Green Operations

Real-World Strategies: A Blueprint for a Greener Future

September 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Ashley Willis

Click here for PDF of full article.

It's time to make your fleet "green." Sure, that's easy to say, but let's face it, to quote Kermit the Frog, "It ain't easy being green!" In this struggling economy, developing and implementing environmentally responsible and fuel-trimming initiatives can appear too costly for already tightened budgets.

Or are they? While the initial costs of developing a green fleet may seem prohibitive, over the long-term, eco-friendly initiatives can result in savings. Additionally, some green-fleet tactics are simple to implement, requiring an investment of time and effort, not cash.

'Green' Vehicles vs. Regular Vehicles

Deploying green vehicles in a fleet  reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants, creating less smog. Implementing green vehicles, such as hybrids and/or electric vehicles, can also save fleets money in fuel consumption. But it must be noted fleet managers cannot simply jump the gun when purchasing these vehicles; rather, researching what vehicles would work best for a fleet is a must.

In 2005, as part of operational cost-saving measures, particularly fuel expense, PepsiCo began using hybrids, specifically the Toyota Prius. The company now operates the second-largest non-government hybrid fleet in the U.S., operating more than 1,250 hybrid vehicles, including the Ford Escape Hybrid.

And because the number of hybrid vehicles in PepsiCo's sales fleet has tripled since 2007, the company has seen a 10-12 percent decrease per vehicle in overall emissions.

Based on its green program's impact  on the sales car fleet, the company will test electric delivery vans and use hybrid refrigerated delivery trucks in select divisions.

When the City of Yuma, Ariz., introduced hybrid vehicles in its fleet, the vehicles were placed in areas sure to provide the city the greatest return. Additionally, when Ford Escape Hybrids were placed in police patrol, the city saw a 50-percent increase in fuel mileage.

Illinois Fleet Central Management Services (IFCMS) Fleet Manager Barb Bonansinga suggests fleets consider coordinating a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) workgroup that reviews PHEVs and transportation. The workgroup should evaluate the feasibility of PHEVs as fleet vehicles.

West Palm Beach-based Florida Power & Light (FPL) first purchased medium-duty hybrids in 2005. Currently, the FPL fleet, comprising 2,900 road-licensed vehicles and 1,600 off-road vehicles, forklifts, and mechanized equipment for power plants, operates more than 60 Class 7 conventional and electric plug-in hybrids, including a gasoline-electric UPS-style, P-Series van and two PHEV trucks. Additionally, FPL aims to add more alternatively powered vehicles in the future. The utility estimated fuel savings can pay for the cost of the hybridization in four years, using $5 per gallon as a base comparison cost.

Conventionally powered vehicles can also be found on a green fleet selector, as Owens Corning, manufacturer of composite and building materials based in Toledo, Ohio, has found. In 2008, the company, which has a history of environmentally responsible actions, decided to involve employees in reducing the company's carbon footprint. In addition, with gasoline prices at the time hovering around the $4 per gallon range, management wanted to review its fleet vehicle options.

For guidance, the company signed up with the PHH GreenFleet Program and switched to the Ford Taurus X crossover and the Ford Escape. Though the company discussed using hybrid vehicles, the larger cargo space provided in the conventionally powered vehicles was needed. However, Owens Corning did see improvements in its GHG emissions, reduced 14.6 percent in the first year of the new vehicles' application. Further, the fleet's average mpg increased from 18.3 to 21.6.

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