Simplifying Alt Fuel Vehicle Procurement

January 8, 2018

More and more, fleet managers are becoming familiar with the benefits of alt fuel vehicles (AFVs). Cities and states around the country have been setting aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals and have been implementing pollution reduction initiatives focused on the transportation sector, which consumed 71% of the petroleum used in the United States in 2016. And yet, AFVs remain a niche market for many public fleets.

2018 is a particularly exciting time to be in the alt fuel vehicle sector. AFVs across the light to heavy-duty spectrum are offering increasingly cost-effective alternatives for fleet managers. New electric vehicles (EVs) are coming out, including vans, shuttles, transit buses, and multiple makes of battery electric school buses. CNG and propane upfits are increasingly affordable for school buses, refuse haulers, and other medium and heavy-duty applications.

Fleets for the Future (F4F) is designed to overcome barriers to alt fuel vehicle deployment by presenting a simplified, fuel-neutral cooperative procurement opportunity that fleets across the nation can capitalize on.

Within the past few years, CNG engines have been developed that meet CARB’s aggressive near zero NOx standard. Flex fuel vehicles capable of using E85 come with essentially no price premium versus regular gasoline vehicles. There is also widespread interest and funding for alt fuel vehicle initiatives, particularly with funding from the Volkswagen Partial Consent Decree bolstering investment in AFVs in many states starting in 2018.

Nonetheless, many AFVs still come with a cost premium, fleet managers often don’t have the time to develop new procurement specs, and fleet personnel may be reluctant to dive into a complex world of new vehicle types when their current vehicles are able to get the job done. F4F is designed to overcome barriers to AFV deployment by presenting a simplified, fuel-neutral cooperative procurement opportunity that fleets across the nation can capitalize on.

What is F4F?

F4F is a Department of Energy-funded national partnership between regional councils of governments, Clean Cities Coalitions, and industry experts led by the National Association of Regional Councils. The project team is executing procurement initiatives designed to consolidate bulk orders of AFVs and related infrastructure in the metropolitan regions surrounding Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Tucson, and Washington, DC. The team is also working on a cooperative procurement initiative on the national scale. F4F team members have developed contracts for vehicles that run on propane autogas and natural gas, as well as contracts for electric vehicles and EV charging stations. Each F4F procurement campaign is structured differently, with some of the regions executing multi-year contracts, others doing time-limited group purchases, and others collaborating with state procurement offices to increase AFV offerings. Every procurement is designed to present a simplified purchasing pathway for fleet managers that enables them to save money on clean vehicles and/or save time by not having to independently develop their own procurement processes. The effort also includes a significant educational component aimed to help fleet managers understand the benefits of alternative fuels and how to integrate them into their fleets.

What has F4F Accomplished So Far?

A survey of public sector fleet stakeholders in the five participating regions at the beginning of the project reported that 124 fleets were interested in participating in cooperative procurements for alternative fuel vehicles. Additionally, these fleets planned to replace a cumulative total of about 19,000 vehicles over the next 2 to 3 years. Each of the regional F4F procurement teams has been working closely with local and regional stakeholders to tailor their efforts to the current and anticipated purchasing needs within their region. On the national side, the F4F team has interviewed vendors, Clean Cities Coalitions, and industry experts to understand what vehicles and vehicle platforms have the most potential for economies of scale and what vehicles are gaining the most interest from public fleets. In response to stakeholder feedback, each region has developed its own solicitations for vehicles and infrastructure, and the national team has selected vendors that can provide cooperative procurement opportunities beyond the five participating regions so that fleets across the entire country can participate.

Regional procurement successes

Although several of the regional procurements are still in progress, the early results of the regional teams have been impressive. For instance, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) coordinated a group buy for the Nissan LEAF that resulted in purchases of more than 100 LEAFs in the Kansas City region over just 100 days – an 87% increase year-over-year. MARC and MEC also helped put 35 new AFV types on contract with the Kansas City Regional Purchasing Cooperative.

Although several of the regional procurements are still in progress, the early results of the regional teams have been impressive.

In Boston, F4F team members from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to leverage the Statewide Contract, VEH102. MAPC worked with XL Hybrids to arrange a limited time discount below its pricing on the state contract. During the first month of this limited time offer, over two dozen orders were logged. Other technologies available through VEH102 include EV supply equipment (EVSE), anti-idling equipment, and aftermarket conversions. The partnership between F4F and the state will ensure that a cooperative procurement option for AFVs is sustained for years to come.

National procurement partnerships

Developing contracts that are available for fleets nationwide requires finding vendors with delivery mechanisms and service and maintenance arrangements in all 50 states. As such, F4F evaluated numerous purchasing cooperatives in search of a partner that could provide a wide variety of clean vehicles and that could sustain contracts after the F4F project ends. F4F partnered with the National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA) to offer competitively solicited contracts to all public entities nationally. This vendor vetting process satisfies many local jurisdictions’ procurement by-laws, enabling public agencies to save time on vehicle procurement, receive turnkey vehicle solutions, and receive national volume pricing through the purchasing cooperative.

F4F was instrumental in helping NJPA develop a new, successful nationwide competitive solicitation category: “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment and Related Services.” This enables public fleet managers across the country to source both electric vehicles and charging stations from NJPA’s vendors.

The F4F team also ran a limited time offer for NJPA vehicles in October 2017. The opportunity featured 100% electric vans from Zenith Motors for a bulk discount. National Auto Fleet Group also participated, holding pricing on six of their most popular clean vehicles. These limited-time deals generated significant national interest.

Education on alt fuel vehicle procurement

In addition to procurement activities, the F4F team, led by Meister Consultants Group, has also produced a series of best practice documents written specifically with fleet managers in mind. F4F’s Gaseous Fuels Vehicle Procurement Best Practices Guide and its Electric Vehicle Procurement Best Practices Guide help fleets better understand the basic attributes and benefits of all fuel types, as well as best practices to undertake a successful cooperative purchasing initiative. The guidebook Fleet Transition Planning for Alternative Fuel Vehicles guides fleet managers through the steps necessary for incorporating AFVs into their own fleets. To help fleet managers justify and finance AFV investments, the F4F team also developed the Guide to Financing Alternative Fuel Vehicle Procurement.

What’s New in 2018 for F4F?

The F4F team has many goals for 2018. The remaining regional teams, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) in Washington, D.C., the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and the Pima Association of Governments in Tucson are all planning to run award contracts in the first half of 2018. The F4F national team is also planning to promote several additional vehicle platforms in early 2018, including alternative fuel school buses and refuse haulers.

Outreach is critical to any effort to aggregate purchasing volumes. Therefore, the F4F team will be widely promoting our available contracts through many channels, including but not limited to the following:

  • F4F team members will be at various conferences and trade shows throughout the year, including the ACT Expo, the Transportation Energy Partners Summit, the Green Transportation Summit and Expo, and the NTEA Work Truck Show/Green Truck Summit;
  • Clean Cities Coalitions will host events, such as electric vehicle ride and drives, to advertise F4F and make the case for alt fuel vehicle deployment; and
  • The team will also host webinars throughout the year to share information and new opportunities as they become available. The webinars offer fleet managers the opportunity to hear from vendors participating in the F4F national procurement initiative and to ask them questions directly.

Additionally, the F4F team would welcome any suggestions YOU may have to help us connect with fleets and vendors interested in cooperative procurement. Write to us with any suggestions or questions!

Want to keep up with 2018 F4F accomplishments and news? Check out the F4F website at fleetsforthefuture.org. There you can learn more about the program, regional and national procurement initiatives, find the program’s best practices guides, read our latest news, and browse our FAQ page. You can follow F4F on Twitter at @Fleets4Future for the latest updates.