SAN DIEGO - The University of San Diego takes pride in its green fleet. Through various alt-fuel options and sustainable operations practices, the university's Fleet Services ranked 22nd in the seventh annual Government Green Fleet Awards, announced at the Green Fleet Conference in October.

"We want to be in the top 10 next year. As we retire older vehicles, we're replacing many of them with electric, hybrid, and compressed natural gas vehicles," said Jim Ruby, UC San Diego fleet manager. "We believe our fleet stood out because of its extensive lineup of electric, hybrid vehicles and biodiesel fuels, and our California-certified Model Pollution Prevention auto repair shop, among other factors."

Melanie Zauscher, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering who was eager to help the university reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, worked with fellow UC San Diego undergraduate and graduate students to help start the university's "Greenline" shuttle.

Zauscher, founder of the UC San Diego student organization Biofuels Action and Awareness Network, helped secure the donation of a diesel engine from Caterpillar, Inc. that runs on B-99. The bus, dubbed the Greenline shuttle, began operation in 2009 and now is part of a fleet of 30 additional shuttle buses that burn B-20 fuel.

The UC San Diego fleet repair shop uses a parts cleaner that has grease-eating microbes to clean oil and sludge adhering to vehicle parts. The shop also retreads bus tires, saving thousands of gallons of petroleum products that would have been used in new tires.

Fleet Services also uses recycled or re-refined oil in nearly all of its vehicles. Since 2004, UC San Diego has used more than 8,500 gallons of recycled oil that had been re-refined from waste motor oil. Use of such re-refined oil is important because two gallons of waste motor oil can be converted into five quarts of fresh oil for use in vehicles. On the other hand, 84 gallons of crude are required to make five quarts of virgin motor oil.

Alternative transportation programs also scored points in the competition:

  • Triton Bikes, which lends abandoned bicycles that have been refurbished for free use by on-campus commuters.
  • Commute Solutions, a comprehensive UC San Diego program that has helped to reduce single-occupant-vehicle use from 66 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2010 by promoting public transportation, carpools, the Zimride route-matching service to promote more carpooling, vanpools and other alternative transportation options.
  • UC San Diego's many sustainability initiatives, many of which involve student interns and volunteers, have transformed the campus into a living laboratory for sustainable solutions.

UC San Diego Fleet Services manages about 900 vehicles, including:

  • More than 150 passenger vans and sedans, including 42 Toyota Prius hybrids, 14 Ford Escape hybrid compact sport utility vehicles and one Honda Civic fueled with CNG.
  • 142 rechargeable neighborhood electric vehicle carts and 153 rechargeable electric utility carts.
  • 30 shuttle buses, all of which burn B-20 fuel. Since 2005, the campus has used over 700,000 gallons of biodiesel, reducing its net emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 2.2 million lbs. Campus diesel-burning vehicles also are equipped with high-efficiency particulate traps that reduce the emission of this class of toxic air contaminants by 86 percent.
  • 13 CNG service vehicles, including two delivery trucks and two street sweepers, three sedans, three pick-up trucks, and three buses.

— By Rex Graham, UC San Diego