At the end of 2021, US President Joe Biden set the federal government on a path to being more sustainable with an executive order that among other goals included only buying emissions-free vehicles. For light-duty cars and trucks, that has to happen by 2027, with a deadline of 2035 for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. And it’s a pretty significant fleet—currently the US government has more than 600,000 cars and trucks.
Most of the headlines regarding government trucks being electrified have concerned the US Postal Service, where an intransigent Postmaster General paid mostly lip service to the idea of an EV fleet until finally bowing to public pressure earlier this year. More quietly, other government departments and agencies have gotten on with acquiring some EVs and working out how they fit their needs, and anecdotally, I can say I’m starting to see a few EVs with government license plates driving in the DC area.
One of the latest arms of the federal government to get electrocurious is the US Forest Service, which last week reached out to Ars to let us know it’s just starting a yearlong experiment with a trio of Ford F-150 Lightnings—the first time it has tried using any battery EVs in the field.
The trucks will operate in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, the Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan, and White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, all part of the USFS’s eastern region. (For scale, the USFS eastern region has a fleet of 1,489 vehicles, part of the entire USFS fleet of 18,250 in total.)
Over the course of the next 12 months, USFS staff will use the vehicles in day-to-day operations, providing weekly feedback in the form of surveys that record how the vehicles are used, the weather conditions, the kinds of roads, and any bugs that crop up or maintenance that’s required.
The USFS’s Northern Research Station in Madison, Wisconsin, is collecting those surveys and will compare them to data from forest districts that use conventional trucks ahead of formulating a plan to implement President Biden’s 2027 goal.