$5-million fund entices Alberta municipalities to adopt EVs
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Jul 31, 2019
Brian Banks

Trucks, cars, even electric off-road UTVs are eligible for financial support from Alberta’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities program

The City of Leduc’s new PHEV Chevy Volt. From left: Shawn Olson – Director of Engineering, Mayor Bob Young (inside the car), Kerra Chomlak – Environmental Sustainability Coordinator and Rick Sereda – Director of Public Services

Trucks, cars, even electric off-road UTVs are eligible for financial support from Alberta’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities program

It may be renowned as the home of Alberta’s first oil well, but lately the city of Leduc has been making headlines for its embrace of renewable electric power.

The Leduc Recreation Centre’s 1.1-MW rooftop solar system, when completed in 2016, was Western Canada’s largest. The city’s Operations Centre, with a 630-KW solar array added the same year, produces all its own electricity and feeds a surplus to the grid.

Now, this city of 30,000, just south of Edmonton, has joined the ranks of municipalities starting to convert their vehicle fleets to electric. And to do it, Leduc is leveraging a unique $5-million provincial program. Launched in March, the Electric Vehicles for Municipalities (EVM) program offers substantial rebates to Alberta municipalities for an array of EVs and EV-related purchases — small passenger EVs, mid- to large-size EVs, non-road EVs as well as EV charging stations and even EV feasibility studies.

An $8,000 rebate

For Leduc, the transition is starting with just a single vehicle, a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. It bought the $42,000 car for its engineering department and environmental group in April. The city then applied for and received an $8,000 rebate from the EVM program’s administrator, the Edmonton-based Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC).

For larger electric vehicles, municipalities can receive rebates of up to $50,000

“That really helped make it affordable,” says Shawn Olson, Leduc’s director of engineering. “We have two other hybrids in our fleet, but it’s our first plug-in hybrid.”

An added bonus, says Olson, is that the vehicle is stored and charged at the city’s Operations Centre. “Even though it’s a hybrid, it’s using almost no fuel because we’re charging the battery from solar panels and we operate it mostly in town.”

Through mid-July, Leduc was one of four Alberta municipalities participating in the EVM program. The others, still in progress, are buying a Polaris side-by-side off-road vehicle and three ice resurfacers.

Increasing participation

“We’ve probably talked to 20 or so municipalities at this point,” say Calvin Lechelt, the EVM program’s technical lead. “We’re still trying to increase participation and have municipalities be aware this kind of funding is available.”

Both Lechelt and Trina Innes, MCCAC’s director, expect greater participation given that municipalities can pair EVM rebates with federal incentives that came into effect in May for EVs and EV charging infrastructure. “They could be getting up to $13,000 per [passenger] vehicle, which is a pretty sizable rebate,” says Lechelt.

EVM rebates for larger vehicles go even higher. Municipalities buying electric and plug-in hybrid electric medium- or heavy-duty vehicles can be rebated 25% of the pre-GST purchase costs up to $50,000 per vehicle. Non-road vehicles like the Polaris qualify for a rebate of up to $10,000, while as much as $30,000 is available for electric ice resurfacers.

Ample window

Innes and Lechelt recognize that not every municipal fleet manager or city council is in a position to act immediately on new purchases. Buying cycles, existing contracts and budget planning must align. However, with the EVM program slated to run until early 2023, Alberta municipalities have an ample window in which to act.

The timing has already worked out well for the city of Medicine Hat, another of the early EVM program participants. It had approved funding for two conventional ice resurfacers in this year’s budget when Justin Brunelle, the city’s acting manager of fleet services, learned of the rebate program.

“We are trying to diversify our fuel sources,” says Brunelle. “We thought this is an opportunity where there could be a good fit in terms of meeting our operational needs and being able to take a step into the EV market.”

“We should see a significant savings from a fuel perspective, and also from a social wellness perspective“

Justin Brunelle, Acting Manager of Fleet Services, City of Medicine Hat

The city hasn’t bought the machines just yet. At the time Brunelle spoke to Electric Autonomy Canada, his department was preparing to put out the tender, with a final selection decision likely by the end of August. He expects the rebate of $30,000 per vehicle to offset the electric resurfacers’ higher price.

Significant savings

Beyond that, says Brunelle, “we should see significant savings from a fuel perspective, and also from a social wellness perspective, knowing that we’re reducing emissions and that we are taking the next step, being kind of trailblazers in the area.”

It’s the sort of testimonial that validates MCCAC’s decision to create the EVM program. “Our organization has been helping municipalities reduce their energy use — both fuel and electricity — over the past 10 years,” says Lechelt.

Trina Innes Director MCCAC
Trina Innes, Director of MCCAC. Photo: MCCAC

While some might wonder about the program’s future given the apparent desire of the recently elected provincial government to reduce incentives for alternative energy, director Innes says she has “no concerns” about the EVM program’s funding.

“We already received it. It’s two-year-old funding,” says Innes. “The only question mark in terms of uptake is that the program is first-come, first-served. If it’s very popular we might have to close it a little early.”

More electric vehicles

In Leduc, while the city has just bought the one Volt plug-in hybrid for now, Shawn Olson expects they’ll be looking to tap the EVM for additional funds before it’s done.

“The city just recently approved our GHG action plan,” says Olson. “One of the council-approved priorities … is that the city is going to buy a best-in-class new fleet by adding fuel efficiency to our procurement manual. That starts in 2020. It will encourage us to buy more electric vehicles.”

Alberta’s other municipalities might want to think about getting in line.

Municipal electric champions show how it’s done

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