Electric vehicle expo draws agencies from around region to brainstorm on electrification challenge

Newark Liberty International Airport had an unusual assemblage of vehicles parked outside it this week when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hosted its third annual fleet expo.

Government leaders and transit agencies came from across the region and the world to Newark airport for the Port Authority’s third annual electric vehicle fleet expo, where industry experts and more than 400 attendees seeking to accelerate zero-emissions adoption learned about an all-electric future for everything from golf carts to bulldozers.

Regional, national and international agencies gathered last month to share ideas and inspiration as the transportation world collectively moves toward a more sustainable future. The event included speakers from the U.N., U.S Department of Energy, Quebec government, British embassy, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, New Jersey Clean Cities, New Jersey Transit, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Department of Transportation gathered to hear internationally recognized speakers, who noted the agency’s trailblazing work so far.

“Events like this help us brainstorm ideas that support our goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” Christopher Diamond, the Port Authority’s sustainability director, said. “It’s important to have open discussions with other agencies to learn from each other and reach a common goal.”

In 2018, the Port Authority joined the Paris climate accords, becoming the first U.S. transportation agency to do so. The agency then upped the ante by committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, releasing its plans during Climate Week 2023 on how to meet that goal. A key component: Accelerating the electrification of its light duty nonemergency fleet to a full conversion by 2028. Another factor: Encouraging or incentivizing its operational partners to adopt electric vehicle usage whenever possible.

Many companies, both American and Canadian, were eager to show off the latest that their burgeoning industry has to offer.

A panel featuring New York and New Jersey transit agencies led by Diamond found common ground in existing challenges, especially around converting medium- and heavy-duty vehicles like snow cleaners, buses and emergency vehicles. Those vehicles tend to require more energy than light-duty vehicles and have seen a more limited development across the market. To work around these challenges, the MTA, the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Port Authority discussed the potential for renewable diesel to gradually begin reducing emissions while the market progresses around electric heavy-duty vehicles.