NREL’s Ted Sears Supports White House Effort To Convert Federal Fleet to Electric Vehicles

Dec. 16, 2021

Photo of a man standing next to an electric vehicle and about to plug in the car's charging cable
Ted Sears (pictured) is helping to advance the White House's fleet electrification goals, including milestones and directives to enable federal fleet managers to craft EV action plans. Photo courtesy of Ted Sears

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) fuel and vehicle regulations expert Ted Sears has been tasked with supporting the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in efforts to convert the federal fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

The appointment follows a January 2021 Biden Administration executive order that set a goal of achieving 100% acquisition of zero-emission federal fleet vehicles.

Sears’ work to date is already having an impact. A Dec. 8, 2022, federal sustainability executive order by President Biden contains additional guidance on the fleet transition—much of which Sears himself helped sculpt.

“It is an exciting time for sure. We have an opportunity to accelerate the conversion of the broader U.S. vehicle fleet by jump-starting the number of electric vehicles in federal, state, local, and tribal fleets and grow the requisite infrastructure,” Sears said. “In so doing, we can advance opportunities in the U.S. manufacturing sector while concomitantly reducing emissions from the transportation sector by leveraging emissions reductions in the power sector.”

Working through the U.S. Department of Energy, Sears is now coordinating next steps on a broad range of activities to support the administration’s lead-by-example transition to a 100% zero-emission vehicle fleet. The executive orders are also steering Sears to seek opportunities for state, Tribal, and local fleet vehicles.

Jump-Starting the Move to Climate-Friendly Mobility

Given the sheer number of vehicles involved in the effort, the move is also intended to ignite broader production and deployment of EVs and associated technologies across the vehicle transportation sector. In the long run, that could drive even more consequential drops in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ted is perfect for this job not only because of his technical knowledge in executing federal fleet policy, but also because of his strong relationships with federal fleet managers, the General Services Administration, and national lab technical experts,” said Margo Melendez, manager of NREL’s Sustainable Transportation Integration Group. “He’s well equipped to develop and draft policy that captures the fleet electrification goals of the White House and fast-tracks the move to climate-friendly mobility.”

This will not be the first time Sears has applied his talents in law and regulation to the realm of transportation policy. Since coming to NREL in 2008, Sears has overseen the State and Alternative Fuel Provider Fleet Program, an offshoot of the Federal Energy Policy Act known for seeding new markets for alternative fuel vehicles and technologies.

Sears has also served as the task lead for the Sustainable Federal Fleets Program, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). In that role, he helped develop approaches for implementing the Obama Administration’s fleet policies, while assisting federal agencies complying with requirements on efficient fleet management and increased use of alternative fuels.

NREL “Primed” for the National Need

Sears’ position at NREL gives him access to abundant transportation and vehicle data to inform his efforts, not to mention connections to a deep bench of experts at NREL and across the national laboratory system who specialize in overcoming technical obstacles for rolling out advanced transportation technologies. For instance, NREL staff already manage key aspects of FEMP’s Federal Fleet Program and federal vehicle deployment projects.

NREL also offers technical support for alternative fuel vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and more. Already Sears has worked closely with the NREL team, who has developed models and tools CEQ is employing to craft policy directions, goals, and means for federal agencies to plan to address the large task ahead for their fleets.

“I’m thrilled to be involved, and I’m confident we can craft an aggressive EV blueprint that is achievable for the federal fleet, especially with the full weight of NREL expertise behind the effort,” Sears said. “I know firsthand that NREL is primed for this type of national need.”

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