When I was the Public Works Director in the City of Kirkland, Washington, city leadership wanted the City to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and overall fuel consumption within the City fleet. Kirkland had already emphasized active Transportation (bicycling, walking and transit); and thus sought to have the City fleet mirror that same commitment.
As a result, the City employed several Green Fleet techniques, including
- Purchasing hybrid sedans for the pool fleet when vehicles were up for replacement
- An in-house retrofit of a power lawn mower using an electric engine produced in Germany for other purposes
- Purchased three gas-powered one-seat Honda Metropolitan scooters for short in-town trips; this was in-lieu of additional sedans to accommodate increased staff. The Metropolitan traveled 99 miles on 1 gallon of gas vs. the approximate 18 mpg the sedans had been getting. These were used regularly by staff at City Hall, the Corporation Yard, and the Parks and Recreation office.
As Fleet Managers are aware, there are several opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel consumption. Specifically, by integrating hybrid, all-electric, clean diesel, biodiesel, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), or LNG (liquefied natural gas) vehicles; enforcing no-idling guidelines; and implementing active transportation modes where feasible.
There are many motivations agencies and municipalities have for addressing this issue. For some, Climate Change Action Plans, state or local GHG emission reduction targets, and other factors are the primary motivator. For others, a desire to limit usage of non-renewable resources, promote more active modes of transportation and other goals are behind the interest to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
No matter the motivation, it is important that Fleet Managers and Public Works Directors are fully engaged in the goals and means to create a Green Fleet. The four primary factors that Fleet Managers consider when implementing a Green Fleet are:
- The initial purchase cost as compared to other alternatives
- The ongoing maintenance costs; and the compatibility of the proposed vehicle with the parts and materials commonly utilized by maintenance staff
- The cost and availability of the fuel source
- The ability of the proposed vehicle to meet the operational needs required by the user
These four criteria must be fully analyzed and reviewed by those responsible for insuring the fleet meets the operational needs of the City. In addition, Fleet Managers and Public Works Directors, consistent with all their decision-making, must always have a) a long-range plan for how the Green Fleet is to be purchased and maintained over time; and b) a way to measure the benefits and costs to insure the fleet is meeting public service goals at the appropriate short- and long-term costs.
Finally, proponents of Green Fleets should also utilize the insights and lessons learned from other municipalities. As a result of resources, political leadership, citizen engagement, and other factors, some cities have the means to be at the forefront of innovation. Fortunately, we all can benefit from their investments and lessons learned.
Noted below are some additional resources in the C4S Sustainability Toolkit that could be useful as you pursue the ‘greening’ of your fleet.
City of San Luis Obispo
Public Works Director