Biodiesel and Ethanol

Proven Petroleum Reduction Strategies

March 2012, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Barbara Bonansinga

The State of Washington’s fleet operations department currently manages a fleet of about 2,600 units, primarily passenger vehicles. Almost 52 percent of its fleet consists of hybrids, making it the largest hybrid state government fleet in the nation. By transitioning to hybrids, Washington’s new Department of Enterprise Services (DES), previously known as General Administration, is successfully meeting its goals to reduce petroleum use, cut costs, and shrink its carbon footprint.

Fleet’s petroleum use is down about 26 percent since 2005. Fleet manager for the Washington DES, Bryan Bazard, broke down the savings this way: “In fiscal-year 2011, the fleet drove more than 23.6 million miles; the average fleet vehicle fuel economy was 25 mpg. Averaging cost per gallon of gasoline at $3.50, we spent more than $3.3 million on fuel. When fleet fuel economy averaged 20.3 mpg as it did in 2005, we would have spent more than $4 million, or an additional $767,000.”

Bazard added that the change reflected a larger shift within the state.  

“In 1995, the Washington fleet started transitioning to higher efficiency, bi-fuel vehicles and fuels, such as E-85; however, the fuel infrastructure for E-85 was lacking, resulting in limited use. So, we transitioned to vehicles with better overall fuel economy, specifically hybrid,” Bazard said.   

According to Bazard, the underlying reason for the move was economic. “Hybrids replaced full-size SUVs, then smaller gasoline-powered SUVs and took the place of conventionally powered station wagons,” he said.

Washington DES does not receive funding from the state legislature. Instead, it is funded through the rates it charges user agencies for goods and services. In the case of vehicles, DES has transitioned to a model where it owns all fleet vehicles and leases them back to user agencies at rates based on the total cost of ownership. Bazard noted the state’s cost of a hybrid sedan is now less than the state’s cost of a conventional gasoline-powered sedan (see table, Fleet Vehicle Long-Term Rental Rates). 

Lease rates are calculated based on identified administrative costs, depreciation, fuel, maintenance, and interest charges.  

In terms of performance and reliability, Bazard said the hybrid experience has been successful as well. “We’ve had great results with the Toyota Prius that fleet slates for replacement at intervals of about 115,000 miles, although we have run some of them up to 160,000 miles without issues,” Bazard said.

He noted only one hybrid required a battery replacement; it was a domestic brand and the failure occurred within a month of purchase and was fully warranted by the manufacturer.  

As for battery disposal, Bazard said spent batteries would be sent back to OEM dealers. The only other concern relates to the degradation of the chassis on a limited number of domestic hybrids and had nothing to do with the hybrid systems. He also said the Prius has been significantly cheaper to maintain compared to conventional vehicles.  
“They almost never need brakes, due to the regenerative braking system that assists the conventional brakes, leaving tires and oil changes as the primary maintenance expenses,” Bazard noted. 

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