There are a multitude of alternative fuels and vehicles on the market today. Ethanol, biodiesel, propane, natural gas, hydrogen, and electric are some of the fuel and technology choices available to a fleet manager or general consumer on today’s market. Within each of those categories lies a wide range of vehicle choices, duty sizes, benefits, and challenges that have to be considered before implementing them into a successful fleet replacement plan. Alternative fuels are not always simple, but they can offer advantages that make adoption well worth the efforts. When used in the right application alternative fuel vehicles can save money, perform well, support domestic energy economies, and emit fewer emissions.
Each fuel type has ideal niches, in which they operate well without sacrificing performance or budget. For example, if a fleet is looking to reduce their diesel emissions without making a large investment into new vehicles and infrastructure, then biodiesel is a great alternative that will meet or exceed performance standards while significantly reducing criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, introducing biodiesel has effects on maintenance schedules and may not save on operating costs.
E85, or ethanol, can improve emissions by up to 50% when used in gasoline vehicles, and there is already established infrastructure at existing gas stations for drivers to fuel with E85. Biofuels are perfect for fleets looking to support a domestic energy economy and reduce emissions without having to significantly change their operations or budget.
For a fleet looking to considerably reduce operating costs and shrink their fuel budget, natural gas is a great alternative. For compressed or liquefied natural gas, vehicles and infrastructure are more expensive than traditional fuels, so fleet managers need to explore their return on investment, and they can often benefit by determining which vehicles are ideal candidates for replacement. As a starting point, vehicles that use more fuel can save more money from low natural gas fuel prices.
Propane operates in a similar niche to natural gas. Propane is often used in ‘people-moving’ applications like transit, taxis, and school buses, but it also performs well in light-duty pickups and other light-medium duty scenarios. Propane, also referred to as liquefied petroleum gas or autogas, is much cheaper than gasoline when used as a transportation fuel and can save in operating costs over a vehicle’s lifetime. In addition, propane infrastructure is relatively cheap to install and doesn’t require much space in a fleet yard.
Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) offer the lowest operating costs of all the alternative fuels, as electricity is a cheap and consistent energy source. When operating on electricity only, these vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and have tremendous benefits for air quality and petroleum reduction. Though, PEV models are mostly light-duty sedans with a range of less than 100 miles, so their applications within a fleet are limited to functions that meet those specifications.
The multitude of choices should not be an obstacle to harnessing cheaper, cleaner, domestically produced fuel; there are many resources that can assist any fleet manager or general consumer in making an informed decision about their vehicle purchase.
www.RefuelColorado.com is a great starting point for a description of the factors and characteristics of the many alternative choices available today. The website provides quick, easy access to answers about each fuel type. Refuel Colorado has information on the benefits of each alternative fuel, real-world case studies, a tax credit calculator specific to Colorado that will help people understand what incentives our state has to offer, a market developments section to keep people up to date on the latest, and all of the resources that will help connect the right fuel to the right function.
Finally, Refuel Colorado Fleets is a program designed to work directly with fleet managers to help them understand the costs and benefits associated with transitioning to alternative fuels in Colorado. Energy coaches have been assigned to help organizations and community leaders decide which fuel is right for their application and how to implement a new technology successfully. Energy coaches are knowledgeable and honest about the different options available to fleets, and they can pinpoint any barriers as well as identify solutions before they arise. Energy coaches can help provide a lifecycle cost estimate of each fuel type; act as conduits to fuel providers, station developers, automakers, and other fleets operating alternative fuels; and give you a fuel-neutral, complimentary consult to take the research and analysis necessary to a sound decision off of your plate.
There may be a lot of options for lowering operating costs and reducing air pollution with the use of alternative fuels, but there are also a lot of answers. The above resources are all available to help make the decision much easier, and remember that within all fleets there is a niche for alternative fuels and technologies that can bring tremendous benefits to any organization.