Costs inhibit government purchases of electric vehicles: GAO

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019

Electric car. Photo credit: Department of Energy

An electric vehicle charging. Department of Energy

Federal agencies have been reluctant to buy electric vehicles because of high prices and a lack of charging infrastructure, the government’s internal watchdog said in a report released yesterday.

The Government Accountability Office reportexamined agency compliance with green-fleet requirements.

Several agencies own or lease thousands of vehicles as part of their standard operations. Since 1988, they have been required by various statutes and executive orders to reduce their fleets’ petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The report found that in fiscal 2017, most agencies reported meeting these requirements by buying fuel-efficient vehicles and reducing miles traveled.

Most agencies opted to purchase flex-fuel vehicles, which run on a blend of ethanol and gasoline, instead of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Out of more than 16,000 vehicles acquired by agencies in 2017, only 373 were EVs and 4,500 were hybrids.

Furthermore, EVs accounted for 1% of the alternative fuel vehicles in agencies’ fleets in 2017, while plug-in hybrids accounted for 11%.

Cost was a top concern cited by agency officials.

“Agency officials told us that the higher cost of electric vehicles was one of the things that kept them from adding more of them to their fleets,” GAO said in a summary of the report.

Officials also fretted about a lack of charging infrastructure.

“20 of the 29 agencies identified charging infrastructure as a key challenge to acquiring electric vehicles, citing the costs of installation among other challenges,” the report said.

A draft of the report was provided to agencies including EPA and the department of Energy, Transportation and the Interior. Those agencies provided technical comments that were incorporated into the final version.

The Senate’s highway bill contains a provision that would create a new interagency working group that would be tasked with developing a strategy to add EVs to agency fleets “to the maximum extent practicable” (E&E Daily, July 30).