Located in the San Joaquin Valley, with Fresno to the north and Bakersfield to the south, the City of Porterville, California, serves as a gateway to Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Kings Canyon National Park, and as a vital pit stop for travelers along the Great Western Divide Highway. With a community of more than 66,000 residents, Porterville has a small-scale transit system with nine fixed routes that serve as a central access point for travelers – providing transportation for approximately 600,000 passengers annually. Contributing to the acceleration of California’s nation-leading commitment to a zero-emission future–by requiring all new passenger vehicles to be electric by 2035–the City of Porterville took advantage of its strategic location along key transportation routes. With its efforts to lead in municipal sustainability, Porterville deployed electric vehicle (EV) charging with help from its supporters and partners and has established itself as a resource in EV charging for not only the local transit authority but for businesses, homeowners, renters, and other government entities.
“Embracing new technology like EV charging has turned The City of Porterville into a pioneer and leader in the charge to transition to clean transportation,” said Richard Tree, executive director at Tulare County Regional Transit Agency. “The urgency to improve the air quality in our community demanded more from us, and we were quick to adopt the EV fleet program and expand our EV charging footprint. In collaboration with the partners and vendors who have supported our efforts, we now have a flexible infrastructure that will allow us to grow and expand as needed in the future.”
With one of the poorest air quality ratings in central California, elected officials in Porterville felt an urgent need to phase out carbon emissions for the health, betterment, and future of their community. In 2014, city officials pledged to begin the transition to zero emissions, citing the importance of operating clean vehicles to improve air quality and reverse the environmental impact of carbon emissions. Porterville officials began pursuing federal and state funding to supply their urban transit system with EV charging stations with this goal in mind. As a small town competing for resources with much larger California cities, like San Diego and Los Angeles, city leaders in Porterville took decisive steps early on to secure funding support for EV infrastructure.
With a mixed fleet of electric vehicles and the need for charging stations, the City of Porterville faced several compatibility and management issues. Additionally, twelve newly installed stations were inoperable at one point due to communication issues among the provider companies and their technology platforms. Fleet management and IT service personnel in the city also faced a learning curve when it came to managing their new EV ecosystem effectively. City officials had little knowledge of how a network service provider should support station monitoring, demand response, and collecting accurate data to share with SoCal Edison, an essential condition of participating in the latter’s Charge Ready incentive program.
“The initial challenge was getting funding to convert our small-scale transit system to electric. We fought alongside major metropolitan cities, and we received the resources we requested because we reacted quickly and were first in line. We prioritized making a change in our community and reducing our overall carbon footprint,” Richard Tree, executive director at Tulare County Regional Transit Agency. “However, the further we got into the deployment, the more issues arose. It was clear we didn’t know much about EVs. Through our collaboration with EV Connect as a network service provider, we quickly found the path we needed to take and how to ensure that this endeavor would bring value to the community.”
The project’s initial phase began in partnership with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which awarded a $10 million grant under its pilot program for zero-emission heavy-duty equipment. Soon after, Porterville secured additional funding from the San Joaquin Valley Air Control District to facilitate the purchase of EVs and charging stations and partnered with SoCal Edison to offer rebates on equipment purchases. Once funding was secured and the program gained momentum, the city transitioned its micro-transit service (a ride-share-style fleet shuttle service) to 100% zero-emission vehicles. It eventually opened up the potential for more development and set Porterville on a path to opening the charging stations for public use.
Additionally, Porterville started working with EV Connect to deploy the company’s flexible EV fleet management solution to control costs, support operations, and provide reliable charging to site owners and drivers. The EV Connect software platform employs remote management and analytics innovations to ensure consistent and dependably operating charging sites.
“It is not a matter of if, but when we see the rapid expansion of charging facilities required to support the growing number of electric vehicles on the road, and to support that, we needed a reliable and scalable charging network,” said Richard Tree, executive director at Tulare County Regional Transit Agency. “When it came to monitoring these stations, we recognized that EV Connect was on the same trajectory and had corresponding values in bringing smart charging, load management, and dependability to owners and operators, and do so at scale.”
The city’s vision to provide EV charging stations for its community and make it as efficient as possible required a cutting-edge system. Through the EV Connect platform, Porterville was able to set the city’s electric fleet up for success and ensure cost-effective pricing for public use, further bolstering the ability of residents to transition to emissions-free vehicles.
On behalf of Porterville, EV Connect coordinated between multiple equipment vendors to resolve interoperability issues promptly and optimized the city’s charging schedule, including designated charging hours for the local school district. EV Connect also provided technical expertise to ensure that charging stations are reliable and that any technical issues were resolved quickly. Through the EV Connect fleet solution, The City of Porterville & CalStart have access to enhanced capabilities, including real-time charger and vehicle data insights, automatic and manual charging prioritization options, and energy management controls to help mitigate on-peak energy costs. EV Connect was also able to ensure that SoCal Edison received the data it needed and supported the city’s participation in SCE’s Demand Response program through OpenADR integrations.
In addition to electrifying more than twenty fleet vehicles ranging from vans to buses, the City of Porterville can now optimize its charging schedules for demand response, manage charging costs, and ensure uptime across a multi-vendor charging environment that serves the EV charging needs of public and private fleet customers.
“Partnerships and shared visions have been central to the success of this program,” said Richard Tree, executive director at Tulare County Regional Transit Agency. “Utilizing EV Connect’s charging management solution allowed us to add more electric school buses to our fleet and quickly integrate them into our network and track them individually. The success of this program means that we can focus on an even broader view of what our community can accomplish in the future.”
Alongside its partners, Porterville now operates a practical and versatile EV charging infrastructure with ever more ways for residents to access reliable charging. The city no longer needs to navigate multiple vendors to chase down and resolve technical issues because it now has a simple, multi-fleet management tool with flexible pricing and support on a unified platform. The Porterville transit system is currently set up to fuel its twelve Lightening vans, ten Green Power buses, and two Thomas Built school buses with 24 Level-3 charging stations from BTC and Tritium. The stations are also open to the general public.
Through its EV program, the City of Porterville has saved drivers more than 9,257 gallons of gasoline, powered over 384,977 electric miles, and prevented more than 82,330 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. In just the last year, over 6,000 charge sessions have been initiated.