A light-duty vehicle is ready for use near the GWB.

A light-duty vehicle is ready for use near the GWB.

Source: Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

With 36 new electric shuttle buses at the area's major airports and 130 electric light-duty vehicles now in service, the Port Authority’s Central Automotive Division (CAD) has kicked the agency-wide transition to electric vehicles into high gear.

Like the new vehicles the division is instrumental in rolling out, CAD is quiet, efficient, and unobtrusive in pursuing its mandate. It takes diligence, adaptivity, and an advanced set of technical skills to outfit and maintain electric vehicles for everyday use – a set of characteristics these men and women embody to a T.

They’re the agency’s own auto shop, maintaining the Port Authority’s fleet of over 2,500 light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles every day, around the clock. But they don’t just fix things. CAD is on the front lines of testing and implementing breakthrough emissions-cutting technologies. Their behind-the-scenes work not only is critical to keeping employees and customers safe, it’s essential in the agency’s drive to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement: 35% by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

“We see ourselves as the provider of long-lasting and reliable mobility solutions for the agency,” CAD Manager David Bobbitt said. “Through implementing sustainable technology solutions, we’re continually pushing our operations to be more efficient and more cost-effective."

In October, the Port Authority is making that mission a reality by completing the transition at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, and JFK airports to zero-emissions shuttle bus fleets, making it the largest electric airport bus fleet on the East Coast. The 12 buses at each airport will reduce more than 1,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 240,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year, improving local air quality and decreasing noise pollution.

The Port Authority also met another electric vehicle milestone this month, hitting the 130 mark on the number of light-duty vehicles that have been converted from diesel to electric. The agency is pushing toward converting 600 vehicles by 2023 – accounting for 50% of its entire light-duty fleet. So far, the light-duty fleet has saved over 700,000 kg of greenhouse gas emissions.

CAD mechanics, operating out of seven garages across the Port Authority, are constantly adapting their skills and learning about the latest models of cars and trucks, including those that run on battery power. In both 2016 and 2019, the agency was awarded 1st place in the Government Green Fleet Awards for its sustainable fleet.

In addition to the electric buses and light-duty fleet, the Central Automotive Division pilots and studies a variety of emissions- and cost-saving measures, such as alternative fuels and advanced idle management software. They're testing new ways to cut emissions during idling, given that one hour of idling is equivalent to 33 miles driven. Eleven Port Authority vehicles have been upfitted with computer systems that extend the lives of their engines and save maintenance costs. By the end of 2020, 55 Port Authority Police Department hybrid vehicles are expected to come online.

“Finding solutions that can benefit our fleet and the region as a whole is what gets me up in the morning,” said CAD General Maintenance Supervisor Jim Hineson. “I’m excited to be at the forefront of the agency’s electrification efforts, whether it’s adopting leading renewable products or leveraging telematics to track our progress. We’re setting the standard for how to cut emissions in the transportation sector.”