Green Fleet

Fleet Webinar Explores Going Green

January 2008, Fleet Financials - Feature

by Paul Dexler - Also by this author

Going “green” is hot today, and fleet managers want to know what it takes in time, money, and vehicles to qualify their fleets as green. Last fall, Bobit Business Media (BBM) convened an online seminar to address the questions.

Panel members included Sherb Brown, VP BBM; Gary Scanlon, national sales manager of Merchants Leasing; Gary Starr, chairman, Zap Electric Vehicles; Luke May, field operations and energy diversity manager, Northeast region, General Motors; and Chris Brown, managing editor of Business Fleet magazine.

How Motivated is the Company?

Scanlon noted issues fleet managers must consider. First, they must know the level of green motivation in their organization.

  • Low motivation – doing whatever can be done without impacting operating costs.
  • Medium motivation – a budget has been established, but improvements are added gradually.
  • High motivation – the organization is committed to realign the fleet.

In going green, the first step is redesigning the vehicle selector, eliminating models that do not meet new fuel economy or emissions criteria. In highly motivated companies, fleet managers can take the more extreme measure of immediately replacing the fleet with vehicles incorporating the latest technology.

Chris Brown noted that large fleets, such as UPS, FedEx, and WalMart, are working with manufacturers to develop diesel-electric hybrid delivery vans. Such measures enhance a company’s corporate image as an environmental steward. They reduce the country’s overall dependence on imported oil, and offer tax incentives.

May discussed GM’s “advanced propulsion technology” initiatives with the internal combustion engine. He cited the use of biofuels, such as E-85 ethanol and biodiesel, to reduce emissions in conventional engines.

GM offers 12 models that can run on E-85, said May, noting that ethanol is a quick answer to cutting petroleum use. New technology will allow ethanol to be produced from biomass waste.

More new B-20 capable vehicles are now offered, May said, pointing out that refineries could produce more biodiesel, but the distribution infrastructure is not yet fully available.

The advantages of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles include zero emissions and no petroleum consumption, said May. He also described Chevrolet’s Volt plug-in electric vehicle, currently targeted as a 2009 model-year launch. It is pure electric, but can be recharged from an on-board “range extender” generator that can burn anything from CNG to diesel fuel.

Highway-Use NEV in Future

Starr explained the financial advantages of using pure electric vehicles. The most popular electric vehicle in fleet use today is the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), limited to a top speed of 25 mph. While no highway-capable electric vehicles are available currently, several companies, including his own, are developing them, said Starr.

He stressed NEV cost-effectiveness for fleets. While the vehicles have some range and carrying capacity restrictions, many fleets can take advantage of the size and efficiency of electric vehicles for up to 10 percent of their needs.

BBM’s Sherb Brown discussed compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) technology. Currently, the only OEM CNG vehicle is the Honda Civic NGV.

No vehicles capable of running on LPG are now being produced, but aftermarket conversions are available. LPG is cleaner than gasoline and is produced domestically.

Finally, Chris Brown detailed the process of offsetting carbon emissions by paying for emissions reductions elsewhere, such as methane recapture or tree planting. A calculator to determine a fleet’s carbon emissions is available online, he said.

An audio file of the Green Fleet Webinar and other BBM online discussions are archived on www.fleetcentral.com.

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