Helix Water District received its first all-electric, zero-emission, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck — another milestone in the organization’s sustainability plans.
“Converting public and private fleets to zero-emission trucks is a big part of the governor’s plan to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030,” said Helix Director of Operations Kevin D. Miller. “This is a small step, but Helix is heading in the right direction.”
Helix dispatches a fleet of 80 light- and heavy-duty trucks throughout its 50-square-mile service area each day to maintain the district’s pipelines, pump stations and reservoir tanks, and respond to customer calls. Helix field operations crews drive up to 100 miles per day and Ford’s F-150 Lightning has over a 200-mile range.
“Right now, the switch to electric vehicles makes sense in many cases,” said Miller. “Zero-emission technology is advancing and we’re evaluating technologies that meet regulatory requirements, meet our 24/7 and emergency response requirements and keep delivering cost savings to our customers.”
The district ordered its new F-150 prior to recent manufacturer price increases, and rebates helped offset the price difference between the electric and gas-powered models. It is anticipated that electric trucks will also be cheaper to maintain since electric vehicles have fewer moving parts to replace than internal combustion engines.
Additional savings come from not purchasing fuel. The district’s light-duty gasoline trucks have a fuel efficiency of about 20 miles to the gallon and cost 25 cents per mile to drive. Thanks to the district’s power purchase agreements and other investments, the electric trucks will cost less than 10 cents per mile.
Helix began transitioning to a sustainable fleet in 2017 when it purchased seven Toyota Prius plugin hybrids to replace inefficient light-duty work trucks. The hybrids are 400% more fuel efficient than the trucks they replaced. The district also partnered with SDG&E and received grant funding to install on-site charging stations at two of its facilities.
And in 2020, the district switched from diesel to renewable diesel, resulting in decreased emissions, particulates and a noticeable increase in vehicle performance.
“We welcome our first fully electric work vehicle,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The technology has come a very long way, and zero-emission trucks benefit the cities and communities we serve by reducing operational costs, improving air quality and reducing our environmental footprint. Whether developing new water sources or advancing toward a cleaner fleet, I am proud of the district’s sustainability efforts.”