In The Media

A Better Plan for Zero Emissions Fleet Conversions from the Start

Research, Planning and Design Are Key No Matter the Pilot Project Size

Fleet owners across North America are considering or actively pursuing a transition to zero emissions vehicles. For many, small steps such as installing a charging station or purchasing a handful of buses seem an easy way to start. Expert Rob Mowat explained in an article in the November 2020 issue of Mass Transit, however, that developing a comprehensive roadmap at the beginning of the process is a much more effective and efficient way to transition.

Mowat, our zero emissions mobility practice lead, discussed the importance of this long-term planning and how to avoid common pitfalls.

An effective fleet transition plan, Mowat wrote, should include long-term goals, whether that’s whole-fleet conversion, a specific emissions target or some other strategic goal. Skipping the research, planning and design steps needed to reach these larger goals may seem like a time saver, but in reality, it leads to one of the biggest causes of lost time and money for fleet owners: the scaling trap.

zero emissions scaling trap

As with any effort involving new technology, a transition to zero emissions vehicles follows a technology adaptation S-curve, from idea to full implementation. Every step is important, necessary and builds on the previous step. But instead of a simple S-curve on the route to implementation, Mowat wrote, many programs are seeing a double or triple S-curve, as roll-out programs start and stall. In zero emissions transitions, this often happens as a result of projects that were designed to test technology or developed just to utilize an available funding source vs. being a strategic element of a larger, community-focused roadmap.

Starting with a holistic, system-wide approach focused on the end goal means any pilot project is actually a validation of the larger plan. If the plan is to store vehicles in a certain way and charge them in a certain way, for instance, then the pilot should be a test of that solution. If it works, the project can increase in scale and move forward, without circling back to the research stage. Starting with longer-range planning means facilities and infrastructure can be sized with future needs in mind, minimizing repeated studies, plans and construction.

electric bus pantograph charger

A well-thought-out roadmap leads to less wasted time and investments, helps garner public and political support, and shows all stakeholders there is a comprehensive plan for not just the near future, but the long term. Read more in Mowat's article, "Planning the Right Zero-Emission Fleet Conversion from the Beginning," in Mass Transit magazine.

Zero Emissions Mobility Practice Lead