“Farm to Fleet”
All-electric, self-driving vehicles in San Francisco and family-owned farms in California’s Central Valley may not appear to have much in common. Nestled among citrus groves and vineyards in California’s agriculture heartland are rows of solar panels that are now powering Cruise’s all-electric AV fleet.
Cruise is a shared, self-driving, all-electric vehicle company, which was acquired by General Motors in 2016. Last week the company announced that it is acquiring solar energy to power its fleet of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. The company recently received permission to carry passengers in its driverless test vehicles in San Francisco.
The company’s Farm to Fleet program is an intentional purchase of renewable energy credits directly from farms to power the fleet of all-electric self-driving vehicles. This program could equate to removing 2.9 million gas-powered cars from the roads while providing sustainable revenue and jobs for California’s farms. Farm to Fleet also supports California’s and the Biden Administration’s goal to decarbonize transportation, one of our highest sources of emissions.
The company is also accelerating its commercialization journey with a recent $ 5 billion line of credit granted by GM Financial. Walmart had also invested an undisclosed sum in the autonomous driving company in the past. The partnership of Cruise and Walmart was to help Walmart to achieve its environmental goals. Cruise’s self-driving cars are 100 percent electric, and Walmart has a goal of achieving zero emissions across all its operations by 2040 and using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
To ensure that the already struggling Californian grid can handle the massive fleet size increase that Cruise is planning, the company appears to have no choice but to find creative ways to strengthen the network. As Cruise owns and operates its EV chargers, it allows them to make company-wide energy decisions. The company soon realized that the charging of the entire fleet with a clean energy source like solar could create real financial benefits and economic opportunities.
That’s where Cruise ‘Farm to Fleet’ Program comes in.
“Farm to Fleet is an instrument to rapidly reduce urban traffic emissions while generating new revenue for California’s farmers who are leaders in renewable energy,” said Rob Grant, Cruise’s Vice President of Social Affairs and Global Impact.
As droughts continue to plague California farmers, converting farmland to solar farms is one possible way to help the state meet its climate goals. Cruise pays negotiated contract prices with the farms. The company does not disclose a cost but says it pays no more or less than it would pay for using other forms of renewable energy credits (RECs).
RECs occur when a renewable energy source generates one-megawatt hour of electricity and feeds it into the grid. Cruise began sourcing solar renewable energy credits (RECs) from two farms in California’s Central Valley that generate their own solar power on-site earlier this spring. Currently, farms like Sundale Vineyards, a third-generation table and wine grape farm outside Tulare which has 2 MW Solar Capacity, and Moonlight, a family-owned fruit orchard near Fresno with a combined 3.9 MW of solar panels and two battery storage systems are supporting Cruise.
By purchasing solar credit from solar farms in California, Cruise aims to set a standard for the industry and create demand for renewable energy to motivate more people and companies to do the same.
“Transportation is responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why we announced our Clean Mile Challenge in February, where we asked the rest of the AV industry to report how many kilometers they cover each year using renewable energy,” said Ray Wert. “We hope that others will follow our example.”
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