March 22, 2017

New Mexico Utility Sparks Change with Fleet Electrification

There is no silver bullet, no perfect vehicle technology to meet all fleet needs, but PNM is pushing the envelope.      
Frank Burcham, Land of Enchantment Clean Cities Coordinator

The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) provides electricity for more than 500,000 residential, commercial, and tribal customers. In addition to delivering power, PNM is inspiring fleets and vehicle owners in their community to consider electric drive vehicles.

With a fleet comprised of about 700 vehicles that travel 5 million miles annually, PNM has always looked for ways to cut fuel use. As a founding member of the Land of Enchantment Clean Cities coalition (LECC) and covered fleet under the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Policy Act (EPAct) State and Alternative Fuel Provider Fleet Program, PNM considered fleet electrification for years, even piloting one of the first EV pickups available in the 1980s. Recent vehicle technology advancements made a more substantial transition a reality. PNM began incorporating PHEV sedans, including the Ford Fusion and C-MAX and Chevrolet Volt, into the fleet beginning in 2013.

With the release of VIA Motors' extended-range PEV pickup truck, PNM partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2013 to cover the $60,000 per vehicle incremental cost for three VIA pickups. The fleet purchased an additional three vehicles without financial support. In 2014, PNM acquired their first heavy-duty electric drive service trucks. Employing electric boom technology from Versalift and Altec, the fleet currently operates 16 electric bucket trucks, with six more on order.

Driven by Edison Electric Institute's Fleet Electrification Initiative, which requires utilities to dedicate 5% of annual fleet purchases to PEVs, PNM plans to continue along this path. "Whenever we have the opportunity to replace a vehicle, we look to PEVs," said Fleet Manager Dave Fisher. "Our fleet's success was a combination of timing, new technologies, and a management team that fully supports our efforts."

To charge their vehicles, PNM installed Level 2 EVSE at four of its facilities, including the PNM offices in downtown Albuquerque, where charging is also available to the public. In addition, thanks to an introduction made by LECC, PNM is partnering with Nissan to install 11 public DC fast charging stations along the Rio Grande corridor from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.

As a result of their electric drive vehicles, PNM is averting 606 tons of greenhouse gas emissions on an annual basis, and has achieved a cost savings of $166,347 per year. In addition, PNM's telematics system--which is used to monitor fleet performance, track driver behavior, and inform driver training--has improved the fleet's average fuel economy by 15%.

These activities also align with the EPAct State and Alternative Fuel Provider fleet Program requirements. Under the Program's Standard Compliance method,alternative fuel provider fleets like PNM must ensure that at least 90% of their annual non-excluded light-duty vehicle acquisitions are light-duty alternative fuel vehicles. Medium- and heavy-duty electric drive vehicle acquisitions, as well as investments in fueling infrastructure, also count toward compliance under the Program.

Through connections with LECC, PNM is sharing their knowledge of PEVs with other fleets, offering free charging installations to fleets in their service territory, and promoting the vehicles at state fairs and other events. "Through Clean Cities, you always get the inside scoop," Fisher said.

"There is no silver bullet, no perfect vehicle technology to meet all fleet needs, but PNM is pushing the envelope," said LECC Coordinator Frank Burcham. "They are seeing huge benefits and spreading the word to others."

A photo of a PNM plug in electric vehicle in front of a mesa.