But it’s not all speed bumps and roadblocks, according to Jerry Leanderson, north central regional fleet account executive for General Motors. While EPAct has failed to be much of a factor in the development of an alternative fuel infrastructure, states and municipalities like Fort Wayne are making real headway, Leanderson says. “Many state governors have issued administrative requirements, and many legislatures have passed laws that the state will use alternative fuel fleets—in the Midwest I think it’s in every state,” he explains. “I see more action meeting those requirements than any of the EPAct laws. State fleets have made tremendous progress.
“The approach they have taken is this: if a flex-fuel vehicle is available in a particular category, they will make every effort to purchase that vehicle, unless there is a huge cost to do that,” Leanderson explains. And because there is not a significant cost differential between a gasoline vehicle and an FFV, Leanderson sees more state fleets now purchasing FFVs and then investing in their own infrastructure. The State of Michigan, for example, recently put in an E85 pump at its central fleet location in Lansing, in response to orders from the governor that the state’s FFVs should now run on E85 “whenever it makes sense.” Well, with a state-owned pump on the premises, it suddenly “makes sense” to fill up with E85.
Even law enforcement agencies, which are excluded from EPAct requirements, are starting to change course. “With the Impala police car becoming E85 capable, as the Tahoe has been for a number of years, and the Ford Crown Victoria E85-capable this year, I think you’ll see most of the law enforcement agencies moving that way, just because it’s available,” Leanderson says.
“You also have local municipalities, where generally there are no mandates,” he says. “When you see some mandates it’s similar to the states, where you have progressive mayors or city councils who have taken the step of saying if it is available we’re going to buy it and make our city green.”
That brings us right back to Fort Wayne, IN, where the mayor’s new hero is forging ahead with his efforts to “green” the city fleet. With E85 costing 60 to 90 cents a gallon less than regular unleaded gasoline, Campbell can’t afford not to incorporate E85 into his fleet fuel program.
With Campbell’s encouragement, the city’s fuel provider, Lassus Brothers, has worked with the local Clean Cities chapter to secure a grant to help finance the installation of an E85 pump at one of Lassus Brothers’ locations. Meanwhile, Campbell is stocking up on FFVs, including 40 new police Impalas. And the mayor’s not the only one smiling.
“What we see with E85 right now is, we do lose a few miles per gallon, but we actually got better performance,” Campbell says. “Our deputy chief runs an E85 Tahoe, and he really watches that, and he could tell the difference. He lost a little over two miles per gallon, but he said, ‘Man, the performance is just tremendous, and it actually ran better!’”
If it worked for Fort Wayne, it can work for you. Alternative fuel mandates can have a crippling effect on your fleet purchasing plans, but with new options for acquiring both vehicles and fuels, fleets have fewer and fewer reasons not to go green.
For expanded coverage on alternative fuel mandates, watch for the Spring issue of Fuel Advantage, available at www.fuelpub.com
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