What we learned at the Green Transportation Summit & Expo

Allison Tielking

February 8, 2024
August 29, 2023

We just got back from the Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE), which focuses on fleet modernization and green transportation on the West Coast. As one of Flipturn’s newest team members, I learned so much from the diverse group of attendees. Here are some of the highlights.

1. Fleets and chargers as a service can help small fleets electrify

Presentations from Zeem, Forum Mobility, and WattEV highlighted the problems that small fleet operators face when electrifying. 80% of drayage fleets, which transport freight to and from ports, are run by independent owner-operators who likely cannot afford the steep costs of heavy duty EVs and chargers. Over 50% of warehouses are on 5+ year leases, and many of these warehouses don’t even have the electrical infrastructure to support significant EV charging. Public charging can be unreliable, and you can’t always guarantee a spot to charge.

To solve these problems, charging-as-a-service companies are providing third party depots that are sited on major freight routes. Just like at a Tesla Supercharger hub, heavy duty trucks can go to these third party depots for reliable opportunity charging.

2. Municipal fleets are electrifying now

Cities from across the United States and Canada had a huge presence at GTSE, partly because the Clean Cities Coalition helped organize the event.  Responsible for approximately 75% of our global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, cities are a huge opportunity to tackle climate change. Many cities have set emissions reduction targets but are struggling to clean up their fleets, which make up almost half of municipal emissions.  

At the conference, early implementers from California and Washington illuminated a path forward. What was top of mind for these leading cities? Long-term planning for budget, asset retirement schedules, and charging infrastructure.

Many cities are using tools to track their current assets and targeted replacement year. The California Air Resources Board has a free spreadsheet template available, and Roseville, California demoed the Advance Clean Fleets Compliance Tool, which should be released to the public soon. 

Panelists shared that it makes sense to electrify municipal vehicles with short, regular duty cycles first, like school buses and trash trucks. We saw that many electric alternatives for municipal fleets are already here, with more on the way. Because it can take a while to receive a new vehicle, municipal fleet managers recommended putting in orders as soon as possible. 

Planning ahead is also important for budget, as electric vehicles are a large upfront capital investment. Several cities mentioned that they transitioned from an annual to a biennial budget because of long fulfillment times. One common strategy was to authorize a broad fleet replacement fund and to submit individual projects as they came up.

To help offset the high cost of new EVs, many cities are also taking advantage of state and federal funding opportunities. For example, the utility Pacific Power created an e-mobility grant in Oregon for community-serving organizations, leading to funding for city e-bikes, rural e-tractor shares, and more.

3. More data on EVs is coming

Another top concern for municipal fleets was data visibility, especially because they need to report on fleet emissions for city-wide emissions reduction goals. Another important metric for municipal fleets was vehicle utilization.

Luckily, more data is coming soon. In September, CALSTART concludes a multi-year study on medium and heavy duty EV deployments from both public and private fleets. The data can be found here. Current data includes real-world duty cycles and vehicle performance.

4. Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging is on the rise

Bidirectional V2G technology allows electric vehicles to store energy from the grid and return it to the grid when it is needed, which reduces the need to fire up costly fossil fuel “peaker” plants during peak times. In addition, V2G enables fleet operators to monetize their electric vehicles, significantly reducing the cost of fleet ownership. Bus fleets are a great fit for V2G applications because of their predictable usage patterns and potential long periods of idle time.

Over a dozen utilities across the country have already started V2G electric school bus pilot programs, with more to come, especially because of the EPA’s new Clean School Bus grant program.

Borg Warner presented a case study of its partnership with Highland Electric to discharge 10+ MWh hours to the Massachusetts grid over 158 hours, which was the first time battery storage from electric school buses (ESBs) was used in a commercial V2G program in the United States. Over two summers, two buses generated $23k in revenue.

With V2G, places like car dealerships and school bus lots could soon become the mini power plants of the future.

If you are a fleet deploying EVs and chargers, Flipturn is here to help.

At GTSE, it was clear that the biggest issues in deploying EVs at scale included charging, range, and costs. Commercial fleets use Flipturn’s integrated EV fleet and charger management platform today to maximize EV and charger utilization, avoid running out of range, prevent high demand charges, and minimize cost per mile.

Interested in a demo? Get in touch with us at hello@getflipturn.com.