Hybrids – Vehicles, Battery & Hydraulic Technology

Real-World Hybrid Fleet Operating Expenses

July 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Stephen Bennett

EMD Millipore evaluates its hybrid vehicles constantly. The vehicles are noteworthy for very low maintenance costs, according to Gary Polito, category sourcing manager, travel & fleet.
EMD Millipore evaluates its hybrid vehicles constantly. The vehicles are noteworthy for very low maintenance costs, according to Gary Polito, category sourcing manager, travel & fleet.

Fleets have been researching hybrid fleet vehicles for years, and a few are
happily seeing results, including:

● Reduced CO2 emissions.
● Increased vehicle mpg.
● Reduced maintenance issues.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinching pennies is a point of professional pride in fleet management, and so a critical question about hybrid vehicles is: How do they rate when it comes to real-world operating expenses?

Now that some fleets have two, three, or more years’ experience with hybrid vehicles, they are able to make some judgments.

EMD Millipore Sees Increased MPGs

“The capital costs [of hybrids] are more, but you offset that with the fuel reduction,” said Gary Polito, category sourcing manager, travel and fleet, for EMD Millipore, based in Billerica, Mass. Polito was recognized this year by the NAFA Fleet Management Association for reducing fuel consumption and emissions through a combination of “right-sizing” vehicles according to job responsibilities and use of hybrid vehicles. On an annual basis, those efforts reduced the volume of fuel purchases by nearly 150,000 gallons and prevented the emission of more than 2.8 million lbs. of CO2, NAFA said in honoring Polito.

The EMD Millipore fleet of approximately 330 vehicles consists predominantly of Toyota models, of which more than 100 (or nearly one third) are hybrids, including Prius and Camry models. The first hybrids were put into service in mid-2008 — about three years ago. Polito said the hybrids have been averaging 36 mpg, compared to an average of 30 mpg for the fleet’s conventional vehicles.

An exacting maintenance program helps further offset the higher initial outlay for hybrid vehicles, according to Polito. “We have a rigorous maintenance schedule. We stay on top of that through our leasing company,” he said. About its leasing company, ARI, he said, “They’re very good at monitoring,” providing informative reports on the status of vehicles.

The hybrids, just as any other vehicle, are evaluated constantly, according to Polito, and at the same time he is continuously on the lookout for other options. As engine technology improves on conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, some are becoming competitive with hybrids, he said.

He also addressed the “stigma” of going from a conventional vehicle with a six-cylinder engine to a hybrid with a four-cylinder engine. In the same vein, some fleets might have been running vehicles with a 3.5L, four-cylinder, gasoline-fueled engine and switched to a hybrid with a smaller four-cylinder engine, Polito hypothesized, yet he said they can still come out ahead: “Now that lower-end liter engine could be just as powerful and more fuel efficient than a similar four-cylinder model [by] another manufacturer. So we’re constantly evaluating.”

By scrupulously following the maintenance schedule, and monitoring the vehicles, the fleet is able to realize favorable residual values. It helps that the market for used vehicles has come around, he said.

“We’ve had them now for three years,” Polito said, “and the residual value has turned out to be very high. It’s the quality of the vehicle.” The hybrids are noteworthy for “very low maintenance costs,” he noted. Among doubters, the component that is often singled out for skepticism is the battery, which is an expensive part. Polito noted, “We haven’t had one maintenance issue with a battery.”

Maintenance of the hybrids generally is no different than for conventional vehicles. “There really hasn’t been anything where you could say, ‘Because this is a hybrid it’s causing this problem and my maintenance costs are increasing,’ ” he said. “There hasn’t been anything like that.”

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