Greening the fleet

Argonne’s vehicle fleet is getting greener.

Argonne's new, fuel-efficient vehicle fleet.

New, fuel-efficient vehicles have reduced carbon emissions by the lab's fleet by 85.5%.

Through a program initiated and conceived by John Surdey, manager of Material Handling and Transportation and the Fleet Manager, new environmentally friendly vehicles have been leased through a partnership with the Government Services Administration (GSA).

Surdey manages a fleet of 135 cars, buses and trucks used at the laboratory. When he first took over as fleet manager, Surdey saw the high cost of labor and parts for maintaining the aging Agency owned gasoline-fueled vehicle fleet. He wanted to find a way to reduce the overhead while cutting the fleet’s carbon footprint. Since many of the vehicles at the lab are used in stop-and-go fashion they get terrible gas mileage: 7-8 mpg. Switching to a new GSA leased vehicle fleet that uses E-85 fuel, Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel and Hybrid Electric vehicles saves fuel, parts, labor and is easier on the environment.

Surdey first introduced small subcompact sedans to replace many of the SUVs, pickups and minivans used at Argonne.

The sedans not only have a much higher mpg rating than the previous van type vehicles, but use E-85 (a gasoline/ethanol mix) alternative fuel rather than regular gasoline.

Several Hybrid Ford Fusion sedans were leased for Security to replace the aging Chevy Impalas. The new hybrids feature a four-cylinder, gasoline-electric engine that gets 47 mpg. One Ford SUV Hybrid Escape was added as well. The vehicle uses an electric motor, an internal combustion engine and an advanced 275-volt nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery. It switches to battery power and turns the engine off when it is not moving. When the accelerator is pressed the engine is started.

“These vehicles are the perfect fit for security,” said Surdey, “Security makes constant stops during patrols and the battery comes into play when the vehicle would normally be idling. The gasoline engine is there in case security needs to quickly respond to an emergency.”

Five electric vehicles were also acquired for the fleet. These 100 percent electric vehicles get up to 55 miles on one charge. They cost less than $5 a charge, making the cost savings significant. Surdey looked far and wide for a reliable, electric vehicle that didn’t perform like a golf cart. He found the right solution from E-Ride Industries, a company in Princeton, Minnesota. The vehicles are entirely modular. They can be outfitted with a flatbed, a camper top, ladder rack, portable welder, garbage unit and more. They resemble small Hummer vehicles and are rugged. Made in the USA, they can stand up to the tough winters here in Illinois.

“They are the perfect solution for the stop-go deliveries made around the Argonne campus,” said Surdey, “The vehicles require little maintenance — we just need to add some distilled water once a month.” Future plans include adding to the electric vehicle fleet as well as installing charging stations for these vehicles in strategically located areas on site.

The results of these efforts have been impressive. Today Argonne uses 70 percent less gasoline and diesel fuel and has increased use of alternative fuel (E-85) vehicles by 75 percent. Carbon emissions were also reduced by 85.5 percent over two years.

Surdey saw that by partnering with the GSA he was able to save Argonne a great deal of money. By leasing the new vehicles from GSA and replacing the aging Agency owned fleet, more than $200,000 in repair costs are saved a year. GSA’s lease covers maintenance. Oil changes, tire rotation and small repairs are covered.

View photos of the new, green fleet on Flickr.

Posted February 24, 2011