Location: Philadelphia, PA
Fleet Type: Light and Medium-duty EV Shuttles

 

Narrative

Penn Transit Services began working on fleet electrification in December of 2021 assessing available options to replace end-of-life vehicles in their fleet.  The University’s plans for fleet electrification were driven by our Climate and Sustainability Action Plan (CSAP) which focused, among other things, on converting our entire University fleet to ZEV within the next 10 years. Penn Transit, the University owned and operated group responsible for no cost, 24/7 operated student, staff, and faculty transportation around campus, was the natural fit to initiate this program.

Penn Transit operates 43 ranging from shuttle vans (25) to full size transit buses (10).  Penn Transit provides close to 400,000 trips each year, of which more than 75% are shuttle riders. The urbanized environment (downtown Philadelphia) meaning that the vehicles travel less than 200,000 miles per year for the entire fleet, these are hard, city miles.  Penn Transit Services has seen a sharp increase (+28% YOY in 2022) in ridership.

In 2021 the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) began to work with EP-ACT to explore the possibility of beginning the conversion to electric vehicles.  UPENN had previously been involved using some propane fuel vehicles.  EP-ACT met with UPENN in March of 2022 to discuss state grants to help begin the conversion process.

Penn Transit acquired their first 4 fully EV shuttle vans (converted Ford Transit Cargo vans into passenger vans) in September 2022.  Level 2 charging infrastructure was installed at their facilities in November 2022.   Since November 2022, Penn Transit has averaged about a thousand miles per month, per vehicle. In August 2023, with EP-ACT’s assistance a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania helped fund these 4 vehicles and an additional 2 vehicles in August of 2023.  The new acquisitions bring the total EV count to 6, which represents about 25% of the total shuttle fleet. The two new fully electric passenger vehicles, in addition to modernizing our fleet, represent the Universities ongoing commitment to sustainability.  Each electric vehicle represents a CO2 emissions reduction of approximately 13.2 metric tons annually or more than 79.2 metric tons per year for all 6 vehicles.

The next major endeavor is to expand the infrastructure University wide to allow for transition of the remainder of the shuttle fleet, as well as the 10 transit buses to run on electricity.  Additionally, the success from the current EVs has led to the formation of a university wide EV Transition Committee, which is charged with establishing standards and policies for the entire University fleet transition.

UPENN is working with EP-ACT to develop a Delaware Valley College and University project that will include all the Universities in the region including Temple, Drexel, St. Joe’s, Villanova to name a few.  This future consortium will establish Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV’s) as standard protocols in helping the region with its sustainability goals by highlighting local ZEV shuttles and transit bus services for the academic region.

Outputs & Outcomes

The outputs from UPENN efforts are substantial but clearly include a ramping up of EV purchases to replace their legacy shuttles. The reduction on GHG’s in the Delaware Valley and for the students who ride the shuttle buses daily is paramount to the conversion of the fleet.

The outcomes from this work span several layers:

  1. The GHG emission reductions from each vehicle replaced with an EV in their fleet are 13.2 metric tons each vehicle. 
  2. Good will around the campus and community. 
  3. Awareness of the vehicles being Zero Emission Vehicles
  4. Formation of EV Transition Committee

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Working with stakeholders or potential stakeholders that have used other alternatives to gasoline and diesel can pay off when introducing electric vehicles to them. Colleges and Universities can be “low hanging fruit” in that they are looking for sustainability and zero emission solutions for all of their campuses.   The shorter routes that these educational institutions utilize make EV’s a great option for fleet conversion.

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University of Pennsylvania Fleet Story

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