Fleets can play an important role in introducing more fuel-efficient vehicles into the U.S. passenger vehicle stock but need some encouragement to do so, according to a new study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Greener Fleets: Fuel Economy Progress and Prospects finds that few fleets have attempted to maximize the fuel economy of their vehicles to date.
"Fuel costs are important to fleets, and choosing fuel-efficient vehicles can bring those costs down. Cars and trucks with high fuel economies are available right now, but unfortunately, there are obstacles to fleets' buying them," said Therese Langer, report co-author and ACEEE's Transportation Program Director. "The structure of manufacturer discounts, lack of federal guidance, and vehicle leasing agreements all work against purchase of the fuel economy leaders."
Fleets are influential due to the sheer number of vehicles that they buy as well as their role as laboratory and showcase for new approaches to the selection and use of automobiles. While attempts to use fleets to popularize alternative fuel vehicles have been somewhat disappointing, fleets' use of fuel-efficient vehicles could catch on more easily with the general public.
The report finds that local governments have taken the lead thus far in setting fleet fuel economy policies, and that business fleets represent a large untapped potential for efficiency. Changes in basic fleet practices and interactions will be needed to move forward, however. "Fleets need to coordinate vehicle purchase and fuel management functions," noted Daniel Williams, co-author and ACEEE's Transportation Program Assistant. "But to really make a difference, fleets will have to work together and tell manufacturers that the perennial fleet favorites, from the Stratus to the Explorer, must get more miles per gallon."
Hybrids are appealing to fleets that want to be green, but their higher cost and the fact that they don't currently bring credits towards meeting alternative fuel vehicle requirements make large-scale purchase difficult for the government and fuel provider fleets subject to mandates. The report recommends steps to promote acquisition of advanced technology vehicles, but also emphasizes the fuel savings that fleets could achieve by choosing the most fuel-efficient conventional vehicle that can do the job.
Written by: Therese Langer and Daniel Williams, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
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