Green Operations

Ames For A Greener Fleet

March 2008, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Shelley Mika

Home to George Washington Carver, inventor of more than 300 uses for the peanut, as well as the inventors of the facsimile and the first electronic digital computer, Iowa State University brings a history of innovation to the town of Ames, Iowa. However, innovation doesn’t begin and end at Iowa State. The City of Ames is making a name for itself by taking strides toward becoming a greener city — starting with the City’s fleet.

Facing the Rise in Fuel Costs

Fleet managers nationwide can relate to the circumstances that led to Ames’ shift toward a more environmentally sound mindset. Two years ago, Paul Hinderaker, director of fleet services for the City of Ames, saw some startling figures — fuel had become the fleet’s largest expense.

With his fleet serving internal customers such as the police force, fire department, public works, water, electric, library, parks, cemetery, and a refuse recycling plant, along with a hospital and two county human service agencies as external customers, Hinderaker knew he had to find a way to counteract rising fuel expenses. "The cost of fuel became the largest single line item in our budget and obviously was taking funds away from our customers’ ability to continue providing services at the same level, so the fuel reduction effort was done to improve the awareness of fuel use and help control fuel costs," Hinderaker said.

Considering that his department operates only on revenues collected from fee-based services — with no other supporting funds from tax dollars or utility revenues — he knew changes needed to be made. Like many fleets, Hinderaker’s team focused future vehicle purchases on fuel efficiency — investing in hybrids, flex-fuel, and electric vehicles. Hinderaker added to his fleet makes and models such as the Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid, Ford Focus, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the Zenn all-electric plug-in car, a neighborhood low-speed vehicle.

Rather than investing in one particular make and model, Hinderaker purchased an array of fuel-efficient vehicles, hoping to find the most appropriate cars for the future of his fleet.

"Purchase decisions are made based on the best fuel efficiency rates and price, but we purchased multiple brands for experimentation," Hinderaker said.

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