Adding zero-emission vehicles, like electric vehicles, to the fleet is a sustainability win. Although these vehicles don’t have tailpipe emissions, there are still emissions related to producing the electricity used to charge them.
Fleets seeking to track these emissions can track total electricity usage (in kWh) for their electrified vehicles, then calculate the indirect upstream emissions from the power generation for their specific eGRID subregion.
“Some regions will have lower emissions factors depending upon the energy mix, and companies could always neutralize these emissions just like they would for electricity used at offices and facilities via renewable energy certificates (RECs),” says Tim Venghaus, Sustainability Solutions Engineer for PDI Technologies.
Although fleets may want to understand emissions related to EVs, the information isn’t really applicable to a fleet’s emissions unless the same is done for traditional vehicles.
“It is important to consider the upstream environmental effect of producing fuel for traditional ICE vehicles in order to have a true comparison,” says Jean Pilon-Bignell, Public Sector Vice President for Geotab.
Lead Technical Program Manager, CALSTART, Chase LeCroy says a “well to wheels” comparison — tracking all of the emissions associated with producing and delivering fuel, plus tailpipe emissions — is the most complete and accurate comparison of EVs to ICE vehicles. But this may not be necessary.
“On the electricity side, it is easy to find out the emissions associated with each kWh of electricity produced, but on the diesel side it is not always easy to track down these numbers,” LeCroy says. “Focusing on ‘tank to wheels’ or tailpipe emissions still tells 90% of the story.”
How to Manage Emissions
Once a fleet has established a baseline, the real work begins: finding ways to reduce emissions.
“As you begin to understand your fleet’s environmental impact and performance, actions can be taken to address the factors contributing to poor sustainability performance,” Pilon-Bignell says.
Ways to lower emissions include:
- Reducing idling
- Optimizing routes
- Identifying and replacing low fuel economy vehicles
- Addressing driver behavior
- Incorporating cleaner burning fuels
Of course, another option is to replace ICE vehicles with ZEVs. But because this will require a capital investment, fleets may have to build their case to acquire them. Data can help with that, too.
Using Emissions Data to Advocate for EVs
Some of the data points fleets can use to make the case for adopting EVs include:
- CO2 savings based on tailpipe emissions
- Fuel savings
- Route length to determine if vehicles could be replaced with EVs
- Location data to determine if vehicles remain long enough at a location to be charged
- High-idle times, as these assets could be good candidates for EV replacement
“Some companies are measuring emissions and applying a cost of carbon to help evaluate business decisions,” Venghaus explains. “Knowing fleet emissions at a vehicle level can help drive the business case for switching to an EV or other alternative technology vehicle.”
Small Steps Toward Big Impacts
Fleets that track and manage emissions have a great opportunity to be good stewards to their community and the planet. Even incremental steps toward a zero-emissions fleet add up.
“Beginning your transition to a zero-emission fleet by focusing on the changes you can make today will ensure you have a head start in learning about this new technology and are well-positioned to continue phasing out ICE vehicles,” LeCroy says. “By displacing emissions, the fleet not only helps fight global climate change but also prevents their local community from breathing harmful pollutants like NOx and SOx. Every organization can contribute toward these two goals, but fleets are especially well-positioned to make being green a part of their mission since transportation is the leading cause of emissions.”
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