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30 U.S. Cities Plot Joint Buy for 114,000 Electric Vehicles

Tennen-Gas/Wikimedia Commons
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Tennen-Gas/Wikimedia Commons

A US$10-billion buying spree for electric vehicles is the latest step 30 American cities are taking to demonstrate demand for low-emission vehicles and undercut the Trump administration’s pro-fossil, anti-regulatory agenda.

The cities, including New York and Chicago, “jointly asked automakers for the cost and feasibility of providing 114,000 electric vehicles, including police cruisers, street sweepers, and trash haulers,” Bloomberg reports, citing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is anchoring the effort. They also asked for vehicles that don’t yet exist, like electric fire engines and heavy duty trucks.

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The order would be equal to about 72% of last year’s U.S. sales for plug-in electric vehicles.

“No matter what President Trump does or what happens in Washington, cities will continue leading the way on tackling climate change,” LA Chief Sustainability Officer Matt Petersen told Bloomberg.

The cities announced their move as automakers pressed Trump to relax vehicle emission standards introduced during the Obama presidency. The car companies claim there aren’t enough buyers for the vehicles the standards would require. “If you build it, we will buy it,” responded Chris Bast, climate and transportation policy advisor in Seattle.

The cities are just at the first stage in the formal bidding process, and haven’t yet ordered the 114,000 vehicles. But Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Colin McKerracher said the initiative could still move the market.

“I wouldn’t underestimate this,” he said. “What automakers really want in investing in electrification, whether that’s for passenger vehicles or commercial use vehicles, is certainty.”

Bloomberg notes that the tailpipe emission standards are crucial to the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement.

“Now more than ever, there is a need for cities’ leadership on climate,” said Daniel Zarrilli, New York City’s senior director of climate policy and programs. “We really want to send a message that there is a growing market for electric vehicles—regardless of what is happening in DC.”