The City of Madison has set the ambitious goal of reaching 100% renewable energy and zero net carbon emissions by 2030. We will get there but the time to act is now. Fleet and our sister agencies are already leading the charge against climate change, and reducing the City's impact on the environment. The transportation sector makes up 38% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Wisconsin, and that is the number we are attacking every day.
Since 2018 Fleet implemented a biodiesel fueling program. Biodiesel is typically processed from soybean plants, waste cooking oil, and agricultural waste, which makes us less dependent on oil and boosts our local economy.
Biodiesel freezes or “gels” at slightly higher temperatures than regular diesel fuel. In the coldest months of the year, we order lower blends of biodiesel as a precaution, and switch to regular diesel at extremely cold temperatures below zero. This is a standard best practice.
Biodiesel is blended with regular diesel to meet a specified ratio. For example, B5 fuel is 5% biodiesel. We use B5, B11, or B20 biodiesel fuel depending on the season. Madison is the first and only government fleet in Wisconsin to use B20 for all diesel vehicles.
Fleets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by operating low- or zero-emission equipment. Hybrid-electric vehicles have an impact on emissions and lower our dependence on fossil fuel. These vehicles are great replacements for all operations, and we expect to cut fuel consumption, emissions, and costs by half with our hybrid-electric fleet. These cars have both a fuel tank and small electric motor which complement each other.
While hybrid vehicles cost a bit more up front, the City will see a return on its investment within a few years as the cars use less fuel and need less maintenance. We are expecting to have 60 hybrids by 2020.
Even better than hybrids are the zero-emission plug-in electric vehicles, which have given up on gasoline entirely like a successfully recovered alcoholic. By 2020, we will have 30 EVs, including 20 Chevrolet Bolts being purchased with grant assistance from Wisconsin State Office of Energy Innovation. We chose this model for its longer driving range (up to 240 miles on a single charge) and more affordable price. We are excited to bring in a variety of electric equipment in the future, including vans, trucks, and forklifts.
Electric vehicles are a great way to lower vehicle emissions. However, our electric grid in Wisconsin is still highly dependent on coal and other fossil fuels. While electric vehicles (EVs) are zero emission while driving, there are “upstream” environmental effects to charging. However, the grid can be avoided altogether with alternative energy sources, the main reason why Fleet has procured three completely off the grid, solar charging stations.
These charging stations can power up two EVs simultaneously, resulting in completely zero emissions when driving electric vehicles.
Not only can they charge vehicles, in case of an emergency, the solar charging stations can be used as emergency generators. In addition, to maximize the amount of solar charging, the solar panels move to follow sunlight automatically.
Certain pieces of equipment in our fleet need the engine to run to use equipment on the vehicle. Some examples are repair trucks with a bucket lift, ambulances with life-saving equipment running inside, and Police squads running computers to stay connected to up-to-date information.
Idling wastes fuel and emits more greenhouse gases, but anti-idling technology helps limit that.
Anti-idling technology reduces the time the main engine is running when the vehicle is not moving. It also keeps the operation running (e.g., heat, air conditioning, and/or electricity) in the vehicle or equipment without running the engine while the vehicle is parked.All of our new ambulances will come with anti-idling technology already installed. We are also exploring retrofitting police cars as a pilot of this technology.
We have purchased soy tires for 169 Police vehicles at Fleet. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve heard that they have better traction than traditional tires. This is great news as we are not sacrificing reliability for environmental sustainability.
Soy tires are created by substituting part of the petroleum oil that is used to make the tire with soybean oil. By switching to soy tires, we are breaking away from the dependency to petroleum and towards a greener future, while also supporting the agricultural economy of soybean growing Midwestern states such as Wisconsin.
Sustainable New Fleet Facility
Madison is building a new 110,000 square foot Fleet Headquarters facility, with a planned move-in date of September 2020. This building will consolidate four public works facilities into one, and will feature solar panels, a solar heating wall, CNG truck repair bays, electric vehicle chargers for City vehicles as well as the public, and natural lighting to reduce power usage. Thanks to coordination between City Engineering and Fleet, the goal is for at least LEED Silver certification.
The Future of Alternative Fuel Technology
Alternative fuel technologies are improving every day. We track improvements in the market and pilot alternative technology wherever we can. We are currently exploring:
- Compressed natural gas (CNG)
- Biodegradable lubricants