- Alternative fuels are produced domestically and have lower emissions than gasoline and diesel.
- With their high mileage and central fueling, municipal fleets are ideally suited to alternative fuels.
- Cities across the country have reduced petroleum use by adding alternative fleet vehicles.
Alternative fuels are produced domestically and have lower emissions than conventional fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. Because fleet vehicles accumulate high mileage and are typically fueled from a central location, they're ideally suited for alternative fuels. Alternative fueled vehicles help reduce pollution in the communities they serve and their high visibility promotes the use of cleaner alternative fuels.
What are the alternatives?
A number of alternative fuels are in use or in development for municipal fleets:
- Natural gas. Three forms of natural gas are currently used in vehicles: compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable (RNG). Although natural gas is a fossil fuel, its advantages include its domestic availability, established distribution network, relatively low cost and lower emissions. Because RNG is produced from biomass waste generated at landfills and the like, it's considered carbon neutral.
- Biodiesel. Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease. It's a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum diesel fuel. B20, a 20/80 percent blend of biodiesel and petroleum diesel is commonly used in fleet vehicles.
- Electricity. Electric vehicles run completely from a battery storage device, while a hybrid combines battery storage power with an internal combustion engine or fuel cell. While electric vehicles produce no direct air emissions, significant emissions can be attributed to generating the electricity at the power plant.
- Ethanol. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials and its use is widespread. A gallon of ethanol contains less energy than gasoline or diesel, so it has a lower fuel economy. However, ethanol is renewable, produced domestically and has lower emissions on a life-cycle production and usage basis.
- Propane. Interest in propane as an alternative transportation fuel stems mainly from its domestic availability, high-energy density, clean-burning qualities and its relatively low cost. It's used in buses, taxicabs and police vehicles.
Go green and save some green
By using alternative fueled fleet vehicles, you'll not only help reduce oil consumption and enhance the nation's energy security, you'll also save money and improve your local environment. Alternative fuels typically have far lower greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions than petroleum-based fuels, such as diesel and gasoline. Also—as the latest U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuel Price Report shows—alternative fuels such as CNG, B20 biodiesel and ethanol are price competitive with conventional fuels.
Local governments across the country are reaping the benefits of switching to alternative fuels:
Phoenix, Ariz. operates 62 CNG trucks in the city's solid waste fleet; the goal is to have 80 percent of the department's vehicles be CNG by 2020. The city has reduced both fuel costs and pollution since the replacement program began in the early 2000s. "The cost savings on fuel runs at least a dollar a gallon," according to Jennifer Campbell, city fuel management specialist.
In Broward County, Fla. propane buses are a hit with passengers. In service for more than a year, there are currently 138 propane buses in the county paratransit fleet. Their operating budget has been reduced by $800,000 and by using over a million gallons of propane last year, Broward's clean fleet also had significantly lower tailpipe emissions.
In Louisville, Ky., a 10-bus all-electric fleet launched in 2015, saving about $10,000 per year per bus in fuel costs. In Albany, N.Y., 77 hybrid-electric buses get at least 50 percent more diesel gallon equivalent mileage.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program provides technical assistance and other resources for alternative fuels, fuel economy improvements and emerging transportation technologies.
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