Tucked between the Adirondack and Green Mountain ranges at the edge of Lake Champlain, the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., is never short on inspiration to keep its transportation options clean and green.
The University whisks its 13,000 students around campus and into downtown Burlington on a fleet of nine compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and one diesel-electric hybrid. And, within its Transportation Research Center, the Unversity of Vermont hosts the Vermont Clean Cities Coalition (VTCCC), which works with the general public and fleets throughout the state to reduce petroleum use and cut vehicle emissions.
“It’s such an exciting time to be working on transportation issues,” VTCCC Coordinator Tom McGrath said. “There’s an increasing awareness that we need to change our country’s approach to transportation, and there’s so much going on technologically to help us do it. I feel like the work we do as a Clean Cities coalition to build momentum at the local level is really important, because that’s where things need to start.”
Fuel economy is one arena where the VTCCC is making great strides. McGrath has personally led approximately 30 fuel-economy workshops, coaching more than 500 Vermonters on driving behaviors that maximize fuel economy. Fleets that have participated in the trainings include Central Vermont Public Service and the City of Burlington.
During the workshops, McGrath cautions against speeding and jackrabbit starts, calls attention to unnecessary idling, and encourages use of overdrive gears. Following a classroom presentation, students participate in hands-on experiments to test their newfound skills. They hit the road with driver feedback devices that plug into onboard diagnostics systems to provide instantaneous fuel economy readings and measure the fuel economy of any given trip. Drivers receive real-time reminders that aggressive acceleration causes fuel economy to plummet, and that an idling vehicle gets 0 mpg.
“Many people don’t necessarily know or think about how their driving habits can affect fuel efficiency. Research has shown that providing drivers with feedback increases awareness and reinforces fuel-efficient behaviors,” McGrath said.