Sunlight dappling green grass through dense branches, a trip to the farmers’ market with a cloth tote, and the gentle hum of an electric car are all images that come to mind when we hear the word sustainability – but the buzz of a chainsaw or the rumble of a utility vehicle? For Kitchener’s fleet team, it’s all part of the bigger picture.

In line with the City of Kitchener’s Corporate Climate Action Plan, our fleet team is executing a long-term strategy to transition the City’s fleet to more sustainable technology.  But with a diverse fleet ranging from snow plows and large vacuum trucks that service storm and sanitary infrastructure, to small hand tools like edge trimmers and handheld chainsaws, finding more sustainable alternatives is a complex process.

“We serve all the City’s teams, so making sustainable swaps means looking at each piece of equipment, understanding how it’s being used, and determining what options exist for sustainable upgrades without impacting its ability to serve its purpose,” said Matthew Lynch, Kitchener's Director of Fleet.

Balancing equipment needs, available technology, and budget is a unique game of strategy his team gets to play every day. The Canadian climate and availability of sustainable technology for heavy use vehicles are hurdles along the path, but despite these challenges, our team has made remarkable progress in transitioning Kitchener’s fleet.

“Our goal is to electrify what we can, when we can,” said Lynch. “We still want to get the full lifecycle out of our existing equipment, but as new equipment gets cycled in, our goal is to choose electric or hybrid technology whenever we can to help us move towards our goal.”

Tools and vehicles used across our parks, cemeteries, forestry, and horticulture teams are seeing big moves to electric, with approximately 70 per cent of equipment purchased this year alone being electric, including new all-electric utility task vehicles. Early this year, the hand tools the Kitchener Fire Department uses for grounds maintenance transitioned to 100 per cent electric, along with some of their extrication equipment. Since 2016, every passenger vehicle purchased for the City has also been electric. For our fleet team, this is just the beginning.

“We’re constantly looking for the next advancements in technology,” said Matthew Lynch. “For some of our fleet, the scale of equipment might mean electrification isn’t possible yet, but we’re exploring hybrid options, alternate fuels, and other technology to reduce the impact our equipment has on the environment.”

As this transition has been happening, we’ve already seen the payoff, not just in emissions reduction but in staff experience. The electrification of our equipment, particularly the hand tools, has made a real difference for operators. Electric tools are often lighter, more mobile and quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, and don’t emit gas fumes that the operators will breathe in. While contributing to the City’s sustainability goals, these swaps also help us make sure our staff have a safer and more enjoyable work experience every day.

Kitchener Utilities truck in a parking lot
City of Kitchener electric car

As the industry continues to make advances, more opportunities – like all-electric ice resurfacers, which the City will begin cycling into our fleet as existing equipment is retired – present themselves every day. For Lynch and his team, the future of fleet sustainability looks bright.

"We’re keeping our eye on what’s coming next,” he said. “This is work we know will evolve with the industry, but we’re excited about the advances we’re seeing that will help us continue to make the best decisions for the City and our community.”

To learn more about the City of Kitchener’s commitment to sustainability, visit