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Suffolk County Executive Bellone, Westchester County Announce Strategic Partnership to Procure Electric Vehicles

Written by Chris Boyle  |  21. September 2021

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Westchester County Executive George Latimer have announced a new shared services partnership to procure electric vehicles (EV) in an effort to tackle climate change, reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, save taxpayer dollars, and develop a shared services framework that will be a model for other local governments across the State. The two Counties will be seeking to partner with additional counties and local governments across New York State that would like to participate in this green initiative and combine purchasing power to save taxpayer dollars.
 
Suffolk County has determined it could initially support 40 electric vehicles in its first phase of deployment, which is slated to begin in 2022. Suffolk and Westchester Counties joint procurement of electric vehicles will enable other local governments in both counties to join on with the cooperative procurement.
 
“It is our job on the local level to ensure we are leading the way and doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint and harmful emissions from transportation to create a cleaner, healthier environment for our residents,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This joint procurement will lay the groundwork towards a clean, zero-emissions fleet by 2030. Not only are we building back, but we are building back better with cleaner, greener energy.”
 
“As we saw with Hurricane Ida, climate change is real, it is here and we must act now to do something about it,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “This policy will put Westchester and Suffolk Counties on the forefront of this fight, leading by example so other local governments around the State and Country can follow.”
 
Martha Sauerbrey, President of the New York State Association of Counties said, “This is another example of how counties are at the forefront of public policy in New York. This innovative collaboration between two of New York’s largest counties to invest in zero-emission vehicles is an exciting example of the vital role counties play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping the state meet its ambitious clean energy goals. Initiatives like this, coupled with enhanced rebates that counties fought for in the budget, can provide local governments with the financial resources and incentives needed to convert their substantial fleets to zero-emission electric vehicles. On behalf of the NYS Association of Counties, I commend County Executives Latimer and Bellone for their leadership and vision in creating a win-win solution that moves their counties toward a zero-emission future while maximizing local resources.”
 
In May, similar to President Joe Biden’s recent Executive Order, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed dual Executive Orders that directed their respective County departments to develop plans to convert their vehicle fleets to electric by 2030. Departments were directed to submit plans to the County Executive and requisite departments to achieve clean and zero-emissions fleets by 2030 or sooner.
 
The Electric Fleet Implementation report, released today, serves as a blueprint for how Suffolk County will move forward to procure a 100% green fleet. The move towards a fully electrified fleet is part of the County’s ongoing commitment to investing in efforts to counter climate change effects by reducing greenhouse gas and air pollution. The use of electric vehicles in lieu of vehicles that run solely off of fossil fuels is critical to the County’s effort.
 
While electric vehicles are a newer technology, the report outlines the clear benefits of electric vehicles, including significantly lower operating and maintenance costs, elimination of harmful tailpipe emissions, greatly reduced greenhouse gases, and cleaner roadways and parking lots for reduced contamination runoff.
 
To help ensure fleet electrification by 2030, the County identified seven focus areas to eliminate barriers to adoption and bring about transformative change. The areas include Phased Deployment of EVs, both updated and new Fleet Policies and Procedures, Right Sizing the County Fleet, Right Sizing County Facilities to meet charging and infrastructure needs, Partnership with Utility Companies, Leveraging Incentives to Promote Equitable, Affordable EV Adoption, and Shared Services and Procurement similar to today’s partnership with Westchester.
 
While the transition to electric vehicles is critical to help combat the effects if climate change, the report outlines a number of obstacles to overcome, and recommendations for how best to move forward. Some of the challenges identified include the long term commitment needed to realize savings, the high up-front transition costs, access to convenient and easily accessible charging infrastructure, along with maintenance, training and staffing, to name a few.
 
To overcome these challenges, the report recommends the phased implementation of the program to reduce costs, along with a 10-year cost benefit analysis, conducting an evaluation of options for broad phased deployment of charging infrastructure across the County, along with coordinating closely with PSEG LI, and finally creating an ongoing EV Maintenance Training Program to train maintenance personnel on the EV fleet.
 
As part of the phased implementation plan, the County would replace fuel operated vehicles at the optimum time, resulting in more resources to invest in available EV technology. This approach will provide the ability to pilot EVs in day to day operations while continuing to utilize current assets during their peak use, decommissioning assets at the optimal time as well as adjusting the overall plan as the new industry advances.
 
Additionally, Suffolk County has begun discussions with utility companies to discuss potential cooperative procurement of solar EV charging stations, establishing an interoperable charging network for vehicles from outside municipalities to charge EVs, and moving forward through regional planning and cooperation to ensure efficient, quick and reliable build out of EV charging infrastructure across Long Island.
 
This new shared services initiative to electrify County Fleets marks the second time that Suffolk County and Westchester County have partnered together to increase purchasing power and save taxpayer money. In 2019, the Counties partnered together to purchase hundreds of police vehicles, saving Suffolk approximately $500,000.
 
Suffolk County is also in the process of electrifying its public transit network. New York State has identified Suffolk County as one of five suburban municipalities responsible for electrification and Suffolk County Transit (SCT) has begun the process of replacing public transit buses with electric models which have zero tailpipe emissions and could begin serving riders by late 2022. The County is assessing the six depots that currently house the fleet and is coordinating with PSEG LI on the Ronkonkoma and West Babylon depots that will house the first set of buses.
 
In addition, Suffolk is embarking on a State-sponsored Countywide master plan to explore the infrastructure upgrades needed to support bus electrification. Suffolk County Transit’s plan to electrify the fleet by 2035 has been updated to 2030 to meet the goals of County Executive Bellone’s Executive Order (NO. 1-2021).

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