Companies Seeing Green in Converting Fleets to Hybrids

By dancurranjr On May 20th, 2009

green-carCanadian companies that green their fleets are saving more than the environment. They’re also saving money — a lot of it.

In 2008, Enbridge realized fuel savings in the amount of $795,000, says Evelyn Thompson, manager of fleet and equipment at the gas distribution company’s Toronto office. “CO2 emissions have been reduced by over 700 tons,” she adds.

Enbridge has a fleet of 812 vehicles in Eastern Canada, with 40 in New Brunswick, 15 in Quebec and the rest in Ontario. Of those, 600 are light-duty vehicles, more than half of which have been converted to natural gas, says Thompson. The rest are heavy-duty, diesel-powered trucks, pickup trucks and sedans. General Motors, International, Ford and Honda provide the vehicles, and Eco Fuel Systems Inc. provides the aftermarket conversion kits.

But Enbridge hasn’t simply jumped on the green bandwagon, says Thompson. “We’ve been converting vehicles for 25 years.”

But there’s more to having a green fleet than just employing alternative-fuelled vehicles. Enbridge has a driver training program in place that teaches its employees how to drive more fuel efficiently and a good maintenance program in place to prevent efficiency-sapping problems such as vehicles having the wrong tire pressure, says Thompson. And Enbridge has its heavy-duty trucks pre-programmed with speed limiters at 105 km/h to help save fuel.

“About 95 per cent of the companies I talk to want to go green,” says Barbara Cooper, national account manager at Ford of Canada in Oakville, Ont. “When I talk to a fleet manager, I try to find out: ‘What is your quest?’” For example, she says she asks fleet managers whether their move to greener vehicles is a desire to have a smaller carbon footprint or to save money.

Cooper is in charge of 60 national accounts, with the average customer buying 50 to 75 units a year. Her largest customer buys 1,200 vehicles a year.

She says many fleet managers may have been mandated to cut emissions by their superiors and they’re given annual initiatives to achieve.

But at what cost do people go green? “It’s expensive,” Cooper says.

Less than five per cent want to cut their emissions “no matter what the cost,” she admits. The rest want to reduce their carbon footprint, but not if it costs too much money. She cautions fleet managers that hybrids don’t save them money right away and they many not necessarily need a hybrid to be fuel efficient since smaller engines can also have impressive fuel economy.

Ford has only two hybrids in its fleet, the Escape Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid. But the automaker’s EcoBoost engine technology offers smaller-displacement turbocharged gasoline engines that provide fuel savings of between 10 and 20 per cent, she says.

“By 2015, 95 per cent of our vehicles will have EcoBoost,” says Ford spokeswoman Christine Hollander. She adds, “The technology will migrate from our small vehicles to trucks.”

Hollander says hybrids have better fuel economies in the stop-and-go traffic of the city than they do on the highway, so fleets also have to look at their traffic needs before they decide to go with a hybrid.


When it comes to green vehicles, “the awareness level is constantly growing,” says Cooper of fleet managers. “They’re quite savvy.”

Fleets can get rebates on green vehicles, so there are government incentives to go green as well.

Some government offices also have specific mandates to go green, such as the City of Mississauga.

It began greening its fleet in 2006 and plans to realize fuel savings of $446,000 by 2011, when the project will be completed, says Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, environmental transportation co-ordinator for the city. Over the five-year period, the city is projecting a reduction of 548 tons of CO2 emissions, she says. An additional 1,538 tons of CO2 emissions will be cut when Mississauga’s entire fleet of transit vehicles is switched over to biodiesel, she adds.

Mississauga employs 211 light-duty vehicles and 36 hybrids from Ford, Nissan, Honda and Toyota.

For The Co-operators Group, going green is not just an environmental mandate but also a social plan, says spokesman Leonard Sharman.

“We started on our sustainability journey two years ago … Our CEO (Kathy Bardswick) essentially made this decision. She was the driving force behind that,” he says.

Sharman says The Co-operators is turning green in every area of its business, from making its 600 buildings across Canada more environmentally friendly to greening its vehicle fleet. The group, which insures more than one million Canadians, has 350 cars — all Toyotas — in its fleet, with no trucks or vans.

“Our fleet vehicles, which employees can choose from, are the Prius, Camry — hybrid or non-hybrid, Corolla and Matrix. We have 4,437 full-time employees across Canada; 4,629 if you include part-time.”

The company’s greening program will be completed in 2010.

Sharman says not every vehicle has to be a hybrid; it just has to get a fuel economy of 10 L/100 kilometres or better. And, he adds, every driver is trained to use the new vehicles, some of which are hybrids and require a little bit of getting used to.

“Some of these vehicles are more expensive than the ones we previously had in our fleet, so there is some more cost there,” admits Sharman of the hybrids. “But we do expect an overall reduction in costs related to our fleet and, naturally, fuel costs have, and will continue to decrease, as we roll over the rest of our fleet.

“On the question of emissions, comparing 2007 (with) 2008 — the first year we began to green the fleet — we achieved a reduction of 13.9 per cent both in emissions — 4,094 metric tons in 2007 versus 3,526 (tons) in 2008 — and in litres of gas purchased — 1.647 million versus 1.419 million,” he says.

“Our fleet drives a total of 14 million kilometres a year and uses just under 1.5 million litres of fuel, so we hope this will make a significant difference,” Sharman says, adding the company hopes to achieve fuel economy savings of 20 per cent.

Since Dec. 1, 2008, The Co-operators has been offering a five per cent insurance discount to clients who go green, but only if their vehicle is a hybrid. However, the insurance company will not give a discount on a non-hybrid vehicle, even if it has better fuel economy than the insurance company’s own standard of 10 L/100 km.

Perhaps, in time, that will change, too.


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