The University of Virginia fleet staffed collaborated in the alternative-fuel program and to...

The University of Virginia fleet staffed collaborated in the alternative-fuel program and to achieve accreditation.

Photo courtesy of University of Virginia

The University of Virginia has turned to electric and hybrid vehicles to reduce its fleet emissions, helping it earn a Sustainable Fleet Accreditation from NAFA and Calstart.

In the past year, the fleet department has reduced its gasoline consumption by 3,200 gallons and its carbon emissions by 28 metric tons by replacing 10 of its older, less-efficient vehicles with electric and hybrid vehicles. The team also reduced the department’s number of older diesel vehicles by 50% down to just 13, resulting in a reduction of 2,500 gallons of diesel and 26 metric tons of emissions, according to Michael Duffy, CAFM, transportation operations and fleet manager for the university.

Facilities Management’s electric vehicles produce zero emissions while driving and have a range of 150-170 miles. These consist of five Nissan Leaf passenger vehicles and three e-ride Industries work trucks.

The department also uses five hybrid vans and box trucks, which use up to 25% less fuel, reducing carbon emissions and maintenance costs. Its Ford F-250 trucks with the XL hybrid electric drive system, used by UVA’s recycling and maintenance divisions, produce 20% fewer carbon emissions than their gasoline counterparts. In February, UVA added XLH Ford E-350 Cutaway box trucks to its Facilities Management fleet and is expecting similar results.

The transition to using alternative-fuel vehicles has involved some challenges as these vehicles cannot carry some of the heavy tools and equipment needed by some Facilities Management teams for specific jobs.

The vehicles also tend to have higher up-front costs than their conventional counterparts, requiring cost analysis by the fleet management team. To examine cost efficiency, staff members track the miles per gallon performance using GPS analytics systems, which automatically record data about vehicles’ mileage and fuel consumption.

“We are still collecting information about how the transition is progressing,” Duffy said. “We have noted a reduction in both diesel and gas fuel use.”

The fleet operation is following a UVA Sustainability Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to its 2009 totals by the year 2025. Its mission is to reduce fuel consumption and emissions while modernizing its 252-vehicle fleet.

Duffy said that multiple staff members collaborated in the alternative-fuel program and to achieve accreditation. Employees researched the use of alternative energy vehicles at other universities, collected data to examine the impact of reducing fuel consumption and emissions, and installed the infrastructure necessary to charge electric vehicles.

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