spoiled air. Climate change. Dallas County officials are looking to electric cars for help.

The county’s fleet of nearly 1,000 vehicles is a small segment of all North Texas vehicles, numbering in the millions. However, officials say switching to electric vehicles is something they can do to tackle air quality while reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change and extreme weather.

The letter “F” for air

This month, Dallas County commissioners approved the purchase of 23 all-electric vehicles: ten Ford F-150s, ten Ford Mustang Mach-Es, and three Tesla Model 3s. It’s a three-year pilot program to assess whether the vehicles meet — or do not meet — the needs of various county workers.

Commissioner Elba Garcia, who represents a district in western Dallas County, has been a leading proponent of electrifying the fleet, and noted the poor marks the DFW has received for air quality.

“We’ve had Fahrenheit for ozone pollution for many years,” she said.

The American Lung Association recently gave Dallas, Denton, Colin, and Tarrant counties all an “F” for ozone in the most recent weather report, Released last week.

“Particle and ozone pollution pose a threat to human health at every stage of life, increasing the risk of preterm birth, causing or exacerbating lung and heart disease, and shortening life,” States. She says many vulnerable groups – including children, the elderly and people of color – are more vulnerable to harm from air pollution.

Environmental Protection Agency recently said She wanted the Dallas-Fort Worth area classified as a “serious” violator of federal ozone rules, which could lead to further regulation.

Garcia said the electric vehicle purchases recently approved in Dallas County, are a much-needed start to doing something about the problem.

“The government should never be the last to do what we can do to improve the atmosphere for taxpayers and our constituents,” she said.

Elba Garcia.
Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia is pushing the county to purchase electric vehicles for its fleet.

long waiting?

But first, the cars have to arrive.

It won’t be any time soon,” said Michael Frosch, Dallas County Director of Procurement.

He said they placed the order after getting commissioners’ approval on April 19, but that three Teslas cars and 20 Fords would take between six and eight months to arrive.

“If any of those vehicles are available — electric and gas, it doesn’t really matter — we’re having a hard time getting the products in at the right time,” Froch said. “We need to really think a year ahead.”

Electric car sales flourish all over the world. The International Energy Agency said electric vehicles were 9% of the global market in 2021, up from 4.1% the previous year.

Many local governments across the country are trying to electrify their fleets to reduce carbon emissions, but the supply of electric vehicles is not yet matching demand. Ford F-150 Lightning purchased by the province Production starts today.

One related concern is whether additional “aftermarket” products needed by law enforcement vehicles, such as window inserts, prisoner sections, and center consoles, will be on offer from aftermarket manufacturers.

“I just hope the market and aftermarket will respond to law enforcement,” said Zack El Masry, Dallas County Marshalls Sgt. Al-Masry said aftermarket products made specifically for a specific model are better than generic products.

shock

The mismatch between supply and demand also contributes to another concern – the initial cost of electrifying the fleet.

The Tesla Model 3 is more expensive than Ford’s, which prompted Commissioner John Wiley Price to vote “no.”

“I’m having a hard time getting to Tesla’s cost of $63,000,” he told KERA.

The electric Ford F-150 costs about $44,000 per vehicle while the Ford Mustang Mach-E cars cost around $45,000.

The Model 3 Tesla will be used for law enforcement, accounting for about 60% of the county’s fleet. While Ford models are less expensive, each of these different cars will be tested to see what works for county employees around the clock — and for officers who might be driving their work cars home.

The county budget typically allocates $2 to $2.5 million annually for vehicle replacement, according to Jonathon Bazan, assistant county director.

Fleet electrification will occur over time, through a regular replacement process funded from the district’s annual budget.

Looking to the future

An important part of fleet electrification is locating the charging stations. Bazan said that charging stations for downtown vehicles will be in the county parking garage, currently under construction. Future charging stations will be at government locations across the county.

White House estimated The 2021 Federal Infrastructure Act will send $408 million to Texas to expand electric vehicle charging networks, and the state can apply for billions in charging grants.

Cynthia Ross is president of Seamless EV Transition Group, a company that helps local governments develop long-term plans to electrify their fleets. She said writing long-term plans for electricity can save money when building plants.

It can also prepare local governments for grant opportunities, including from utilities or manufacturers of charging stations.

“Usually this money is lost within 48 hours, because the people who have the plan can submit their plan — and they will get the money,” Ross said.

Garcia said the newly approved electric vehicle purchases are part of Dallas County’s plan development, even if there are still unknown details about how and when the county will power its fleet.

“The worst thing… you can do is do nothing,” she said.

And while the big motivation behind electric vehicles is to help with air quality and reduce carbon emissions, some county employees have found other potential benefits.

Security Officer Richard Nguyen works in Dallas County and drives one of the five electric vehicles the county currently owns. He repeatedly noted how quiet he was, a feature that helped him do his job of guarding the county’s downtown buildings.

He said, “If you need to go somewhere you don’t want people to know you’re watching… they won’t even know you’ve stopped on them.”

Got a tip? Email Brett Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Brett on Twitter Tweet embed.

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