Greener & Smarter Fleets

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Experts and fleet managers explained that going green can take many forms. PHOTO The State of Sustainable Fleets

In a Feb. 22 webinar, managers of large U.S. fleets testified about their decarbonization strategies.

This virtual meeting was hosted by The State of Sustainable Fleets. It included Nate Springer from the host organization, Charlotte Argue from GeoTab, Philip Saunders, Park Manager for the City of Seattle, and Emily Conway, Park Manager for PepsiCo, the second largest park in America.

Two themes came up regularly in this conversation. The first is that it is impossible to plan and deploy a green shift in a fleet without having access to accurate data on vehicle usage and total cost of ownership (TCO). The other is the fact that this green shift is complex; it cannot simply be achieved by converting the entire fleet to electricity.

“We’re doing a number of things at once,” says PepsiCo’s Conway. “We have electric vehicles, of course, but we also have heavier trucks that run on natural gas or renewable diesel, where that fuel is available. We analyze our fleet strategically, measuring each constraint. We are also working with vehicle manufacturers to deploy solutions. Since our zero-emission transportation policy is in the short, medium and long term, we need to know, for example, what the range of vehicles in development will be.”

The optimal size

Saunders of Seattle is in charge of municipal vehicles, which come in 4,100 units of all sizes. “We want to cut polluting emissions in half by 2025. Today we have 12% electric vehicles in our fleet, including 2001 Nissan Leafs that are still proving reliable and economical in total operating costs today.”

As he explains, the municipality has to replace vehicles every year and he always looks to see if an electric equivalent is available. His analysis goes further. “The telematic tools tell us what the actual usage is. This has allowed us to eliminate several underutilized vehicles or allocate them differently. This data also allowed us to realize that we could divest our fossil-fuel Escape SUVs in favor of electric Bold compacts, without any reduction in service delivery and complaints from our users.”

All about the money

The economic factor remains central to these discussions. Including acquisition costs, installation of charging infrastructure, and training costs for users and mechanics to maintain them, Conway believes that the electric solution, when applied strategically, results in savings.

“The best formula is to eliminate anything that is not efficient,” says Argue of GeoTab. “You have to optimize the fleet from the start. One client recently realized that it was possible to do the same job with three trucks instead of five, simply by redesigning the delivery routes. Then, going green must be based on data, but also on comparisons of equivalent vehicles in electric or natural gas versions to measure the real operating costs of each option.”

The discussion also addressed the adherence of all team members to a policy of decarbonization of the parks. “We have detailed usage figures for all our vehicles through telematics,” says Saudners. “That allows us to change behavior. It doesn’t help if the user doesn’t plug in their hybrid and prefers to drive with the gas engine.”


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