The same criteria for selecting a conventionally-fueled vehicle apply to selecting an alternative-fueled vehicle, CAFM says. It is importance to keep in mind, however, a vehicle's operational requirements when considering alternative fuel vehicles. By way of example, hybrid vehicles may be unsuitable for hauling large amounts of cargo. A natural gas-powered vehicle may have reduced range or cargo capacity - due to the fuel tank location - that may make it unsuitable for certain cargo tasks.
The location, accessibility and availability of the fuel and/or fueling sites are factors when determining if the alternative fuel vehicle can operate effectively.
For example, if the operational requirements require regional travel and the appropriate fuel is only available from a centralized location, an alternative fuel vehicle would not be a reasonable choice, CAFM says. Constructing fueling infrastructure, whether at a centralized or alternate location, is an expensive proposition that must be factored into the costs of operation. An alternative may be to partner with another agency or company with infrastructure already in place.
"Government mandates or organizational policy may dictate the use of alternative-fueled vehicles," notes CAFM. "This will more than likely result in higher acquisition costs, as the typical alternative fuel vehicle or alternative fuel conversion will increase the purchase cost of the vehicle.
"However, some agencies find that the positive public perception associated with reducing tailpipe emissions and reliance on foreign petroleum products is worth the additional acquisition and operating costs, while still others with government mandates may not have a choice.
"Still, it is critical that the alternative fuel vehicle selected addresses the appropriate selection criteria." CAFM says.
Selecting the alternative fuel option will affect resale of the vehicle as well. If the vehicle is a dedicated alternative-fueled vehicle, it is likely that the demand for this vehicle will be very limited when it is time to dispose of the vehicle, CAFM says. Most potential buyers will not have access to the fuel type. Even if the fuel is accessible to them, range may be limited if they have access to the fuel type in their immediate area only.
Dual fuel and flexible fuel vehicles may lessen the problem associated with remarketing dedicated alternative fuel vehicles.
Furthermore, warranties for alternative fuel vehicles, including conversions, may be different from the standard manufacturer's warranty. This can affect both operating costs and vehicle availability if the warranty work must be performed by the dealer or company performing the conversion.
Whether the warranty repair work is performed in-house or outsourced, qualified technicians must be available to perform the work, points out CAFM. The lack of qualified technicians available to perform repairs could result in reduced vehicle availability, reliability and, ultimately, driver satisfaction. "This will be even more critical once the warranty expires.
"Dealer support for factory-built alternative fuel vehicles should be available, CAFM says. "Support for converted vehicles may or may not be available. Even if technicians are trained and knowledgeable, parts may be hard to source or perhaps unavailable."
Depending on the fleet and its operation, it may be advantageous to consider acquisition of used vehicles. CAFM says that for a variety of reasons, some fleet managers have identified situations in which their fleet's needs can best be met by purchasing well-equipped, low-mileage used vehicles of recent vintage, or entering a short-term lease in certain circumstances.
"The idea of buying used vehicles might be expected to generate some negative feelings initially," says CAFM. "However, if savings - for cost avoidance - can be documented, the idea could become worthy of closer investigation."