The government has made progress in meeting requirements in law—some dating back three decades—to reduce gas consumption and greenhouse emissions by its vehicles but “several challenges may hinder” further progress, GAO has said.
Technological advancements have produced a variety of vehicles that run on alternative fuels, but “agencies have had to balance costs, availability of alternative fuel vehicles that meet agencies’ needs, and other issues with their efforts to meet these requirements,” a report said.
Agency fleets include more than 600,000 domestic vehicles that traveled over 4.5 billion miles in 2017, said GAO. Alternative fuel vehicles now make up about 38 percent of that total but only about a tenth of those are gas/electric hybrids, while fewer than 1 percent are plug-in electric vehicles which have the least tailpipe emissions and use no gasoline. “The costs of these vehicles and charging infrastructure make it challenging for agencies to acquire them on a large scale,” GAO said.
GAO said that agencies also have taken steps including reducing usage of vehicles; eliminating vehicles or replacing them with more fuel-efficient ones; replacing larger vehicles with smaller ones; and encouraging drivers to reduce time vehicles spend idling. However, agency officials told GAO that such steps also have their limits; the government will always have a need for a certain number of large heavy-duty vehicles, for example.
In the year studied, agencies still were under a 2015 executive order setting targets for acquiring vehicles that run on fuels other than petroleum or that use it more efficiently, and for reducing petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions by certain amounts. The target numbers in that order have since been revoked and replaced with guidance emphasizing that agencies should focus on the requirements of law while increasing efficiency, optimizing performance, and reducing waste and costs.