Green Your Fleet: Renewable Fleet Power Has Hundreds of Miles to Go

How much time do your employees spend on the road? Statistically speaking, it’s likely that they spend more time on the road than ever before. America’s consumption of gasoline for transportation has increased steadily since 2012—it dipped downward from 2008–2012 because of the recession, but then it began climbing again—despite steady increases in federal fuel economy standards.

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Earlier in this series, we looked at strategies that can reduce gasoline and diesel consumption; today, we’ll look at strategies for eliminating fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions altogether. Is a 100% renewably-powered fleet a realistic goal?

Strategy #3: Transition to a 100% Renewably-Powered Fleet

Whether and how soon your fleet could be updated to run on 100% renewable energy sources depends, in part, upon how soon you plan to make the changeover, and how far you have to go. Rechargeable battery-electric passenger vehicles are now widely available, and Toyota has announced plans to make all-electric or hybrid versions of all of its passenger vehicles available by 2025. But for commercial vehicles, battery-electric technology is still in the developmental stage. Here’s how some organizations with large fleets are pushing the technology forward.

  • In 2015, using funds from a Federal Transit Administration grant, King County Metro in Seattle, Washington, began testing three zero-emissions battery-electric buses, deploying them in areas of poor air quality. In its analysis of the feasibility of transitioning its entire bus fleet to battery-electric, King County Transit cited the lack of standardization in the technology, the challenges inherent in a transition phase with a fleet that includes both diesel-hybrid and battery-electric buses, the availability of renewable electrical power for charging, and the limited availability of larger buses (60-foot articulating buses) as significant obstacles.
  • In the third quarter of 2017, UPS began testing a Class 6 medium-duty delivery van with a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle in the Sacramento area. The van reportedly has a range of up to 125 miles. The project is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • For over-the-road trucking applications, California-based electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla now has orders for more than 400 electric Class 8 semitrucks from UPS, Walmart, PepsiCo, and J.B. Hunt. The trucks are expected to begin production by 2019 and to have a range of about 500 miles.

So, the answer to the question of whether it will be possible to transition your fleet to 100% renewable energy sources is: probably within the next 10 years. The technology still has a long way to go, but it does exist, and it is being refined and improved, as is the renewable-power infrastructure that will be needed to support it.