Leesburg Council Contemplates Electric Fleet

The Leesburg Town Council is considering how to add hybrid or full-electric vehicles to the town fleet and the costs of doing so.

Hybrid and electric vehicles, as town staff found for the report presented to the council Monday night, tend to cost more up front but with savings down the line in gas costs. Councilman Neil Steinberg pointed out electric vehicles also have lower maintenance costs over their lifetimes.

But in addition to the up-front cost, bringing in hybrid or electric vehicles would require charging stations, new staff training and new tools.

Public Works Assistant Director of Operations Christopher Kohr told the council that staff members had reached out to Loudoun County, the City of Manassas and the City of Fairfax to see what their experience has been. All three have been using hybrid vehicles for some time, with City of Fairfax preparing to buy its first all-electric vehicle in the next fiscal year. Those jurisdictions also reported they are replacing those vehicles more quickly, while they are still under warranty, to avoid possibly having to take on the cost of replacing their batteries.

But the town currently counts 204 vehicles in its fleet, and already isn’t keeping up with replacing them under staff recommendations. According to a staff report, each year town staff create a list of vehicles needing replacement based on age, mileage, engine hours, and maintenance costs, and each year the list of vehicles is larger than the available funding.

Kohr said taking out the types of vehicles for which there are no good electric options today, and vehicles that can’t be down for long charging periods such as emergency vehicles, there are about 22 fleet vehicles that could realistically go all-electric.

The town also found studies by the Electrification Coalition of municipalities’ experiences deploying electric fleets in Des Moines, IA, and Charlotte, NC. In Des Moines, those vehicles were found effective despite the cold temperatures, and the city is on track to an all-electric fleet by 2050. Charlotte has found electric options even for heavy-duty vehicles, and has found switching to electric vehicles to be a way to bring their costs down. The city is moving toward an all-electric fleet by 2030.

However, the staff report set councilmembers talking not in years, but in decades.

“Not in five years, not in 10 years, maybe in 30 or 50 years we can save our taxpayers dollars by not paying for gasoline that’s only going to get more and more volatile in pricing, but also we can do our part to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and just keep pushing towards the future,” said Councilman Zach Cummings, who first raised the idea of electrifying Leesburg’s fleet.

A UN climate report released earlier this year calculated that to limit global warming to around 2.7 degrees, the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions would have to peak before 2025 and be cut nearly in half by 2030.

“I think as council this is something that for most of us, we strongly would like to push forward with,” said Councilman Neil Steinberg. “I know it’s not tomorrow, but it’s definitely a conversation we want to continue because in the end it’s somewhere we have to get to.”

10 thoughts on “Leesburg Council Contemplates Electric Fleet

  • 2022-06-14 at 5:41 pm
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    I’m a big fan of electric cars. I’ve read horror stories about them melting in the heat, exploding & catching on fire. I don’t think that’s true. To the contrary, they’re good for the environment if cared for properly. Happy Flag Day Loudoun!

    • 2022-06-15 at 10:50 am
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      Unfortunately, it is true. EVs burn exceptionally hot and can’t be put out with regular fire fighting equipment. In March, the ship Felicity Ace en route to the USA sank with 4,000 electric vehicles on board. Captain Joao Mendes Cabecas said lithium-ion batteries in EVs aboard the ship caught fire. They burned a hole in the ship (think about that for a minute) and it sank.

      Beyond fires, EVs have a lot of problems. EV companies are starting to declare bankruptcy as the era of easy money has closed. My advice to anyone wanting fleet adoption is to wait another 5 years or so to see how it all plays out.

  • 2022-06-14 at 7:22 pm
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    I hope:
    1. These changes are made based on attrition and not throwing away good vehicles for new vehicles.
    2. The overall cost is considered and they’re not just make to pat themselves on the back for being environmentally friendly.

    • 2022-06-16 at 6:47 am
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      norges53 sounds like one of the folks back in the day who complained about cars replacing horses. Such as:

      “gasoline is dangerous, and a fire hazard”
      “fast moving vehicles on our streets and roads will be dangerous…”
      “the gasoline car will be poisonous to our atmosphere..”

      All above is true, but we live in a world that balances quality of life, economics and safety. If an electric car/truck makes sense, so then make it so. $15 to fill up an electric car, vs about $80-$100 for a gas powered car today, makes it worth taking a look. Let Norges53 types stay on their horses in the meantime.

  • 2022-06-15 at 10:14 am
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    Yep, all that good for the environment mining by China to get the Lithium for the batteries. And wait for the replacement cost of the batteries at the 8-year/100,000-mile warranty industry standards.

  • 2022-06-15 at 2:00 pm
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    The fact that Leesburg owns, operates and maintains 204 vehicles, is truly a sign that local governments have no interest in containing costs and minimizing the tax burden on its residents, businesses and property owners.

    TWO HUNDRED FOUR VEHICLES.

    No schools. Small, understaffed police force. No Animal services. No Health dept.

    • 2022-06-16 at 4:03 pm
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      Great point. Can we get an accounting of all 204 vehicles? Sounds like gross overkill.

  • 2022-06-16 at 9:07 pm
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    The Town of Leesburg as extremely high water and sewer rates they should focus on looking for ways to bring the rates more in line with Loudoun water instead of looking at electric vehicles. The technology has no been proven for commercial application and we are several years out before the technology proves itself. Now is not the time.

  • 2022-06-18 at 12:56 pm
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    EVs are wonderful. Will never buy an internal combustion auto again. Thumbs up to Leesburg.

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