The Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund continues its advocacy efforts to expand the use of electric vehicles statewide.
Currently, it is targeting Arizona’s municipal fleet. A recent press release said Arizona’s 10 largest municipalities could save $80 million by replacing cars and light trucks with electric vehicles over the next 10 years.
Electric vehicles save users money over time, thanks in part to rising gas prices. Now, with federal legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act, electric vehicles are now incentivized.
On October 27, Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst at Frontier Group, released a report on the electrification of Arizona’s municipal fleets. According to them, this change could potentially save taxpayers money.
“Research has documented the financial benefits of owning an electric vehicle,” Brown said. “The report aimed to document the financial savings to ratepayers if 10 of our state’s largest municipalities went electric over their fleets over the next decade.
“In recent years, Arizona has seen not only an increase in the number of electric vehicles purchased, but also more jobs being created in our state due to transportation, electrification, and more policies at the local level. , state and federal that will help accelerate individuals in the industry owning and driving an electric vehicle,” Brown said.
There are nearly 60,000 public vehicles in Arizona, according to the Federal Highway Administration. About 48,000 of them belong to state and local governments. Arizona PIRG surveyed Chandler, Gilbert, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe and Tucson. These municipalities collectively own more than 10,000 vehicles.
Arizona PIRG advises municipalities to start electrifying light-duty vehicles. Light-duty vehicles are generally smaller passenger vehicles that weigh up to 8,500 pounds. They can include vans, pickup trucks and cars. Phoenix and Tucson, for example, have begun to create roadmaps toward wider use of electric vehicles.
Approximately 6,100 of the vehicles reviewed by the PIRG were identified as light duty. However, there are only 36 electric vehicles. Dutzik said municipalities in Arizona are beginning to experiment with electric vehicles.
“Cities and towns in Arizona should commit to electrifying their fleets, develop detailed plans to guide the transition, and partner with other municipalities, as well as utilities and state government, to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits of electrification,” Brown said in the report.
Dutzik said in the report that electrifying municipal fleets takes commitment, but cities can achieve lasting savings for their residents.
The report recommended that Arizona leaders take several steps to expand the use of electric vehicles in Arizona. They recommended establishing a plan to phase out gas-powered vehicles. They also recommended that municipalities establish a vehicle electrification plan while collaborating with other municipalities and state governments.
In addition, they urged municipalities to take advantage of federal government incentives. President Joe Biden has included incentives to switch to electric vehicles in the Cut Inflation Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
With the IRA, cities and towns will receive a tax credit for buying a clean vehicle before 2033. Arizona PIRG estimates that Arizona’s 10 largest municipalities spend $110 million annually to purchase, maintain and fuel their vehicles. Dutzik called the IRA a “game changer” when it comes to adopting electric vehicles.
“Federal legislation has also provided significant investment in Arizona and across the country for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The engagement of local, state and federal elected officials inside and outside of Arizona means that our state and our country are on the path to transportation electrification,” Brown said.
Although in previous years EVs have been considered more expensive, with rising gas prices and falling EV costs, prices are beginning to break even.
“Increasingly, gasoline prices have gone up, while electric vehicle prices have come down. … Policymakers are starting to realize the financial benefits of the transition to electric vehicles for taxpayers,” Brown said. “However, there is still a misconception that electric vehicles are much more expensive to purchase due to federal legislation. The price of electric vehicles in a number of cases is comparable to that of gasoline and diesel vehicles. But the cost savings for electric vehicles due to fuel running in maintenance, expansion expenses are much less.
However, many are still skeptical about the switch to electric vehicles. On the one hand, electric vehicle users save money over time. On the other hand, the initial cost may deter some drivers from making the switch.
Another concern comes from how materials for electric vehicles are purchased. Electric vehicle batteries require lithium, copper and nickel mines. For this reason, there are concerns that electric vehicles may not be as durable as originally thought.
With these concerns, EV advocates encourage people to look at the bigger picture. Although electric vehicles are more expensive initially, they are cheaper to operate over time.
“Historically, until very recently, electric vehicles were more expensive to buy, but cheaper to power and maintain. They are cheaper to power because they are more energy efficient,” Dutzik said. “Now, with the Inflation Reduction Acts starting next year, towns and cities will be able to buy electric vehicles at close to the same price as a petrol or diesel vehicle, but they will still benefit of these benefits over time to reduce maintenance costs and reduce fuel costs.
And while harvesting the materials isn’t completely green, they produce fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline-powered vehicles.
“With every vehicle there is an environmental impact and electric vehicles are no exception,” Dutzik said. “Ratings of electric vehicles as a tool to fight climate change, you know, generally suggest they’re significantly cleaner. They’re significantly cleaner for the air. And as the electric grid in the Arizona gets cleaner over time, these benefits will only increase.