Fleet Success Stories: City of Winter Park

Bailey Nolting EV Information, Online Article

As the first planned community in Florida, the City of Winter Park was established in 1882 around the concept of walkability and human scaled urbanism. Since owning a car was a rarity in the 1880s, the city’s founders designed the original plan around the Train Station which was the town’s first constructed building. Future development was patterned off quarter-mile walks situated around the station. In spite of that, transportation is currently a significant contributor (50%) to the city’s community-wide Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Climate resiliency efforts emphasizes the need for commuters to choose more sustainable transportation options.

The Winter Park Natural Resources & Sustainability Department is responsible for the overall operation and management of sustainable initiatives. They recently updated the Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) that was adopted by the city commission in January 2023. The SAP provides high level objectives with actions for achieving the approved goals. Baseline data is included in the SAP allowing the city to establish metrics to track its progress. Transportation is addressed in its own section of the SAP, but also considered in the climate resiliency and energy sections.

The city maintains a GHG emissions inventory that consists of all major direct and indirect GHG emissions generated within their organizational boundary. Transportation-related (50%) and electricity consumption-related (46%) activities contribute to the largest portion of GHG emissions in the city. As a municipally owned-utility, the Winter Park Electric Utility is uniquely situated to increase the percentage of its energy portfolio coming from renewable and clean alternative sources. Transitioning to 80% renewable energy for all electricity and transportation by 2035 may be more feasible and accessible for the City of Winter Park than many of its neighbors, given that it has purchasing power over its electricity. The city has also implemented policies within its Land Development Code which requires infrastructure readiness for vehicle charging stations for new development. The intent of this code is to facilitate and encourage the use of electric vehicles and to expedite the establishment of a convenient, cost-effective electric vehicle infrastructure that will also accommodate future technology advancements.

City fleet gasoline and diesel consumption has remained generally stable since the baseline year of 2012. In 2020, there was a decrease in both unleaded gasoline and diesel due to the pandemic. As expected, in 2022 the average consumption increased post-pandemic. The SAP contains a goal to steadily decrease fleet gasoline and diesel consumption over the next decade with the establishment of fleet electrification initiatives. In 2024, the City of Winter Park is committed to establishing a policy that creates a vehicle replacement and purchase-tiered structure that prioritizes zero tail pipe emissions. Vehicles with high fuel efficiencies would further help fleet electrification and fuel usage reduction. The city plans to expand EV charging stations that would be used for both city employees and the general public. The Transportation and Urban Form section of the SAP is focused on increased connectivity and encouraging healthier, more active forms of transportation such as walking or bicycling and the use of mass transit such as a LYNX bus or SunRail commuter trains. The SAP encourages residents, businesses and visitors to transition to electric and less carbon-intensive modes of transportation to achieve a level of air quality that is healthy for all.

The city is determined to achieve their sustainability goals both internally (with vehicle procurement requirements) and externally (by raising public awareness) about EVs. The city fleet currently has 11 electric vehicles, with more on backorder. This is an increase from only one in 2019, progressing to eight in 2021. The fleet manager recently installed several more charging stations for the city’s EVs, with the expectation of even more in the coming year.

In recognition of National Drive Electric Week, the city’s Natural Resources & Sustainability Department presented its 1st Annual Sustainability Fair & EV Car Show. City Vice Mayor, Shelia DeCiccio, kicked-off the event with opening remarks and asked EV drivers to “beep their horns.” City Commissioner Todd Weaver also gave remarks and recognized event sponsors Fields BMW of Winter Park, Holler Hyundai, Audi North Orlando and Genesis North Orlando. Hundreds of people from the community attended and had the opportunity to learn more about EVs from the over 31 EV owners participating in the show. A new electric school bus from Orange County Public Schools was also on display.

Outputs and Outcomes

As a result of the city’s efforts, an EV Charging Infrastructure Readiness Ordinance (3203-21, 3204-21) was adopted. In addition, the Building and Permitting Department’s entire fleet has been electrified. Electric vehicle charging stations are now available to the public throughout the city currently at no cost.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

In order to begin their fleet electrification journey and continued purchases of EV’s, the City of Winter Park has relied heavily on their community partners and neighbors. As a smaller entity, they often coordinate with Orange County and neighboring municipalities with such sustainability efforts.

As a Department, having a good relationship with their fleet management has been invaluable as they continue to transition their fleet vehicles. Without city administration and commission support, they could not have acquired as many EVs as they have, along with the necessary infrastructure for charging the vehicles. The SAP included goals and tracking measures to ensure the city is making progress. Because this document takes many of the city’s departments into account, it allows for collaboration on all efforts. This is important as the city would like to increase employee use of EVs as personal vehicles. Education around EV’s has been paramount for both residents and city staff. Through engagement events, the city is able to host productive conversations about EVs and the transition process.

As the city continues to increase their EV infrastructure, the importance of having their own utility provider makes the process of integration seamless. Having staff capacity to maintain both public and city facing stations is another important maintenance aspect to consider. Because of how popular EVs have become in Winter Park, their stations have high use that require regular maintenance. Having the ability to keep stations operating is crucial for their residents and visitors.

By continuing to build on these best practices and remain adaptive to new developments in the field of EVs and green technologies, the City of Winter Park sets a regional example for sustainable and environmental initiatives.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to the City of Winter Park Natural Resources & Sustainability Department – Gloria Eby, Director; Sara Miller, Sustainability Manager; and, Mia Brady, Sustainability Specialist; and to Clarissa Howard, Director of the City of Winter Park Communications Department, for sharing their story.