Side view of a Ford F-150 Lightening owned by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, parked in a parking lot in the winter
When the federal government placed targets to decarbonize its entire fleet of light-duty vehicles by 2030 as part of its Greening Government Strategy, the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) took it as an opportunity to start transitioning its fleet of vehicles to zero emissions. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Three Teslas, six Ford F-150 Lightnings and two Chevy Bolts make up Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s growing fleet of zero-emission vehicles

When the federal government set a target to decarbonize its entire fleet of light-duty vehicles by 2030 in Budget 2022 (as part of its broader Greening Government Strategy), the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) took it as an opportunity to start transitioning its terrestrial fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

The department, which has 1,500 vehicles in 400 bureaus across the country, had bought two electric Chevrolet Bolts in 2019. But last September, it added three Tesla Model 3s and six Ford F-150 Lightning trucks. The Teslas are working in Nanaimo, B.C., and the Lightnings in Vancouver; Winnipeg; Mont-Joli, Que.; Moncton, N.B.; Dartmouth, N.S.; and St John’s. 

“We’re very proud of taking good steps in the direction of electrifying our fleet,” says Jean-Daniel Bourret, director of material management at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“We jumped on the opportunity to buy [the] Lightning when they came out because pickups are a large portion of our fleet. And, so far, we’ve gotten positive responses from the users.”

Along with these 11 EVs, the DFO fleet also includes 43 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The vehicles are deployed across the country purposefully, says Bourret, in an effort to evaluate them in various environments.

“We’re trying to be early adopters, to be the example, but also, before moving to a larger scale, we want to be able to test the use of them at a smaller scale,” says Bourret.

“In Winnipeg and Mont-Joli, we’ll see the cold temperature in winter and how it will affect them. We then do a lot of towing in Dartmouth, so we will see the different uses. And we’ll see the pros and cons when it’s time to decide to buy more.”

The purchases were all made as part of the department’s Sustainable Development Strategy.


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Developing charging infrastructure

Along with procuring a fleet of EVs, the DFO is working to build out a network of EV charging stations. This is challenging because of the “chicken and egg” dilemma of whether to build the infrastructure or procure the EVs first, says Bourret.

EV procurement is part of the department’s operating budget. However, the charging infrastructure falls under additional costs and can be expensive due to electrical upgrades and wiring, says Bourret.

Despite these challenges, the department is installing Level 2 chargers across its operations and currently has charging stations at 30 of its facilities. The DFO also occupies some of the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) offices and the PSPC is also putting in chargers to support the DFO fleet.

“We’re trying to put Level 2 where we have vehicles — more or less one plug per vehicle. We’re looking at an overnight charge to fulfill our needs at most places,” says Bourret.

Plug-in hybrid, a stepping stone toward fully electric

The DFO uses its vehicles mainly for crew changes, towing heavy boats and moving ATVs.

Currently, the market does not offer electric equivalents for every vehicle in the DFO fleet, points out Bourret. For example, while the F-150 Lightning has a number of noteworthy advantages (a larger front trunk, additional storage space and vehicle-to-grid functionality), it does not have the same range and towing capabilities of the Ford F-250, F-350 or the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 3500, which the DFO requires for its fleet.

In order to support the transition to clean fleets, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has a Greening Government Fleets program with a budget of $2.2 million over five years to help federal departments and agencies conduct assessments to find the best strategic and sustainable mobility solutions to meet the operational needs of their fleets.

“NRCan has supported us in implementing telematics in our fleet of vehicles and using the data collected to identify which vehicle will be a good candidate, operationally and financially to convert to plug-in hybrid or electric,” says Bourret.

The data shows PHEVs are often suitable to replace many combustion vehicles in cold or remote areas.

But while PHEVs have their advantages, Bourret says that the department’s overarching target is to prioritize fully electric vehicles.

“The PHEV has been a good in-between [vehicle] for us where the EV doesn’t meet the requirements or where we don’t have the full infrastructure yet.”

In the future, Bourret adds that they are planning to replace these PHEV models with fully electric versions.

“We’re hoping that new models coming in the market in the coming year or two will help improve the availability to purchase more electric vehicles.”


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