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Fleet Management

Research campuses often own and operate vehicles to carry out operations, including maintenance and personnel transportation. The climate impact of these fleets can be significant, representing one of the more challenging sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reduce. Fortunately, there are many options to improve fleet efficiency and decrease GHG emissions.

The following outlines resources and opportunities for research campuses to manage vehicle fleets:

Fleet Management Options

The goal of fleet management within climate action plans is to minimize petroleum consumption and climate impact by increasing vehicle efficiency and alternative fuel use. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) outlines six pillars for reducing fleet impact:

  1. Acquire alternative fuel vehicles and use alternative fuels: Maximize petroleum displacement with alternative fuels. This includes purchasing alternative fuel vehicles. With these vehicles purchased, use alternative fuel whenever and wherever possible. If alternative fuel is not available in locations with heavy fleet use, take steps to build fueling stations or other infrastructure options.

  2. Use biodiesel blends in diesel vehicles: Maximize diesel displacement with biodiesel blends (B20 or higher) whenever and wherever possible. If biodiesel is not available, take steps to build fueling stations or other infrastructure options.

  3. Acquire electric vehicles (EVs): Replace gasoline vehicles with vehicles powered by an electric motor. One option includes electricity-powered low-speed vehicles such as neighborhood electric vehicles.

  4. Increase fuel economy: Increase the overall fuel efficiency of vehicle fleets to reduce petroleum consumption. This can be done by replacing gasoline vehicles with hybrid electric vehicles, replacing trucks with compact cars when possible, and replacing aging vehicles with more efficient models.

  5. Right-size the fleet to the overall institution mission: Ensure fleet vehicle purchases and miles traveled correspond with the research campus mission. Avoid purchasing or using vehicles that do not directly contribute the overall mission.

  6. Reduce vehicle miles traveled: Minimize fuel consumption by consolidating trips, using videoconferencing tools for meetings, and taking advantage of mass transportation and campus shuttles.

Each of these pillars represents an individual option that can be assembled into a portfolio approach to reduce petroleum consumption and GHG emissions.

Federal research campuses are required to meet certain legislative and regulatory requirements surrounding fleet management. Academic and private-sector campuses are also encouraged to meet these goals.

Considerations for Fleet Management

Research campuses should evaluate the following before assessing and implementing fleet management programs:

Is fleet management right for your campus?
  • Do you own and operate a vehicle fleet?
  • Do you have access to alternative fuels?

Own and Operate a Vehicle Fleet

Many types of vehicle fleets and individual vehicles are used on research campuses. Each requires specific thought toward fuel efficiency and fuel sources. The DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) offers information about how to rightsize vehicle fleets, including transit buses, large tracks, and emergency vehicles.

When purchasing new vehicles for your fleet, be sure to compare all available options. Replacement vehicles should be sized only as large as the task requires. An efficient fleet contains a variety of sizes and capabilities and should not use a one-size-fits-all approach. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a green vehicle guide.

Access to Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuel vehicles need access to alternative fuels to successfully reduce GHG emissions and petroleum consumption. The AFDC offers an alternative fuel station locator tool to help research campuses locate and use alternative fuels. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s non-profit initiative, Project Get Ready, offers a guide to the EV readiness of various cities across the United States. Having a campus near an EV-ready area can be an advantage.

Leading Examples

Two exemplary projects show how two campuses with very different requirements and characteristics can use alternative fuel vehicles.

Electric Vehicles at the University of California San Diego

Photo of a neighborhood electric vehicle that looks like a golf cart with open doors. Photo of a white pickup truck that looks like a conventional small pickup.

Here you can see examples of different types of electric vehicles in the University of California San Diego (UCSD) fleet. The Roush electric pickup (at the bottom) has an electric fuel economy of 2–3 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which means it costs $3.60 to drive 100 miles. Compare that with the cost to operate a conventional pickup truck: $15.75 per 100 miles.
Courtesy of University of California San Diego

UCSD has demonstrated a range of options for using alternative fuels in different types of vehicles.

Efforts at UCSD to transform its fleet demonstrate a wide range of options in vehicle size and fuel. Such a mix will generally be necessary to right-size vehicles to their specific purpose. The program has been able to demonstrate fuel savings in comparison of EVs to gas.

The UCSD fleet includes more than 300 EVs, more than 50 hybrid electric vehicles, and the entire diesel fuel supply has been converted to biodiesel. Later this year the campus will receive five, first of their kind compressed natural gas hybrid buses. Read a summary of the UCSD program in a presentation given at the UC/CSU Sustainability Conference Santa Barbara 2006.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles at the Kennedy Space Center

Of the 1,700 vehicles in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center fleet, 70% run on alternative fuels or advanced vehicle technologies. Over the past few years, this fleet incorporated the use of compressed natural gas and biodiesel and increased its E85 consumption from 144 gallons to 17,000 gallons per month. In addition, the Kennedy Space Center added 16 low-speed EVs to its inventory. More information about NASA's fleet can be read about in this Federal Energy Management Program Federal Fleet Files newsletter.

NASA recently installed EV charging stations throughout the facility. It also implemented innovative vehicle procurement methods, such as allocating funding from scrap metal recycling to help pay for new alternative fuel vehicles. Through these and other efforts, NASA displaced more than 1 million gasoline gallon equivalent of petroleum in the past five years.

For a summary of NASA's alternative fuel program, read the fact sheet a Kennedy Space Center Energy Conservation Endeavors.

Photo of an EV charger, which looks like a one-foot square metal box sitting on a three-foot

UCSD is testing the performance of these LSV-100 fast chargers for EVs that can provide 80% of vehicle's charge within 30–45 minutes. These charges are also more efficient than traditional EV charges, and reduce operating costs from $0.17 per mile with a traditional charger to approximately $0.03 per mile.
Courtesy of University of California San Diego

Additional examples of research campus fleet management programs include:

  • University of British Columbia: Vehicle fleet program that incorporates sustainability best practices to reduce GHG emissions.

  • Elon University: Implemented a fleet management program that uses biodiesel in buses and other vehicles.

The resources below outline fleet management strategies.

  • "From Biomass to Biofuels": Brochure published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory about how biofuels can help meet future needs for transportation fuels, how biofuels are produced, U.S. potential for biofuels, and the Laboratory's approach to efficient, affordable biofuels.

  • Sustainable Federal Fleets: Resources designed to help federal agencies manage vehicle fleets and incorporate alternative fuels.

  • AFDC Alternative and Advanced Vehicles: Searchable data on alternative fuel vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies.

  • Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool: AFDC offers this online tool for managers of vehicle fleets to evaluate the impact of using alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies on their petroleum consumption.

  • EPA Transportation and Climate: Resource center containing information on GHG emissions from transportation sources, including transportation's contribution to total GHG emissions, relevant EPA regulations, and what can done to reduce your transportation emissions.

  • British Columbia Climate Action Toolkit: Resources outlining actions available for fuel efficient vehicle fleets.

  • Campus Safety Magazine: An article covering policy and technical elements of acquiring an EV component to a campus fleet.