Employees of Dallas-based McShan Florist fill up one of 25 Ford E-350 vans on CNG. Owner Bruce McShan says he would not have been able to secure a grant for the CNG conversions without the help of a grant writer.
Many questions arise when a business decides to switch to an alternative fuel: Which fuel type would be best for your fleet? What infrastructure is available? And most importantly, is there funding or incentives out there that could ease the costs of greening your fleet?
That’s where the Clean Cities project from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) comes in. “Usually when a fleet comes to Clean Cities, they’re looking for information or they’re given an assignment and they don’t know where to start,” says Richard Battersby, coordinator for the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition in California.
The nearly 100 local Clean Cities coalitions are considered “fuel neutral” in that they don’t prefer one type of fuel over another. Instead, they can help fleets analyze which fuel would be best by looking at the vehicles in their fleets, the area of operation and other factors.
UNDERSTANDING THE CLEAN CITIES MISSION
“I would say the No. 1 misconception is that our primary goal is clean air and the environment, but our primary mission at Clean Cities is petroleum reduction,” Battersby says.
Another common misconception is that Clean Cities only works with public fleets and municipalities. But the organization works for any type of fleet — private to public, small to large.
Fleets can approach Clean Cities at any point in their green fleet process, even if they don’t know exactly what they want to do yet. According to Battersby, he typically gets two types of fleets that reach out — the first being fleets still researching that may have misconceptions Clean Cities can help clear up.
Pamela Burns, a coordinator at the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities in Texas, says she’s often finding people in the area assuming there’s a lack of infrastructure for alternative power or fuels. “People are wondering, for example, why we don’t have EV chargers, when really we have more per capita than most areas,” she says.
With tools available on the www.afdc.energy.gov website, Clean Cities can help fleets get through an auditing process to find the fuel use per vehicle, and then take a realistic look at the infrastructure and analyze the findings. “Each fleet’s needs are different, and that’s the fun part, matching that fleet’s needs to a particular solution,” Battersby says.
The second type of fleet knows what fuel type it wants but has begun to see how complicated acquisition can be, particularly when it comes to equipment procurement and pricing. This is really where local Clean Cities coalitions can come in handy, Battersby says. They can provide networking opportunities and local contacts so fleets can see real-life examples in their communities.