North Cowichan will purchase 12 electric light-duty vehicles by 2025, which will make the municipality’s fleet of more than 150 vehicles and equipment nine per cent electrified, council decided at its meeting on Jan. 18.
The municipality’s Climate Action and Energy Plan includes the goal to electrify 100 per cent of the municipal fleet by 2030.
Jennifer Aldcroft, a climate change specialist in North Cowichan, said fleet vehicles are essential for the operation of municipal services, but they do generate greenhouse gas emissions in doing so.
She said that in 2021, the fleet represented the largest source of municipal emissions in North Cowichan with the emission of 53 per cent, or 735 tonnes, of its greenhouse gases.
The light fleet, which consists of 51 small trucks and cars, contributed 298 tonnes, or 41 per cent, of fleet emissions.
Aldcroft said North Cowichan finances the replacement of fleet vehicles through its Office Vehicle and the Machinery and Equipment Reserve Funds, which currently has a balance of approximately $1.7 million.
She said it has been determined that the cost of purchasing the 12 electric light-duty vehicles to replace aging ones is approximately $713,000 using 2022 rates, while it would cost almost $494,000 for internal combustion vehicles.
But she said rebates and incentives by the federal and provincial governments to buy electric vehicles will lessen their initial costs, and lower maintenance that is expected and no reliance on gas will also pay economic dividends.
“Incremental replacement of the fleet starting now is imperative given the scale of fleet replacement required and upcoming CAEP interim targets,” Aldcroft said.
“With only two electric vehicles (currently) in the municipal fleet, nearly the entire fleet needs replacement to meet the CAEP goals.”
Aldcroft said the Office Vehicle and the Machinery and Equipment Reserves allocate vehicle-replacement costs using traditional internal-combustion engine vehicle values and have not been resourced to fund electric vehicles.
She said the current OVME reserves will cover the internal-combustion engine replacement portion of the new electric vehicles, and that $144,000 will be allocated from the CAEP reserve fund as a corporate loan, and $75,200 will come from a grant from the provincial Local Government Climate Action Program grant to cover the difference.
Another $125,000 grant from the Local Government Climate Action Program will pay for 16 electric-vehicle charging stations that will be placed in various locations around North Cowichan for the new vehicles.
Coun. Chris Istace said he’s a big fan of electric vehicles, but he’s not totally on board with the purchase of light-duty electric trucks at this point.
“I don’t think there’s enough market competitiveness right now and we should push the purchase of those trucks to 2025 if we can,” he said.
“Has there been any consideration given to hybrids as they are cheaper?”
Coun. Bruce Findlay said he’s not a fan of electric vehicles.
He said a recession is coming and council is looking at some increases to its budgets and excessive spending across the board.
“I’m not in favour of that at all,” Findlay said.
Findlay said he’s concerned that the prices of the vehicles could increase substantially over the next three years and that would blow the current budget for purchasing them out of the water.
“Can we stretch the usefulness of the current vehicles?’ he asked.
“Perhaps we can look at other options and maybe consider hybrids that are a little more cost effective.”
The motion to buy the vehicles passed in a 4-3 vote, with Findlay, Coun. Mike Caljouw and Coun. Tek Manhas opposed.
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