Hamilton reveals ‘significant’ hurdles amid progress on green fleet strategy


Published October 16, 2023 at 1:24 pm

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Hamilton was the first city in Ontario to launch a carbon-negative, natural gas-powered bus in March 2021.

Hamilton faces “significant challenges” with extra costs projected for providing power to electric vehicle charging stations and it’s not likely to meet its goal to buy 89 battery electric vehicles before 2025, though it has reported some progress on its strategy to reduce emissions.

Tom Kagianis, fleet manager at the City Of Hamilton, prepared a new report with updates for the public works committee meeting today (Oct. 16). The City’s Fleet Services division first presented a report on its “green fleet” strategy and action plan in May 2021.

Eleven of 30 recommendations are complete, according to Kagianis in the new report.

Through its green fleet strategy, the City of Hamilton aims to decommission all diesel vehicles by 2030 and achieve a 100-per-cent electric fleet by 2050.  

Fleet Services has received 47 Level 2 charging stations and two Level 3 charging stations, which allow electric vehicles to charge faster. According to the report, four Level 2 charging stations were installed and in service last month. 

However, the report flagged “significant challenges with additional costs” in providing power to charging stations through building infrastructure. It noted a separate report will be coming on the projected extra costs.

Blaming global supply chain constraints, the report also determined that it’s not likely to reach its goal to buy 89 battery electric vehicles by the end of 2024. Powered by electricity in battery packs, battery electric vehicles emit no tailpipe emissions unlike those that run on gas.

“Previously considered alternative options, which included Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles, have not provided a solution as they are also impacted by supply chain issues,” the report found.

As for electric sport utility vehicles and vans, it said it only received one bid and staff have purchased 10 to date, though the solicitation for the vehicles was extended twice.

Since approval of the green fleet strategy, the Fleet division has purchased 19 fully electric vehicles. The purchase includes three half-tonne pickup trucks, 10 vans, four SUVs and two electric ice resurfacers.

According to the report, Fleet Services faced challenges procuring battery electric vehicles in the open market because of dealerships’ restricted ability or unwillingness to bid on Fleet tenders. It noted Quebec and British Columbia have enhanced rebate programs where electric vehicles are in higher demand. Furthermore, manufacturers face uncertainties with supply and costs.

A separate report is in the works to recommend alternative procurement approaches for electric vehicles.

Moreover, the trial phase using biodiesel — a renewable fuel using plant oils, vegetable oil, waste cooking oil and animal fats — is done. Staff identified challenges with using the oil during cold weather. The report concluded that “no further significant challenges have been identified.”

So far the City has used 1.8 million litres of a five-per-cent biodiesel blend and 650,000 litres of a 20-per-cent biodiesel blend.

“Fleet Services will continue to maximize the supply and use of Biodiesel going forward,” it stated.

In another update, Fleet Services said it has worked with the corporate communications division on delivering its anti-idling campaign, such as posters placed in common areas outside buildings to remind staff to minimize idle time.

In addition, over 741 City staff have taken the virtual eco driver training course, which began in late summer 2021. Hundreds more are expected to be trained in 2024. The course is required for all new City employees who drive a city vehicle.

CityLab, along with students from Mohawk College, are helping the City search for emerging technologies aimed at reducing fleet vehicle emissions beyond 2024.

Operated by the City of Hamilton, Mohawk College, McMaster University and Redeemer University, CityLab is a program that matches students and faculty with City staff.

Hamilton had committed $9.5 million to its green fleet strategy in its 2022 capital budget. Hamilton was the first city in Ontario to launch a carbon-negative, natural gas-powered bus in March 2021.

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