Fueling a cleaner fleet
Arlington County, Va., has been working for several years to expand the county’s alternative fuel program. “We are very proactive, environmentally speaking,” says Ric Hiller, equipment bureau chief for the county’s Office of Support Services. “Living in a large, metropolitan area like we do, it’s important to do our part to try to keep [our fleet vehicles’] soot levels down.”
Arlington County was the first county on the East Coast to experiment with the use of E85 (a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and gasoline) for its light-vehicle fleet, according to Hiller. “We started purchasing flex-fueled vehicles in 2001 that could operate on E85 as an alternative to gasoline; then in the spring of 2002 we also began using B20 biodiesel in the county’s diesel-powered school buses,” he says.
Biodiesel is used in all but four buses, which are set to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). Going into the biodiesel program, engine manufacturers agreed to honor their warranties as long as any engine failures that occurred could not be attributed directly to the biodiesel and that the county used only virgin soy biodiesel as opposed to biodiesel derived from used grease. “We’ve had no problems whatsoever,” he says.
The county’s fleet of 1,200 cars and trucks also includes hybrid sedans, sport utility vehicles and pickups, which can power electric tools used in the field by water crews and park maintenance staff. The county phases in alternative-fuel vehicles as older models wear out. Each spring, Hiller begins scheduling vehicle replacements based on vehicle class, age, condition and mileage. “We provide the various county agencies with a list of vehicles that have come up for review and possible replacement,” he says. “Vehicles we looked at last May and June won’t actually be replaced until fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1, 2007. Since we’re looking at these vehicles 18 months to two years prior to when they will physically get replaced, we have to level out the peaks and valleys in expenditures to budget appropriately.”
— Deborah Mcguffie-Schyhol is associate editor for Fleet Owner, American City & County’s sister publication. This article is adapted from one that was originally published in Fleet Owner.
Project: Alternative fuel vehicles
Jurisdiction: Arlington County, Va.,
Agency: Office of Support Services
Vendors: Torrance, Calif.-based Toyota, Detroit-based Ford, Chevrolet and GMC, High Point, N.C.-based Thomas Built Buses and Conway, Ark.-based IC Corp.