Santa Monica’s Reduced-Emissions Fuels Policy for City Vehicle Purchases

In December 1993 the City Council adopted a Reduced-Emissions Fuels (REF) Policy for City vehicle purchases which recommends that the City purchase REF vehicles whenever possible in accordance with the findings of an operational review conducted by staff. In addition it directs staff to conduct an annual operational analysis to ensure that recommended fuel types are consistent with current technology. This policy was introduced as a way to help the City achieve its goal of having at least 75% of the City’s fleet vehicles powered by REFs by the year 2000.

The initial operational review included an analysis of REF types and an evaluation of the applicability of REF vehicles to particular City functions. The review concluded that the primary preferred fuel type for City vehicles should be compressed natural gas (CNG) based on fuel availability, vehicle availability, emission characteristics and environmental impacts. The review recommended that public safety, emergency response and specialty vehicles be excluded from consideration due to cost and performance concerns. Accordingly, the vehicle purchasing policy only applies to Fleet vehicles and does not include Police, Fire or Transportation Department vehicles.

Shortly after this policy was instituted, operational, maintenance and user acceptance problems were encountered with some converted REF vehicles (vehicles originally designed to run on gasoline or diesel converted to run on REFs). To address this problem, the policy was modified in 1995 to specify the purchase of only OEM (original equipment manufactured) REF vehicles.

Since the adoption of the REF Vehicle Purchasing Policy, the City has increased its purchase of REF vehicles, but not at a pace that will meet the City’s 75% goal by the year 2000. Because of this, the policy was recently revised and updated and is now known as the Vehicle Management Program. The Vehicle Management Program, which was approved by City Council in June 1996 as part of the City’s fiscal year 1996-97 budget, provides a systematic policy for the purchase, maintenance and retirement of City fleet vehicles.

Under the lead of the Environmental and Public Works Management Department, City staff have drafted the Vehicle Management Program in an effort to upgrade the City’s aging fleet, reduce costs, provide accountability for fleet costs, improve fleet maintenance services, and, as stated above, to help attain the alternative-fueled vehicle target specified in the Sustainable City Program. The policy institutes a program that establishes a replacement schedule for all fleet vehicles and non-emergency Fire Department vehicles (excludes Police, Transportation, and emergency Fire Department vehicles) based on the remaining useful life, maintenance history and use of the vehicle. The replacement program specified in this policy schedules and funds regular replacement of all vehicles, provides information on vehicle replacement and operating costs to departments, and will ensure attainment of the Sustainable City Program goal of 75% of the fleet powered by alternative fuels by the year 2000.