In what is being described as an attempt to lessen dependence on foreign oil and cut fuel costs, President Barack Obama announced plans for sweeping changes this week in federal fleet policy, particularly in regards to fleet composition and purchasing of vehicles running on alternative energy. The mandates hold huge ramifications for government fleet management, and since the government runs the nation’s largest fleet, the results of the Presidential Memorandum will also be watched closely by managers of fleets of all sizes. There’s a fairly detailed announcement on Energy.gov, which includes the following:

“As the nation’s largest vehicle fleet operator, the President’s fleet management directives and GSA’s electric vehicle pilot will cut the Federal fleet’s petroleum use and support the development of domestic, clean energy technologies – supporting the President’s goal of cutting imports by a third by 2025 and continuing to build a 21st century clean energy economy, while also saving taxpayer dollars,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Highlights of the Memorandum announcement:

  • By 2015, 100% of the vehicles purchased by the government will run on alternative fuel, meaning electric, natural gas, clean diesel and flex-fuel cars that use E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
  • Agencies will decrease petroleum consumption 30% by 2020.
  • General Services Administration (GSA) made a purchase of 116 electric vehicles to start a pilot project to incorporate electric vehicles and technologies, including 100 Chevy Volts. The vehicles will be leased to 20 agencies, including the Department of Energy, and will be located in Washington, DC; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; and San Francisco, CA.
  • Plans are to reduce the federal fleet by 2015; the fleet currently consists of about 600,000 cars and trucks.

GSA awarded contracts to vendors of electric vehicles based on four factors, “technical capability, management capability, past performance, and price.” After review, contracts were awarded to Nissan, Chevrolet and Think Global, a Norwegian maker of electric cars and vans.

The Obama administration claims the results of this Memorandum “will reduce petroleum consumption by the equivalent of an estimated 7.7 million gallons of gasoline, or 385,000 barrels of oil.” It’s also part of Obama’s plan to have 1 million advanced vehicles on the road by 2015. Besides lowering pollution and dependence on foreign oil, the Memorandum stats that this plan will “spur U.S. innovation” and “create good jobs for American workers.”

Non-government fleet managers are likely to keep an eye on these changes in the federal fleet, for a few reasons. If manufacturers have a higher motivation to produce more advanced vehicles, the cost of those vehicles will presumably drop. And since the Obama administration is clearly making fuel conservation and vehicle innovation a priority, tax breaks and other incentives for firms that move to these kinds of vehicles could increase in the future. And conversely, fleets that don’t pay attention to increasingly strict regulations on fuel consumption and pollution could face penalties in future years.

More about electric vehicles on The SmartVan

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