Location: Durham County, NC
Fleet Type: Light-duty Electric Vehicles

 

Narrative

Durham County is in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. The Durham community led the way in sustainability as the first community in North Carolina to develop a greenhouse reduction plan in 2007, which included the goal of reducing local government greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

In 2018, the County Board of Commissioners set a new goal to transition to clean, renewable energy across all operations by 80% by 2030 and  100%  by 2050. Durham County’s approach to reducing the use of fossil fuels includes adding more electric vehicles to the County’s fleet and considering renewable diesel.

EVs were added to the fleet in 2012 when the County purchased two Nissan Leafs with General Fund money. Three Chevy Bolts were added to the fleet in 2023.

Vehicle maintenance is completed by local car dealerships and not by County staff. The Sustainability Office provides training to employees who use EV fleet vehicles. The training has an educational component on why the County uses EVs and the environmental benefits before hands-on training for familiarity with operating an EV, how to plug in and unplug from a charger, and experiential learning to understand how quiet the vehicle is and the importance of being mindful of pedestrians.

Employees do not take EV fleet vehicles home, so they are all charged at work locations. Cleaner fuel for charging EVs is on track to occur in 2025 by adding a solar panel field to the grid, and it is expected to provide approximately 75% of the County government’s electricity demands.

Outputs & Outcomes

Outputs:

Durham County has five EVs: two 2012 EV Leafs and three Chevy Volts. EVs are used by three departments: General Services, Public Health, and Engineering & Environmental Services.

  • Additionally, there are 15 ChargePoint dual-port stations and three new Blink stations for the public.

Outcomes:

The County has smart EV charging stations, but fleet charging stations are not networked. It balances the fiduciary responsibility of using taxpayer dollars for the higher costs of networked EV charging stations with the ability to have less expensive stations for the fleet and collecting data through driver reporting and annual vehicle inspections to calculate greenhouse gas emissions reductions and maintenance savings.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Replacing vehicles can occur slowly. Fleet vehicles typically retire after 100,000 miles or ten years. Some departments have very low mileage, and the age of the vehicle will prompt replacement. The County is implementing a motor pool to efficiently utilize vehicle types, increase replacement rates, and aid in achieving greenhouse gas emissions goals.

Identifying the appropriate equivalent vehicle to purchase based on the department’s needs, such as Sherrif’s vehicles, can be difficult. There have also been cultural barriers to acceptance of providing right-sized vehicles by drivers who prefer an SUV, which is not required for performing the job. The availability of vehicles is also a challenge, especially for smaller agencies that are not making large purchases. The County placed an order, waited for fulfillment, and then the dealership canceled it. Then, the remaining options are to wait for another vehicle order or to replace the fleet vehicle with an internal combustion engine that is immediately available.

Charging infrastructure should be considered from the initial decision to add EVs to a fleet and whenever an organization is building parking infrastructure. Consider the need for EV charging demands of both the government and the public for the future and add conduit during the original construction. Additionally, be mindful to allow spacing for ADA parking to accommodate all EV drivers. Standard language can simplify the process for departments that manage construction RFPs and RFQs so EV charging infrastructure, ADA accommodations and correct parking space striping are included at the earliest stages of a project.

Resources & References

To find more information and view Durham County’s Renewable Energy Plan, including transportation greenhouse gas emissions, visit https://www.dconc.gov/county-departments/departments-a-e/engineering-and-environmental-services/renewable-energy-plan.

To view the Durham Greenhouse Reduction Update 2022 report, visit www.dconc.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/37816/638017110470770000

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Durham County Fleet Story

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