WASHINGTON – The White House on May 24 released a presidential memorandum that gives federal government fleets a December 31, 2015 deadline for restricting all their light-duty vehicle purchases and leases to solely alternative-fuel vehicles -- unless an agency's mission makes such compliance impractical.

The memorandum is intended to provide guidance for achieving fleet petroleum-reduction goals previously ordered by the Obama administration in October 2009. The document cites hybrid, electric, CNG and biofuel-powered cars as examples of alternative-fuel vehicles. The document also directs federal agencies to encourage development of alternative-fuel commercial infrastructure, and to locate their own fleets near alternative-fuel stations where they can readily fill up.

In addition, the memorandum issued by President Obama directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop and distribute a vehicle allocation methodology within the next 90 days. This methodology will assist federal agencies in selecting vehicle options based on lifecycle analysis, including projected fuel costs, warranty, operations, mileage, maintenance and disposal. The methodology will provide guidance in determining optimum inventory; non-essential vehicles will be eliminated from each agency’s fleet. Moreover, the memorandum states, the methodology will address light-duty vehicle fleet composition based on the individual agency’s mission.

Within 180 days after the GSA distributes the new vehicle allocation methodology to federal agencies, they will need to determine their optimal fleet inventory using that formula and post their inventory targets on their individual agency websites. Within 90 days of receiving agency fleet plans, an administrator will provide each agency and military service with recommendations for the acquisition of alternative-fuel vehicles in accordance with the fleet optimization plan. Shared fleet-on-demand services may be an option in some cases.

These new fleet management plans will be part of each agency’s annual strategic sustainability performance plans, beginning in June of next year.

“The Federal Government operates the largest fleet of light duty vehicles in America,” the memorandum states. “We owe a responsibility to American citizens to lead by example and contribute to meeting our national goals of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025 and putting one million advanced vehicles on the road by 2015.

“Living up to that responsibility means the Federal fleet should operate only as many vehicles as needed to work efficiently, leveraging Federal purchasing dollars to build manufacturing capacity for more alternative fueled vehicles, and reducing petroleum consumption through efficiency and alternative fuels.”

The presidential memorandum’s release coincided with the GSA launch of an electric vehicle pilot program. The pilot is a “targeted investment to incorporate electric vehicles and charging infrastructure into the federal government’s vehicle and building portfolios as a first step to growing the number of electric vehicles in the federal fleet over time,” GSA said. The memorandum and new EV program are both aimed at helping federal agencies implement a 2009 executive order requiring a 30-percent decrease in petroleum consumption.

GSA's EV pilot program calls for 116 plug-in electric vehicles to be leased to 20 agencies, including the departments of Energy, the Navy and the Treasury. The vehicles will be based in five cities: Washington D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. GSA will work with agencies to install charging infrastructure in federal buildings in the five pilot cities.

The pilot's 116 electric plug-in vehicles are expected to annually save almost 29,000 gallons of gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 257 metric tons, and save taxpayers almost $116,000 in fuel costs, GSA said.

The federal government is the nation’s largest vehicle fleet operator, with more than 600,000 vehicles. In addition to procuring vehicles for about two-thirds of the federal fleet, roughly 65,000 vehicles a year, GSA also owns and leases about 210,000 vehicles to federal agencies.

Over the past two years, GSA procured vehicles that were on average almost 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the vehicles they replaced. Last year alone, GSA led the way to doubling the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet without increasing the overall number of vehicles owned by the federal government, according to the agency. Currently, roughly 50 percent of GSA's 210,000 leased vehicles are alternative-fuel vehicles.

In September 2010, GSA released a solicitation for bids on plug-in electric vehicles. Three contracts were awarded – the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and THINK City. The electric pilot vehicles – 101 Volts, 10 Leafs, and five THINK vehicles – are being procured through the awarded contracts.