This article is part of a series called How communities across Canada are electrifying their municipal fleets. Each article explores an innovative approach to electrifying municipal fleets. The series features inspiring ideas and projects being implemented in Canadian cities and towns of all sizes.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta, with a population of 1,306,784. In a move to electrify its fleet, Calgary’s fleet staff faced numerous procurement, operational, and process barriers. Nevertheless, Calgary acquired over 30 light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) and two electric ice resurfacers over two years (2020-22) – and has one of the largest non-transit EV fleets in western Canada. This case study outlines barriers, actions to circumvent them, and lessons learned. 

In 2016, Calgary’s fleet staff developed the first Green Fleet Strategy, providing general guidelines for PHEV and EV acquisition. In 2020, the strategy was updated to cover all corporate fleets and generated multi-departmental buy-in. Calgary declared a climate emergency in 2021, enabling a shift in priorities and justifying the acquisition of electric vehicles. The Green Fleet Strategy included a goal to acquire 300 EVs between 2023-2026 (approximately 25% of their light-duty fleet). 

Staff faced challenges as the existing procurement process was restrictive, and existing vendors provided limited EV options. Fleet operators had range and functionality anxiety, including the efficiency of Power Take Off compared to an internal combustion engine car and the extra effort in planning for charging an EV. Additionally supply chain issues led to significantly higher costs to procure EVs as compared to their traditional counterparts.  

Staff overcame these barriers by developing a Green Option Procurement Strategy that provided procurement flexibility to purchase EVs whenever they became available and over the strategy’s timeline. For example, if the city has a contract for ¾-ton pickups, and the manufacturer releases an EV version during the contract period, they can buy that unit under the contract without going back to the market. The city’s climate emergency declaration expedited a social and environmental case to adopt EVs over a purely economic one. The city acquired additional funding to offset the incremental costs of EVs and charging infrastructure through internal funding and from the capital budget.  

The city purchases renewable electricity, reducing typical ICEV emissions from 170.6gCO2e/km to effectively 0 for EVs. Fleet staff estimate emissions reduction of 2400tCO2e/year by 2026 by switching to EVs (excluding emissions from manufacture and disposal). Beyond meeting Calgary’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, the city has realized many social and environmental benefits of EV adoption. Fleet electrification is changing staff’s perception, and a growing number of fleet operators are switching to EVs as their personal vehicles and have adopted anti-idling behaviour outside of work. 

Calgary’s fleet staff are using NASA’s Technology Readiness Levels tool to access EV technology and justify decision-making in purchasing technology. It considers the impact on operator safety, lifecycle cost, and impact on maintenance facilities. Staff use this tool to compare EV technology with other fueling technologies to determine suitability for EV technology adoption. 

Calgary will continue procuring different classes of vehicles, scanning for green options, applying for additional funding and streamlining purchasing decisions.

“If it was easy, someone would have already done it!” - Adam, Manager, Fleet Services

The City has also piloted an electric refuse truck through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)’s Green Municipal Fund (GMF) and Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities (EVM) program. The importance of this trial is the feasibility of vocational trucks in the Class 8 vehicle categories, which is currently under-served in terms of EV options. Some of the anticipated environmental benefits of the electric refuse truck are an average reduction of 55% in GHG emissions, 60% in vehicle yearly fuel consumption, and 60% less noise pollution. More about this pilot project can be found on our projects database. 

Read more about the pilot project.

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