Hybrids – Vehicles, Battery & Hydraulic Technology

Toshiba America Medical Systems Expands Hybrid Fleet

January 2010, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Chad Simon

Over the past three years, Tustin, Calif.-based Toshiba America Medical Systems' (TAMS) fleet has acquired Toyota Camry Hybrids as replacement vehicles.

The Camry Hybrid was a proven vehicle and didn't require a pilot program for his fleet, said Jeff Berg, manager of fleet and travel administration. The Camry was also the largest hybrid sedan on the market at the time, and Berg needed a comfortable car with optimal interior room to accommodate sales staff and clients. He compared the interior dimensions of similar-sized vehicles and performed a lifecycle cost analysis and to date, the Camry has provided the best results because of its interior size.

Berg oversees a 540-vehicle fleet and another 350 employees under a vehicle allowance reimbursement program. The fleet's 180 Camry Hybrids are assigned to the company's sales team. Other units include 290 Dodge Grand Caravans and 58 Toyota Sienna all-wheel-drive minivans assigned to field service customer engineers. Each TAMS fleet vehicle logs about 2,220 miles per month, most in city driving where the hybrid excels. Berg typically replaces vehicles after 70,000-80,000 miles.

Measuring Environmental Impact

In April 2007, the fleet division launched an environmental impact committee on which Berg serves. The committee comprises departmental managers and explores ways to reduce the company's overall environmental impact.

Because fleet is the biggest contributor of CO2 emissions, the company has investigated the viability of alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrids. The TAMS fleet now averages 34 mpg with the Camry Hybrids, compared to 20 mpg with the vehicle it replaced. The improved mpg equates to 117,000 fewer gallons of gasoline burned in the two years the Camry Hybrids have been deployed. Fleet fuel cost savings total approximately $352,000 based on average mpg. In addition, the fleet has reduced CO2 emissions by 2.1 million lbs.

According to Berg, drivers have reacted well to the Camry Hybrids, appreciating the fit and finish and quiet engine operation. A few drivers commented on the lack of acceleration and the small 10 cubic-foot trunk capacity. However, Berg insists the smaller storage capacity is only a problem in the rare case a salesperson must fit client luggage in the trunk.

The fleet also is looking to replace its minivans wherever possible.

"Recently, we discovered that, based on their job responsibilities, we had about 100 employees driving Grand Caravans who we could move into a vehicle with 70 cubic feet of cargo capacity," Berg said. Currently field-testing the Mazda5 and Toyota RAV4, he plans to put 50 employees in either the Mazda5 or RAV4 and assign the Camry Hybrids to another 50 - mostly engineers who don't require the available 70 cubic feet.

Calculating each engineer's required maximum cargo capacity, Berg downsized to a smaller, 70 cubic-foot SUV to eliminate 100 minivans in the TAMS fleet. Other minivan drivers may transition into the front-wheel-drive Camry Hybrid, which operates better in snow. However, minivan options are limited for drivers who need the more-expensive all-wheel-drive configuration.

Utilizing Fuel Reports

Berg runs FleetView fuel reports through Wheels Inc. to ensure drivers meet minimum vehicle mpg ratings. He can also determine when drivers purchase premium rather than regular-grade fuel and if their fuel purchases exceed their vehicle tank size. A new report calculates average miles per month to avoid both excessive vehicle use or underutilization. Additionally, a new fleet policy mandates minimum 20-mpg vehicles for drivers in the reimbursement program.

While TAMS fleet management continually researches alternative-fuel vehicles, the overall supporting infrastructure hasn't been available.

"There's not a big enough payoff in fuel reductions and the economics of the fuel cost itself to warrant alternative fuels," Berg said. "There really isn't anything out there other than the hybrids that works for us. If we could ever get an electrical vehicle that would give us the range we need, we would definitely be interested."

Implementing a Green Program

When launching a similar fleet greening program, Berg suggests first identifying the vehicle's job responsibilities.

"For passenger vehicles, compare interior dimensions of both the new vehicle and the one you're looking to replace to ensure there's not too much of a compromise in size," Berg advises. "For a cargo vehicle, try to determine the maximum cargo space necessary to do the job. Perform a lifecycle cost analysis between the vehicle you currently use and the one you want to purchase that compares all measurements, operational costs, crash statistics, and greenhouse gas emissions."

 

 

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