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Information to Help Evaluate Green Fleet Options

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Introduction

Counties and cities throughout California are considering adopting policies and programs to “green their fleets” by purchasing fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles. While many agencies already have experience greening their fleets, many local officials have questions regarding green fleet options.

The following information examines several key topics raised by city and county officials. It provides information to help counties and cities evaluate green fleet options.

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Key Topics to Consider

Can fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles be used for public safety purposes? Do these vehicles have sufficient power and acceleration to meet the high performance requirements for pursuit vehicles?

Fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles can be used for a variety of public safety purposes, including as pursuit vehicles. For example, one public safety agency uses flex fuel vehicles (that can use either E85 ethanol or gasoline) as pursuit vehicles and finds that they offer the same performance as regular gasoline powered vehicles. Generally, most alternative fuel vehicles do not meet the high performance standards needed by most public safety departments for pursuit vehicles.

However, many cities and counties use fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles in their public safety departments as administrative or non-pursuit vehicles. For example, police detectives in one city use hybrid vehicles, as they do not use their cars as pursuit vehicles.

Can we save money by purchasing fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles through the California Department of General Services (DGS)? Can we purchase vehicles through DGS and still work with local auto dealers?

The California Department of General Services (DGS) maintains Master Vehicle Contracts that cities and counties can use to purchase fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles at lower prices than might otherwise be available to them. DGS develops specifications for different types or classes of vehicles (such as hybrid sedans) and then awards contracts to specific dealerships for a single model in each class. DGS awards two contracts for each class of vehicles, one specifying delivery of vehicles to any agency within Sacramento County, and the other specifying delivery to any agency within Los Angeles County, in order to offer northern and southern California delivery opportunities. Local agencies can order vehicles directly from those dealerships under the DGS master vehicle contracts. Local agencies outside Sacramento or Los Angeles counties can negotiate delivery terms with the dealership.

While DGS Master Vehicle Contracts only apply to the selected dealerships, the contract specifications and pricing are publicly available on the DGS Web site. Cities and counties may use these publicly available resources as a starting point for exploring purchasing opportunities through local dealers.

Information about how to use DGS Master Vehicle Contracts is available at: Purchasing Fuel-Efficient and Alternative-Fuel Vehicles through the California Department of General Services.

How can we evaluate the costs and benefits of switching to alternative fuel vehicles?

Each community must evaluate what works best for its particular needs. Conducting a broad assessment of costs and benefits can help identify the full range of available opportunities. For example, a life-cycle analysis of new alternative fuel or fuel efficient vehicles would take into account both initial costs of purchase, as well as long-term costs for operation, maintenance, and financing. Cost analysis could include evaluation of the availability of fueling and maintenance infrastructure, while benefit assessment could include avoided costs for maintenance or upgrades of standard fueling infrastructure, as well as environmental and public health benefits from reduced emissions.

What are options if our agency cannot afford to convert 100% of its fleet?

Most agencies do not have the resources to convert their entire fleet to fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles at one time. However, many have established policies to phase-in the purchase of green vehicles over time, thus incrementally increasing the number of green vehicles in their fleets.

Do fleet maintenance staff need special training to work on fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles?

Local agencies’ mechanics generally can benefit from special training to work on hybrids and other alternative-fuel vehicles. When evaluating options for policies to acquire alternative-fuel vehicles, it is important to consider the cost to train mechanics if the agency is considering maintaining the vehicles itself.

Where can we find information that compares different types of fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles?

Several state and national resources are available that help consumers, including cities and counties, compare different types of vehicles. A description of the resources, including website links, is available at: Resources for Greening Fleets.

Where can we find information about the costs and availability of different types of fuels?

Several resources are available that help consumers find information about pricing for various fuels for different types of vehicles and the location of service stations that offer those fuels. A description of the resources, including website links, is available at: Resources for Greening Fleets.

This information was prepared with generous support from AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah.

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