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MassDEP staff getting overview of their new Battery Electric VehicleIn fall 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the state agency that ensures clean air, land, and water, was preparing its fleet renewal orders when the absence of full battery electric vehicles (BEVs)  was noticed at the most senior level. Commissioner Martin Suuberg believes that the chief environmental regulatory agency in the Commonwealth should include BEVs in its fleet procurements and lead by example. He directed DEP staff to research and ultimately procure five BEVs, one for each of their four regional offices, as well as agency headquarters.

Chris Voss, Director of Administration Services at MassDEP, shared the agency’s BEV journey that included research, implementation, growing pains, lessons learned, and subsequent BEV purchases for the MassDEP fleet.

When initially investigating BEVs, their first order of business was to ensure their BEV selection would support the agency’s requirements. Most often, MassDEP vehicles are used for field inspections where daily routes may run up to 100 miles and include some off-pavement travel. Adequate space for the transport of equipment and protective gear was another consideration. Based on these needs, MassDEP moved forward with the purchase of five Chevrolet Bolts through Statewide Contract VEH98.

Going in, the agency rightfully understood that most staff would be unfamiliar with BEV technology. Arrangements were made for staff to inspect their new purchases and get an overview of the differences drivers were likely to notice when driving a BEV versus a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. Train-the-trainer classroom sessions also were planned where participants went back to their respective locations with knowledge to share with colleagues.

As with anything new, there was some initial apprehension, but overall feedback has been positive. Drivers love the simplicity of using the charging stations at their MassDEP location upon their return. As one driver noted, “It was like having a full tank of gas every time you used the vehicle.” They also like the ease of operation, the large in-dash screen that shows how the vehicle is functioning, and the environmental benefits of using this type of vehicle.

As expected, the agency experienced some growing pains. Early on, there were instances when vehicles might be unplugged before they were fully charged. There also was the challenge of balancing competing charging needs for agency and visitor Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)/BEVs. These issues became more acute when the agency added a second BEV to each of their four regional offices in 2018, for a total of nine BEVs. To help alleviate the problem, the agency decided to equip the vehicles with the DC Fast Charging option (CBT). They hope to add more charging stations per location and upgrade to Fast Charging technology, though cost of those stations is a consideration. MassDEP used Statewide Contract VEH102 to purchase their charging station infrastructure and uses VEH102 for subsequent maintenance and service.

When asked to share some overall recommendations for other organizations considering a switch to PHEVs/BEVs, Chris offered the following:

  • Analyze your needs and identify the PHEV/BEV that best meets those requirements;
  • Prepare and educate your staff in advance; Provide hands-on training;
  • Ensure your charging station infrastructure will support your needs;
  • Develop charging station user policies and procedures;
  • Consider a service contract to maintain your chargers.

Statewide Contract Resources

VEH98 vendors offer many PHEV/BEV makes and models to meet a variety of buyer needs. Review the VEH98 Master Vehicle List for PHEV/BEV options on Statewide Contract. Charging Station infrastructure is available through Statewide Contract VEH102. Refer VEH98 and VEH102 Statewide Contract questions to David Sargeant at 617-720-3118.

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