Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund is continuing its advocacy efforts to widen electric vehicle usage across the state.
Currently, it is targeting Arizona’s municipal vehicle fleet. A recent press release stated that Arizona’s 10 largest municipalities could save a combined $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 gas prices. Now, with federal legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, electric vehicles are now incentivized.
On October 27, Diane Brown, the executive director of Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, released a report on electrifying Arizona’s municipal fleets. According to them, this switch could potentially save taxpayers money.
“Research has documented financial benefits of owning an electric vehicle,” Brown said. “The report sought to document financial savings for taxpayers, if 10 of our state’s largest municipalities transitioned their fleet to electric over the next decade.
“Over the last several years, Arizona has seen not only an uptick in electric vehicles purchased but also more jobs being created in our state due to transportation, electrification, and more policies at (the) local, state and federal level that will help accelerate industry individuals owning and driving an electric vehicle,” Brown said.
There are nearly 60,000 publicly owned vehicles in Arizona, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Around 48,000 of these are owned by state and local governments. Arizona PIRG surveyed Chandler, Gilbert, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe and Tucson. These municipalities collectively own more than 10,000 vehicles.
Arizona PIRG is advising municipalities to begin by electrifying light-duty vehicles. Light-duty vehicles are typically smaller passenger vehicles that weigh up to 8,500 pounds. They can include vans, pickup trucks and cars. Tucson, for example, have begun to create roadmaps toward wider EV usage.
Around 6,100 of the vehicles that PIRG surveyed were identified as light duty. However, there are only 36 EVs. Dutzik said Arizona municipalities are beginning to experiment with electric vehicles.
“Arizona cities and towns should commit to electrifying their fleets, develop detailed plans to guide the transition, and partner with other municipalities, as well as utilities and state government, to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits of electrification,” Brown said in the report.
Dutzik said in the report that electrifying municipal fleets requires commitment, but towns can reap long-lasting savings for their residents.
The report recommended that Arizona leaders take several steps to broaden electric vehicle usage in Arizona. They recommended setting a plan to phase out gasoline vehicles. They also recommended municipalities set a plan for vehicle electrification while collaborating with other municipalities and state governments.
In addition, they urged municipalities to take advantage of federal government incentives. President Joe Biden included incentives for switches to electric vehicles in the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
With IRA, cities and towns will receive tax credit for purchasing a clean vehicle before 2033. Arizona PIRG estimates that Arizona’s 10 largest municipalities spend $110 million per year to purchase, maintain and fuel their vehicles. Dutzik called IRA a “game changer” when it comes to adopting electric vehicles.
“The federal legislation has also provided a significant investment in Arizona and across the country for vehicle electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The commitment from local, state and federal elected officials in and outside of Arizona signifies that our state and country is on the path to transportation electrification,” Brown said.
Although in previous years electric vehicles were seen as more expensive, with rising gas prices and lowering EV costs, prices are beginning to fall to an equilibrium.
“Increasingly, gas prices have risen, while electric vehicle prices have fallen. … Policymakers are starting to realize the financial benefits of transitioning to electric vehicles for taxpayers,” Brown said. “However, there is still a misconception that electric vehicles are far more costly to purchase due to federal legislation. The price of electric vehicles in a number of instances are on par to gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles. But the cost savings for electric vehicles due to fuel operating in maintenance, expansion expenses are far less.”
However, many are still skeptical about the switch to electric vehicles. On one hand, electric vehicle users save money over time. On the other, the upfront cost may intimidate some drivers from making the switch.
Another concern comes from how electric vehicle materials are sourced. Electric vehicle batteries require lithium, copper and nickel mining. Because of this, there are concerns that electric vehicles may not be as sustainable as originally thought.
With these concerns, electric vehicle advocates encourage people to look at the bigger picture. Although electric vehicles are more expensive up front, they are time.
“Historically, until very recently, electric vehicles have been more expensive to buy, but cheaper to fuel and maintain. They’re cheaper to fuel because they’re more energy efficient,” Dutzik said. “Now, with the inflation reduction acts starting next year, cities and towns are going to be able to buy EVs for close to the same cost as a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle, but they’re still going to get those benefits over time to reduce maintenance costs and reduce fuel costs.”
And although the harvesting of materials is not completely environmentally friendly, they do produce less greenhouse gas than gasoline powered vehicles.
“With every vehicle, there’s an environmental impact and EVs are no exception,” Dutzik said. “Assessments of EVs as a climate change tool, you know, generally suggest that they are significantly cleaner. They’re significantly cleaner for the air. And as Arizona’s electricity grid gets cleaner over time, those benefits are only going to increase.”