Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill. Tom Williams/Pool via AP

President Signs Bill to Allow Electric Vehicle Charges on Government Purchase Cards 

The bipartisan bill saves taxpayers money and boosts energy efficiency, senators say. 

On Thursday, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill that will allow federal employees to use their government purchase cards to charge government-owned electric vehicles, which can save taxpayer dollars and improve energy efficiency. 

The General Services Administration manages the “fleet service cards” that agencies use for repairs and refueling of government leased and owned vehicles. The “Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies Act” requires that GSA issue guidance that says federal employees can use their government cards to charge their federal electric cars––which previously weren’t covered–– at commercial gas stations. Within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, the GSA administrator must issue charge cards to the agencies that can be used for electric vehicle charging. The Senate passed the bill last December and the House passed it on Sept. 14. 

“[The bill] will help save taxpayer dollars in the long run by ensuring the federal government is ready to adopt more electric vehicles into its fleet,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “Electric vehicles have the potential to be more energy efficient and more cost-effective than gasoline-powered vehicles.”

The federal government owned 4,475 electric vehicles (out of a total of 645,047 civilian, military non-tactical and Postal Service vehicles), which had an estimated $4.4 billion in total operating costs in fiscal 2019, a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee aide told Government Executive on Friday.

“Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles can help increase energy security, improve fuel economy, lower fuel costs and reduce emissions,” said the Energy Department’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Capital One estimated that using an electric car over a gas-powered one will save you about $632 per year, though it takes more time to charge an electric vehicle and is often less convenient than pumping gas, and the initial cost is steeper than a gas-powered car. 

Additionally, with the passage of this bill, federal employees will not have to rely on charging their vehicles at government-owned stations and the government won’t have to pay to install charging machines at their stations that do not currently have them, the aide said. 

 “I'm proud that this bipartisan, common-sense bill was signed into law by President Trump so that federal agencies can adopt more energy-efficient electric vehicles,” Portman said. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in September 2019 that implementing the law would have “no significant effect on spending subject to appropriation.”