Aug 25th, 2021

Farm to Fleet: How Cruise Powers Its Self-Driving Cars With Clean Energy From Family Farms

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. But, 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 in its mission to provide a more sustainable and safer future of transportation. 

We call it Farm to Fleet, our program to intentionally purchase renewable energy credits directly from farms in California’s Central Valley to power our fleet of all-electric self-driving vehicles in San Francisco. This program is another step towards our vision of a cleaner transportation future for all; a future that, at scale, could equate to removing 2.9 million gas-powered cars from our 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 — our highest source of emissions — and create new jobs as we do it.

But what is most unique is it creates a pathway for communities to benefit from AV/EV adoption in a very material way — every mile Cruise drives will now be putting money in the pockets of California farmers. 

In 2019, we became the first (and only) AV company to not only commit to an all-electric fleet, but also to power our fleet with 100 percent renewable energy. Farm to Fleet is the result of our effort to take that one step further by expanding the benefits of our fleet to more communities today — making our presence more than just an immediate benefit to the cities that will experience Cruise vehicles first.

With the Central Valley playing an outsized role cleaning California’s grid, we saw an opportunity to bridge these two iconic American sectors — technology and agriculture. Farm to Fleet is a vehicle to rapidly reduce urban transportation emissions while generating new revenue for California’s farmers leading in renewable energy.

Cruise owns and operates our EV chargers, which allows us to make company-wide energy decisions that impact our fleet and benefit the public. That’s where Farm to Fleet comes in. 

Cruise began sourcing our solar renewable energy credits (RECs) from farms in California's Central Valley that generate their own solar power on-site earlier this spring — farms like Sundale Vineyards, a third-generation table and wine grape farm outside Tulare, and Moonlight, a family-owned fruit orchard near Fresno. Sundale and Moonlight recognize the value in sustainability, evidenced by investment in low emission farm equipment, low-drip irrigation, and advanced cold storage. While both farms lead on innovative sustainable agriculture, their incorporation of solar is transformative.  

Sundale has installed 2 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity to, in part, power their 200,000 ft² of cold storage — the same panels that generate the RECs that Cruise uses to power its fleet. Meanwhile, to power its state-of-the-art sorting and storage facilities, Moonlight has installed a combined 3.9 MW of solar arrays and two battery storage systems, offsetting electricity use by over 50% and generating RECs that Cruise purchases.

Through this initiative, every mile that Cruise drives in California helps to directly generate economic opportunity for farmers. And, this program could not be more timely. As California faces increasingly harsh droughts and water shortages exacerbated by climate change, Farm to Fleet provides an avenue for rural communities to create sustainable new revenue streams that are not dependent on crop yields or market price benchmarks.     

But what’s most exciting is how Farm to Fleet can scale. Cruise worked with BTR Energy, a clean energy technology company leveraging data to reduce carbon emissions, in order to measure the potential impact Farm to Fleet would have on carbon emissions and on our economy. The results were astounding:  

  • Even under moderate vehicle miles traveled growth, an all-EV ridehailing fleet charged by renewables could reduce 5.5M metric tons of CO2 in California per year by 2030. That’s 22% of the estimated total needed to reach CA’s emission reduction target.

  • Initial revenue projections from Farm to Fleet ranged from $13.3M to $22.5M in 2025, but rapidly scaled to $74.4M-$104.2M by 2035 — gains that could go to REC producing farms like Moonlight and Sundale.

As we strive for a greener, more sustainable future, creative approaches to electrification like Farm to Fleet can expand the benefits of clean energy for all. We can invite everyone into this vision and create new jobs in the process — and we'll be better for it.