,000 vehicles including medium- and heavy-duty and speciality-use machinery, according to Greening Government data.

As it’s not possible to transition every vehicle to a zero-emission equivalent today, NRCan has conducted analysis over 17 different departments and ministry fleets (at least 3,405 vehicles in total) to develop an optimal strategy and timeline.

Matching green vehicle availability with fleet needs

In Budget 2022, $2.2 million was allocated to NRCan to continue assessing and providing recommendations to the government about where and how vehicles (and buildings) could be transitioned to zero-emission options. The tools to conduct the assessments include market analysis and understand what ZEVs will be available in the near term, gathering performance data from each available vehicle on the market and telematic studies of current government vehicles to understand required duty cycles.

And, so far, NRCan has determined that, conservatively, 1,171 light-duty government combustion vehicles could be switched for either a hybrid or electric replacement, which would yield about $8.7 million in savings over a seven-year life cycle.

“All 1,100-plus of those vehicles will save money over seven years,” says Miller. “On the whole, what we found was that plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles are 13 per cent cheaper total cost of ownership (TCO) over a seven-year service life than their internal combustion engine counterparts. And the full battery-electric vehicles are at about 14 per cent TCO savings.”

But, Miller cautions, those 1,171 vehicles are just the beginning and NRCan’s recommendations are based on the most conservative assumptions (like only one charge per day). If those assumptions are eased to account for even two charges per day, that number of vehicles that could be transitioned nearly doubles. NRCan is erring on the side of caution because “we like to play it safe,” says Miller.

“We know that, at least based on our work today, from an operational requirements standpoint, for the vast majority of duty cycles, [ZEVs] are viable.”

ZEVs in less conventional applications

While there is a lot that can be done to reduce emissions from standard light-duty vehicles today (already the government has purchased 450 ZEVs and 230 charging stations), NRCan is also looking at addressing less conventional vehicles in the federal fleet.

One area of keen interest is in policing and national security vehicles, say Thierry Spiess, senior manager of the advanced vehicles programs at NRCan, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. That segment has about 12,000 vehicles in it and already work is underway to understand where and how ZEVs can fit in as well as preparing for future ZEVs by installing critical infrastructure.

Some of the case studies Spiess points to are the Department of National Defence’s Willow Park Armoury in Halifax, two facilities belonging to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Transport Canada’s Yonge St. site in Toronto. All of these Government of Canada buildings have installed EV chargers in the last five years ahead of ZEV fleet vehicle procurement because they are anticipating a transition.

“The Government of Canada is serious when it comes to the deployment of charging infrastructure,” says Spiess, who is heavily involved in the Electric Vehicle Readiness Assessment program.

“These are comprehensive reviews of the facility’s existing electrical service, spare capacity, the demand profile and so on. That can help fleets plan the procurement and installation of EV chargers. It also identifies any electrical service upgrades that may require to support the installation of the chargers.”

Spurring mainstream transition

And as for integrating ZEVs themselves there are some interesting possibilities.

“We’re developing a needs assessment of the National Safety and Security duty cycles across the federal fleet and we’re aiming to deploy eight units,” explains Spiess. “These will be either share emission or clean fuel powered vehicles…we want to see what the barriers are to deploy these types of vehicles.”

Miller points to Tesla and the Mach-E, both of which are already offered in Police Pursuit models, along with the new Chevrolet Blazer as potential future vehicles in federal security deployment. Already the RCMP in West Shore, B.C. is testing the Tesla and Mach-E in active duty police work.

“If you can deploy [EVs] in a law enforcement application, then really from my perspective, the sky’s the limit,” says Miller.

Spiess echoes a similar sentiment that seeing ZEV adoption in high-profile and challenging applications will help spur the mainstream transition.

“Canadians see this happening in the federal fleet and I think their overall public confidence in these vehicles will rise,” says Spiess. “That will help us as a government to achieve the targets that we set out for ourselves for 2030.”