Fleet owners who survived four dollars per gallon gas prices were scrambling for alternative money saving methods to maintain margins with skyrocketing costs. When cutting insurance premiums, limiting daily miles, and cutting incentives didn’t work, the most obvious next step was to begin shopping for alternative fuel sources. Depending on distance, gross vehicle weight, and frequency of fill-ups, many alternative fuel vehicle options exist and may suit your company. The reality is gas engines aren’t better than diesel. Diesel engines aren’t better than gas. There are uses for every vehicle type and fuel type available. Matching vehicle usage to the fuel/energy needed to power the vehicle is the primary focus of fleet management.
Deciding which fuel source is the most appropriate is best determined through education.
Companies such as Walmart are dabbling in alternative fuels, utilizing hybrid technology with natural gas, regular diesel, and even biodiesel. Here is some information about basic alternative fuel types that fleet owners have at their disposal:
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Emitting ninety percent less toxic fumes and costing half the cost of diesel, CNG fuel is used in more than 250,000 vehicles today. The availability of fueling stations seems the only snag in making good use of this abundant resource, lauded for having an extremely narrow flammability range. If you have CNG facilities nearby, consider CNG! Many States have incentives or programs for installing new CNG filling sites as well. You’ll see city buses nationwide are using CNG and clean diesel power. Manufacturers offer CNG-equipped engines right from the factory now.
- Propane Autogas. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) combines butane and propane within an internal combustion engine to create yet another affordable means of fuel. The third most widely utilized fuel in worldwide vehicles today, LPG is slowly beginning to rise in the United States with more than 2,800 refueling stations nationwide.
- Biodiesel. Out of the fryer, and into your Freightliner. Biodegradable diesel, as the name implies, uses vegetable oils and other animal fats to form a naturally harmless fuel. It can work in conjunction with regular diesel (B5-B20) or be used alone (B100) to offer an affordable alternative fuel. Vehicles must be suited to diesel use and biodiesel use.
- Electric. Hybrid electric or all-electric power offers a massive increase in MPG while leveraging electricity. Nikola One has produced an ingenious semi-truck with eight hundred to twelve hundred miles in driving range per charge, fifteen-minute refills, and one million miles of free “fuel” with purchase. Hybrids have been on the market in large numbers since 1997 and continue to proliferate the market. Electric vehicles will continue to evolve very rapidly, will expand into fleet vehicles, and autonomous vehicles in short order. Electric vehicles lack most major maintenance items needed and have less than half the parts of vehicles with traditional engines. Fewer parts = fewer problems.
Until scientists roll out fuels that use another detergent or agent, these four alternative fuel/power types are generally what fleet owners will use, depending on the size of the fleet and hauling distance.
Uniform delivery company AmeriPride, in an ongoing effort to reduce cross-country fuel costs and lower maintenance requirements, tested CNG and propane in fifteen step vans. Not only did AmeriPride experience much lower fueling costs, but CNG fueling stations also exist in areas where AmeriPride conducts business most frequently.
It’s prudent to walk before you run, test the technology, the operation, the power, the refueling, the serviceability. If you were able to make this transition, you’d probably see instant savings in the form of fewer refills, lighter maintenance logs, and less emission.
Talk to a professional fleet management company. Get their advice and experience across hundreds of fleets like yours. You don’t need to blaze this path on your own or stub your toes. The idea to “green your fleet” is a great one, but do so prudently and with the research behind you so you can move forward with confidence and certainty. Fleet drivers need a simple plan so anticipate their questions, know the answers cold, and make the transition as simple as possible. Using a lottery among your best drivers to “win” a chance at the new alternative fuel vehicles brings a positive energy and spirit around the change…give it a shot. Our kids’ kids’ kids will thank you, Great Great Grandma/Grandpa