Houston Drives EV Green Changes with Perseverance and Partnerships

This post is authored by Margo Evans, Marketing Director, Smith & Associates and Founding Member of Smith Sustainability Group, Lisa Lin, Sustainability Manager, City of Houston, and Jedediah Greenfield, Public Information Officer, City of Houston.

Sustainability is a critical element of the City of Houston's planning. Over the next 15 years, this fourth-largest city in the U.S. is forecasted to see population growth of 15 percent or more. Among these sustainability efforts – branded as "Green Houston" – is the successful and growing EV municipal share-fleet and public EV infrastructure expansion to support and promote EV adoption in Houston.

Growing a green fleet

The City's light-duty fleet share programme boasts over 50 percent hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles– 750 hybrids, 27 Nissan Leaf BEVs and 15 Toyota Prius PHEVs. For Houston, keeping a well-balanced, mixed fleet is important to be able to travel the large distances from one side of the city to the other, as well as across the vast state of Texas. Locally, however, the majority of municipal use is easily handled by EVs and the utilization rate for this green fleet has steadily increased.

Houston's EV success is based on a comprehensive approach: 1) train employees in EV and HEV use; 2) promote an advanced fleet-share reservation system for trips under 70 miles round trip; and 3) expand the city's EV infrastructure to include a widening set of private-sector corporations contributing new EV infrastructure locations.

Houston has also promoted EV availability with a sophisticated online, advanced reservation system for the FleetShare programme. Developed in cooperation with ZipCar, the system supports quick and easy reservations for the roughly 600 municipal employees in the downtown office complex, reducing the number of owned vehicles and maximizing fleet vehicle usage. FleetShare is also serving as a test case for exploring future solutions around public car-sharing programmes.

Partnerships promote Green Houston

The City of Houston actively partners with business leaders for success in delivering its EV strategy. One example is its work with private-sector partners to "fill in the gaps" and extend the reach of the EV charging station infrastructure – a leading roadblock to wide-scale EV adoption. Among the recent winners of the Houston Green Office Challenge is Smith & Associates, who received the award for Overall Winner: Greatest Implementation of Green Building Innovations. One part of the "Greenovation" project at Smith & Associates' Houston headquarters involved the addition of EV charging stations, two corporate-owned Chevrolet Volt EVs, and a green incentive programme, which rewards two top-performing employees with free EV use and reserved, prime parking as part of the broader corporate sustainability management strategy. In this manner, Smith is also raising familiarity with EVs and smart transportation choices in a hands-on way for its employees.

Private businesses are important to the City of Houston's Green Houston strategic plan because the city cannot accomplish its goals and serve the more-than 2.1 million residents in the city limits on its own. The deep collaboration that has been forged between public and private entities is an important part of the real success story that is the City of Houston.

The City of Houston is a participant in C40’s Electric Vehicle Network. To learn more about the Network, click here.