Miami's Fleet Gets Greener

November 2006, Government Fleet - Feature

Miami’s warm climate may make it one of the most verdant and attractive cities in the U.S., but the city is about to get greener. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz has set a goal of converting a majority of the city’s fleet — 1,000 city vehicles — to hybrid or alternative-fuel powered vehicles by 2012.

Diaz’s commitment to environmental issues began with his work with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), where he was among the first to sign the USCM Climate Protection agreement, a commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions. “I had pursued various clean-up and conservation efforts since I was elected in 2001, and it was a natural progression to expand our efforts into an overall ‘green initiative.’ Converting our car fleet to hybrids is one of the first steps we identified in our environmental efforts,” said Diaz.

Fueling the Initiative
The addition of two hybrid-electric vehicles to the city fleet kicked off the initiative: the mayor’s own vehicle and the operations/advance work vehicle driven by the mayor’s staff. Both vehicles are Ford Escape Hybrids, and the city is still determining which models will best suit its fleet.

Though just beginning the conversion, the city is already taking additional steps toward progress. The city recently hosted a visit from the Ford Motor Company on its nationwide hybrid vehicle tour. The event allowed regional leaders and fleet managers to hear from Ford staff about current technology and how hybrid-electrics can work for them.

In terms of funding, Diaz says several opportunities are available, including grants from the Florida State Departmentof Environmental Protection, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Greener City Saves Green
The conversion to energy-efficient vehicles will require an up-front investment. Diaz is realistic about the effort, but confident the benefits will outweigh costs. “There are always problems in changing infrastructure, but the problems should be limited, aside from theinitial start-up costs.What may influence one bottom line, costs you elsewhere,” he said. “In Miami, we depend on our natural environment so much as a draw for tourism and as a place to attract residents. The benefits can be quantified in terms of public health, energy efficiency, and reduced consumption, which will all save the city and our residents money in the long run.”

The city fleet will notice a significant reduction in the amount of fuel purchased in support of city operations, Diaz said. But the mayor also sees larger implications to the green-vehicle initiative.“We also wish to position the city as a regional leader, an example for our residents and other municipalities,” he said.

To that end, Diaz is also pursuing the development of “green buildings,” which incorporate energy-efficient materials and technology in their construction. Again, the mayor has an eye forthe long-term benefits. Estimates for green buildings suggest that while they may be more costly up-front, the buildings will realize a 3-5-percent reduction in energy costs.

For now, Diaz remains pragmatic but optimistic about the changing nature of Miami’s fleet: “As with any effort on this scale, we are proceeding quickly but cautiously — determined to make the best decisions that will be of long-term benefit and value to our residents,” he said.

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