Tarrant County is taking the first step toward electrifying its vehicle fleet after county commissioners unanimously approved the creation of a working group and pilot program Aug. 30. 

The new policy sets Tarrant County up for future grant funding to develop electrification infrastructure, especially when it comes to building more charging stations, said Susan Young, who started as the county’s mobility coordinator earlier this year. 

“With electric vehicle fleet adoption, fleet managers will no longer need to budget for oil changes, transmission fluid flushes, or other engine fluid replacements,” Young wrote in a report to commissioners. “When all the factors are calculated, the total cost of operation provides a potential for long-term savings for Tarrant County.” 

The county will soon purchase five different electric vehicles as part of a pilot program to test out the potential cost savings of each type, Young said. The project began during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a staff working group focused on electrification has already started meeting. 

“The working group is going to be looking at what policies the county needs to have in place when we purchase these vehicles,” Young told the Report. “We will purchase vehicles from county funds, and then we will make sure that we have policies in place for operations tracking and management.” 

Young and the working group will also develop a plan to make charging stations more available to the public and the county’s workforce, with a focus on “equitable access to reduce environmental impacts on underserved communities,” according to the Aug. 30 resolution. 

Eventually, the working group will determine the most appropriate approach to transition the county’s fleet to electric if warranted, per the new policy. 

Commissioners Devan Allen and Roy Charles Brooks championed the policy as part of their roles as co-chairs of the North Texas Electric Transportation Compact, which launched in February. The group, which last met Aug. 31, brings together vehicle fleet managers from government agencies, corporations and other institutions to discuss regional trends and learn best practices for transitioning to electric. 

The compact helped both Dallas and Tarrant county staff develop resolutions to move forward with electrification, said Brandy O’Quinn, the compact’s program manager. Dallas County commissioners approved a similar resolution in June. 

“This is a step in the right direction,” O’Quinn said. “It took two of our commissioners in Tarrant County to really be passionate about this and want to move the needle. When Susan joined, she had a lot of knowledge about how to advance policy, so she hit the ground running. It was great because everything aligned beautifully to make this happen.” 

County staff will report back to the commissioners court at an undetermined date with its initial findings. At the request of Commissioner Gary Fickes, the working group will also support potential mechanisms to ensure electric vehicle owners contribute to road construction and maintenance. 

Texas legislators are exploring a potential tax for electric vehicle owners to replace gasoline tax revenue, which funds road maintenance across the state. Fickes, who spoke out about the need for electric vehicle fees in February, said the issue will have to be addressed at the state level, not county.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter.

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Haley Samsel

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She previously covered the environment for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She grew up in Plano and graduated from American University,...