Green Operations

City of Seattle Moves to an All-Green Fleet

January 2010, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

The City of Seattle continues to lead the “green” charge toward a healthier future. The City’s history of operating environmentally responsible vehicles makes it a vanguard in sustainability.
City efforts started in 1992 when officials began adding cars that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), a cleaner-burning fuel, to cut down on smog-forming emissions.

By 2001, the entire diesel fleet had been converted to cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel, and work had started on retrofitting 400 of the City’s heavy-duty trucks with emissions control devices. These two measures alone cut toxics and particulates by about 50 percent per vehicle.

For Earth Day 2003, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council set a long-term goal of a 100-percent clean and green fleet — using advanced technology vehicles and fuels. In fall 2006, Mayor Nickels released the City’s Climate Action Plan, which details plans for continuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and greening the City’s fleets, as well as fleets throughout the community.

“One of the best things the City can do to protect and improve air quality — and to encourage smart fuel and vehicle choices in the community — is to make our own vehicle fleet a model of environmental best practices,” said Chris Wiley, green fleets coordinator of the City of Seattle, a rare position among municipalities, solely dedicated to “greening” the fleet.
The Fleet Services Division centrally manages the City’s vehicle and equipment operations (approximately 4,000 vehicles and equipment) to ensure timely, cost-effective, and high-quality vehicle replacement, maintenance, fueling, and short-term transportation.

Seattle uses a little more than 2.4 million gallons of fuel annually and employs more than 552 advanced-technology and alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet, including 476 hybrid vehicles, 76 CNG-powered vehicles, and 43 off-road electric vehicles (16 of which are Segways).

The City operates approximately 800 diesel-powered vehicles that can run on biodiesel. Of the 58 vehicles in the general-use motor pool, 45 are hybrid or natural gas vehicles, two are electric bikes, plus two Segways for general use.

Alt-Fuel Vehicle Deployment Trims Fuel Use by 7.6%
Since 2003, 78 percent of the City’s new light-duty vehicle purchases have been hybrid or biodiesel vehicles, resulting in higher miles per gallon and significantly lower GHG emissions, as well as several other positive results.

By the end of 2005, Seattle’s overall fuel use was down 7.6 percent compared to 1999, a reduction achieved as the City expanded services and fleet size. At the same time, Seattle also decreased its petroleum component of fuel by more than 12 percent. The petroleum reduction resulted primarily from a switch to blend of 20-percent biodiesel and 80-percent ultra-low sulfur diesel. More fuel savings were realized by replacing ­conventional vehicles with higher-mileage hybrids when possible.

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