Pumping up alternatives
Project: Alternative fuel expansion
Jurisdiction: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Agency: Fleet Management
Vendors: Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford; locally based Acorn Petroleum
Date: September 2007
Cost: $50 million
The alternative fuel program in Colorado Springs, Colo., expanded this year when the Fleet Management Division installed an ethanol fuel (E85) pump at its central fleet maintenance facility. The fueling station will serve 100 flex-fuel vehicles owned by the city and Colorado Springs Utilities, and it will dispense an estimated 10,000 gallons of E85 fuel in its first year.
Colorado Springs has been aggressively expanding its alternative fuel use since December 2003, when it began using biodiesel in vehicles with diesel engines. To date, the city has dispensed 1.4 million gallons of the fuel. “We have such a large biodiesel program because we are able to use [it] in all the vehicles that use regular diesel,” says Nick Kittle, fleet finance manager. “It doesn’t require any retrofitting on our part.”
At the same time, the city has been replacing older vehicles with electric, hybrid or flex-fuel (unleaded or E85) versions. Now, more than half of the city’s and utility department’s fleets, which use a combined 2.4 million gallons of fuel annually, operates on alternative energy. As a result, the city estimates it has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 4 million pounds and its particulate matter emissions by 1,600 pounds since 2003.
When the city began acquiring flex-fuel vehicles from Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford, only one local fuel distributor, locally based Acorn Petroleum, carried ethanol, so the city contracted with the company to supply the alternative fuel at a specific price and issued fuel cards to drivers to purchase E85 when they needed to fill up. But, the stations were not always conveniently located for drivers, and fleet managers could not ensure drivers used the alternative fuel. The city applied for a grant from the Governor’s Biofuel Coalition to install an ethanol tank at its central fleet maintenance facility. The $15,000 grant covered about 30 percent of the cost of the pump installation, and the rest was split by the city and Colorado Springs Utilities.
Since the ethanol pump was installed in September, the city has dispensed approximately 6,200 gallons of E85. A fuel/fleet management system on fuel dispensers and vehicles restricts drivers from using improper fuel. It also collects data from vehicles’ computers, such as fuel mileage, to measure performance and schedule preventive maintenance.
To expand alternative fuel use, city officials are encouraging major vehicle manufacturers to develop more alternative fuel vehicles. “The direction we’ve had for the last three to five years is alternative fuels and fuel conservation, and anything we can buy that’s an alternative fuel, that’s the direction that we need to go,” says Christina Hartzler, fleet acquisitions and disposals manager.