Reyna Ayala with the East Orange County (Calif.) Water District is one of the Ford Fusion plug-in vehicle’s most frequent users, helping increase utilization of the EV.  Photo courtesy of EOCWD

Reyna Ayala with the East Orange County (Calif.) Water District is one of the Ford Fusion plug-in vehicle’s most frequent users, helping increase utilization of the EV. Photo courtesy of EOCWD

Having a clean fleet doesn’t have to mean a significant funding investment — nor grant availability. Fleets can take smaller steps, both on the shop floor and for vehicles themselves — that make an overall environmental impact.

At a Glance

Smaller environmentally friendly investments include:

  • Increasing utilization
  • Using biofuels
  • Facility changes, such as lighting and hazardous waste management
  • Recycling and reusing materials.

Purchase Smaller, More Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Right-sizing your vehicles not only reduces capital costs, but also fuel use.

Ulster County, N.Y., was able to right-size eight of its vehicles, moving from eight- and six-cylinder large vans and minivans to six- and four-cylinder Ford Transits and Transit Connects. Additionally, the county transitioned from the Chevrolet Impala to Ford Fusion hybrids, Fusion Energis, and Chevrolet Volts for about the same price or even less than it would have cost to replace the older vehicles, reported Kim Millian, fleet manager.

Chesterfield County, Va., has also purchased more fuel-efficient vehicles to replace larger and less fuel-efficient ones. When possible, the fleet purchases half-ton trucks instead of three-quarter-ton trucks, sedans instead of SUVs, compact sedans instead of full-size ones, and smaller cargo vans instead of half-ton cargo vans. Right-sizing the sedan fleet saved $23,600 in capital expenses for fiscal-year 2017 alone, said Ashley Talmage, fleet technical analyst.

Increase EV Utilization

What difference can one electric vehicle make? Plenty — if it’s used often enough.

The East Orange County (Calif.) Water District purchased a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid in 2015 with incentive funding. This was a change for the 15-vehicle fleet, which consists of mostly trucks and a few sedans.

Utilization for the pool vehicle was 16,415 miles for the first year, of which 11,630 were electric miles. In comparison, other sedans in the pool normally average 7,250 miles annually.

Lisa Ohlund, general manager, said drivers supported the initiative, making an effort to check out the vehicle if they had trips less than 15 miles (the vehicle has an electric range of about 20 miles, she said), and planning charges so they could maximize electric miles.

In an audit conducted by the Center for Sustainable Energy of more than 70 fleets in California and Massachusetts, this one vehicle had the same emissions reduction impact as four or more vehicles in other organizations because of its high utilization.

There’s a Cost to Everything

While we highlight lower-cost clean fleet options, very few things are actually free.

A good way to look at any project is through tolerance for payback, said Sam Spofforth, executive director, Clean Fuels Ohio. Will it take a month, a year, or the lifetime of the vehicle?

“If a fleet says, ‘we can’t afford to spend $1 upfront on anything,’ then that’s a nonstarter,” Spofforth explained. 

Use Biofuel

Fleets have been using biofuel for years to reduce fossil fuel use, either transitioning to higher levels of biodiesel or purchasing flex-fuel vehicles that can run on E-85.Use Biofuel

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Ill., has used B-20 biodiesel and E-85 in its vehicles. According to Michael Webster, CAFM, fleet manager, there’s no cost difference with B-20, and switching out the existing diesel fuel tank just involved swapping out the filter.

He also purchases all Ford trucks, vans, and police vehicles with flex-fuel capabilities and encourages drivers to exclusively use the district’s two fuel sites with E-85 dispensers.

Consider “Green Procurement”

Going green isn’t just for vehicles — consider office supplies and services as well. Before purchasing goods and services, the East Orange County Water District goes through its “green procurement” checklist.

These include confirming that the product or service is needed and cannot be shared; that it has environmental attributes such as an environmental certification, energy efficiency, made of recycled content, or ability to be recycled; and that it has minimal packaging or is packed in bulk when feasible. Staff also consider the product’s life cycle at the time of purchase, including whether the vendor will take the product back and reuse parts.

Recycle & Reuse

In addition to recycling paper, plastic, and glass, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has metal recycling dumpsters at both its fleet shops. It’s open to all district departments to use, such as when metal is removed from properties or when metal is found illegally dumped on the preserve.
The fleet shops routinely use metal from the scrap dumpster when staff need to weld to repair equipment or fabricate new items, Webster said.

Collecting scrap metal can bring in revenue. Chesterfield County has a metal recycling program that brought in $2,500 in revenue in 2016.

The Forest Preserve District also uses re-refined oil — made from waste oil — in all its vehicles and equipment.

At Chesterfield County, the fleet reuses a portion of its used motor oil to burn in its five waste oil furnaces located at its three maintenance facilities. The furnaces cost between $8,000 and $12,000 each but have saved the fleet roughly $20,000 in shop heating expenses per year. The rest of the oil is sold, and in fiscal-year 2017, this brought in $4,275.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Fleet Shop routinely uses scrap metal. Pictured: a training sled fabricated with scrap metal.  Photo courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Fleet Shop routinely uses scrap metal. Pictured: a training sled fabricated with scrap metal. Photo courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Change Lighting

Replacing lighting with LED bulbs can reduce energy use. However, even if you have the most efficient fluorescent bulbs, switching to LED can still yield benefits.
Jefferson County, Wash., purchased ballast-compatible LED tubes to replace its energy-efficient fluorescent ones. The longer-lasting LED tubes improve shop lighting, reduce the amount of bulbs that are discarded, and reduce the number of times bulbs have to be changed, said Matt Stewart, road maintenance superintendent.

Use Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel is an alternative to diesel that can be cost neutral while reducing emissions by 50-80%, said Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, acting assistant director, Bureau of Infrastructure and Operations, City of Oakland, Calif. The fuel requires neither conversions nor added infrastructure costs.
While government fleets are adopting it in California, it isn’t for every fleet simply because of higher costs in many parts of the country. Renewable diesel is available in other states, and there are a few refineries in the U.S., including in California and Louisiana. However, its popularity may mean low supply, and its cost will likely be higher than diesel fuel in most states.

A Cleaner Shop

Fleets can take numerous small changes in their maintenance facilities for a cleaner shop, which can even result in monetary savings. The California Green Station Program provides a number of suggestions for vehicle service and repair shops. Here are a few of them:

  • Use a “first in, first out” policy to prevent hazardous materials from deteriorating in storage.
  • Store hazardous materials lockers indoors or under covers to reduce rainwater contamination and exposure to sunlight.
  • Try a battery exchange service to eliminate the storage of lead-acid batteries at your facility.
  • Recycle antifreeze, either on-site or off-site by a vendor.
  • When servicing brakes, use a wet cleaning brake system that recirculates and filters the water-based solution.
  • Purchase reusable oil filters.

For the full list, click here (note: must be logged in to FleetShare to access document).


About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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