The Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund continues to lobby to expand EV use statewide.
It is currently targeting Arizona’s municipal vehicle fleet. A recent press release states that Arizona’s 10 largest communities could collectively save $80 million by replacing light-duty cars and trucks with electric vehicles over the next 10 years.
Electric vehicles save users money over time, in part due to rising gasoline prices. With federal laws like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, electric vehicles are now being encouraged.
On October 27, Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at Frontier Group, released a report on the electrification of Arizona’s municipal fleets. In her opinion, this switch could potentially save taxpayers money.
“Research has documented the financial benefits of owning an electric vehicle,” Brown said. “The report attempted to document the financial savings for taxpayers if 10 of our state’s largest municipalities converted their fleets to electric propulsion over the next decade.
“In recent years, Arizona has seen not only an increase in electric vehicle purchases, but also more jobs in our state due to transportation, electrification, and more policies at (the) local, state, and federal level that will help accelerate individuals from the industry that owns and drives an electric vehicle,” Brown said.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are nearly 60,000 publicly owned vehicles in Arizona. Around 48,000 of these are owned by the federal states and local authorities. Arizona PIRG interviewed Chandler, Gilbert, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe and Tucson. Together, these municipalities own more than 10,000 vehicles.
Arizona PIRG advises municipalities to start electrifying light commercial vehicles. Light commercial vehicles are typically smaller passenger vehicles weighing up to 8,500 pounds. They can include vans, pickups, and cars. Phoenix and Tucson, for example, have begun creating roadmaps for wider EV adoption.
Around 6,100 of the vehicles surveyed by PIRG were identified as light commercial vehicles. However, there are only 36 EVs. Dutzik said Arizona communities are beginning to experiment with electric vehicles.
“Cities and communities in Arizona should commit to electrifying their fleets, develop detailed plans to guide the transition, and work with other municipalities, utilities, and state governments to minimize costs and maximize the benefits of electrification,” Brown said in the report.
Dutzik said in the report that electrifying municipal fleets requires commitment, but cities can achieve lasting savings for their residents.
The report recommended that Arizona leaders take several steps to expand EV use in Arizona. They recommended putting in place a plan to phase out petrol vehicles. They also recommended that municipalities draw up a plan for vehicle electrification, working with other municipalities and state governments.
In addition, they called on the municipalities to use incentives from the federal government. President Joe Biden has included incentives for switching to electric vehicles in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The IRA gives cities and communities a tax credit for purchasing a clean vehicle before 2033. Arizona PIRG estimates that Arizona’s 10 largest municipalities spend $110 million per year on purchasing, maintaining, and fueling their vehicles. Dutzik called the IRA a “game changer” when it comes to EV adoption.
“Federal legislation has also provided significant investment in Arizona and across the country for EV charging infrastructure. The commitment of local, state and federal elected officials in and outside of Arizona shows that our state and country are on the path to electrification of transportation,” Brown said.
Although EVs have been viewed as more expensive in recent years, prices are beginning to fall towards an equilibrium as gasoline prices rise and EV costs fall.
“Increasingly, gas prices have risen while electric vehicle prices have fallen. …Policymakers are beginning to see the financial benefits of switching to electric vehicles for taxpayers,” Brown said. “However, there is still a misconception that electric vehicles are much more expensive to buy due to federal legislation. The price of electric vehicles is in a number of cases at the level of petrol and diesel vehicles. But the cost savings in EVs from fuel consumption in maintenance and upgrade costs are far smaller.”
However, many are still skeptical about the switch to electric vehicles. On the one hand, EV users save money over time. On the other hand, the initial cost may deter some drivers from making the switch.
Another problem arises from the procurement of materials for electric vehicles. Electric vehicle batteries require the mining of lithium, copper and nickel. Because of this, there are concerns that electric vehicles may not be as sustainable as initially thought.
Faced with these concerns, EV advocates encourage people to look at the bigger picture. Although electric vehicles are more expensive up front, they are cheaper to operate over time.
“In the past, until recently, electric vehicles were more expensive to buy but cheaper to use on fuel and to maintain. They are cheaper to fill up because they are more energy efficient,” said Dutzik. “Now, with anti-inflation legislation starting next year, cities and towns can buy electric vehicles for almost the same cost as a petrol or diesel vehicle, but they will still take advantage of these benefits over time to reduce maintenance costs and reduce fuel consumption reduce fuel costs.”
And while harvesting materials isn’t entirely eco-friendly, they produce fewer greenhouse gases than gas-powered vehicles.
“Every vehicle has an impact on the environment, and electric vehicles are no exception,” said Dutzik. “Assessments of electric vehicles as a climate change tool generally suggest that they are significantly cleaner. They are significantly cleaner for the air. And as Arizona’s power grid gets cleaner over time, those benefits will only increase.”