Location: Birmingham, AL
Fleet Type: Municipal Fleet: Light-duty Electric Vehicles

Narrative

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC) has partnered with the City of Birmingham (COB) for nearly 20 years. Cedric Roberts, the Director of Equipment Management, has always reached out to ACFC when considering the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. In the past the city has implemented an aggressive biofuels program to serve the fleet and actively investigated using CNG for their waste fleet so the City of Birmingham is no stranger to learning about and implementing alternative fuels.

Currently the City of Birmingham’s vehicle fleet consists of:

  • A mixed fleet of 2,300 vehicles plus 905 non-vehicle items such as mowers, etc.
  • Seven automated fuel dispensing sites for unleaded, diesel and E85 fuels.
  • Three manual fuel sites dispensing unleaded gasoline and propane.
  • COB dispenses approximately 900,000 gallons of diesel, 650,000 gallons of unleaded and 250,000 gallons of E85 per year.

The city, according to Cedric Roberts,  issued a purchase order in 2023 to purchase several Ford F-150 Lightning trucks and has budgeted for four Ford Mustang Mach-e vehicles, seven Chevrolet Equinox or Kona EVs and 3 Chevrolet Blazer EV Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV).

In 2017 the city reached out to Alabama Power, Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, and various turnkey charging companies for input on an EVSE site assessment and for assistance in determining what funding opportunities might be available.

The first step, according to Cedric Roberts, was to realize the city did not have all the answers concerning EV infrastructure and that it would be beneficial to look for a vendor or outside partners to bring specific expertise to the table. As a result, the City of Birmingham Fleet Director carried out the following actions:

  1. Met with the COB vehicle transportation department leadership to get their support and to determine potential locations for EV chargers.
  2. Consulted with the Birmingham Police Department and the Police Chief to determine where the EVs would be domiciled to serve the Parking Division.
  3. Met with representatives from Alabama Power and Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition to put the proposed EVSE funding agreement in place. Potential funding program ending dates and internal municipal processes caused this to be a longer than anticipated process.
  4. The city assembled information received at conferences, such as NAFA Fleet Management Expo and GFX (Government Fleet Expo), where the city narrowed down potential vendors and met with representatives from Turnkey EV charging companies. The city eventually decided to go with ChargePoint.

Preparing for the addition of electric vehicles, in 2018 the City of Birmingham partnered with Jefferson State Community College through an interlocal training agreement. The agreement included thirty-two hours of training to be conducted at Jefferson State Community College for ten technicians by a NAFTC (National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium) certified instructor.

In early 2020 the city released a request for bids for electric vehicles. When the bid period closed, the city evaluated the results and selected the National Auto Fleet Group (Sourcewell) bid as it included an extended five-year warranty and was lower than other bids. The city purchased its first Light Duty EV Bolts in early 2020 and put them into service in September 2020.

Of the eight Chevrolet Bolts purchased – seven are used in the Police Department for parking enforcement and one unit was placed in the vehicle pool to loan out to various end users.

In a continuing effort to maintain a well-trained workforce, the city brought in additional trainers from the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) who, in November 2022, provided three days of onsite training on electric vehicles (including hybrid vehicles) to ten technicians.

Mr. Roberts also directed the COB vehicle technicians to enroll in Ford’s STARS (Standardized Training and Resource System) Program for online classes. Participation in the program has allowed technicians employed by the city to take additional online courses for one, budget friendly, flat fee. Because of this training, COB technicians feel comfortable working on electric vehicles.

Fortunately, to date, the city has had little to no problems with its electric vehicles. Normal preventative maintenance work, such as checking brakes, replacing filters, and checking fluids, is routinely conducted. With the fear of working on EVs removed, technicians are beginning to shine and take ownership. The city has found that “taking ownership” has resulted in what is commonly called a  “train the trainer” model.

In 2023, Mayor Woodfin, appointed a Director and Deputy Director in the Office of Sustainability to provide direction to city departments to facilitate lowering of Green House Gases and other pollutants. This will potentially accelerate the purchase and use of additional electric vehicles.

Outputs & Outcomes

Outputs:

  • Initiated purchase of eight Chevy Bolt EVs in 2020.
  • Created a Green Fleet Policy and an Energy and Sustainability Work Plan.
  • Installed EVSE Chargers at Fleet location.

  • Production of numerous informational pages and links. For example, below is a link to the YouTube video the city created entitled “Celebrating Earth Day | Moving Here and There with Cleaner Air.”
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=0eCd7qAyWw4
  • The expansion of free charging around the city in parking garages and at city parks, has grown to 31 Level 2 charging ports at 12 sites in 2023.
  • Participated in many outreach activities with the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition displaying the city’s Bolts. Activities included the League of Municipalities Annual Meeting, numerous Earth Day and National Drive Electric Week EVents, and individual municipal demonstrations.

Outcomes:

  • An estimated 70% reduction in GHG emissions for each gasoline fueled light duty vehicle replaced with an EV. For reference see below the COB community wide emissions data from 2019.

  • Inroads towards achieving the COB’s climate impact reduction goals.
  • Community leaders, citizens and visitors to the area see EVs at work around the city.
  • Lower operating costs (fuel and maintenance) for COB owned EVs.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

  • City personnel and all stakeholders need to be involved from the beginning of the process to add electric vehicles to the fleet.
  • Put together a well-balanced team, not just cheerleaders, who will work together to complete the mission.
  • Set clear and reachable goals.
  • Realize that you do not know everything, and, therefore, select partners or team members that expand your knowledge base.
  • Select your partners carefully. Most cities have limited experience with EVs and even less on EVSE (EV chargers).
  • Read and obtain as much knowledge on EV Infrastructure as possible. Make continual learning part of the process.
  • Select your EVSE partners carefully and do your homework on their service after the sale.

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City of Birmingham Fleet Story

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