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Fleets Become Electrified

These "first adopters" have created a blueprint for other companies on how to green their fleets while staying within budget.

January 2009, by Chad Simon

Weary of high gas prices and spewing harmful emissions into the atmosphere, many companies are searching for alternative ways to conduct fleet business while saving money in the process.

One emerging alternative is the use of electric vehicles for jobs that once required a gasoline or diesel-burning vehicle. The electric vehicle market has grown in recent years from electrified golf carts to low-speed "neighborhood" transporters to panel vans with 16,000-lb. payloads and a range of 150 miles on a charge.

Though the upfront costs of such vehicles are often greater than their conventional counterparts, the overall payback can be rewarding in terms of both dollar savings and environmental impact. In many cases, financial assistance is available to purchase electric vehicles, and an added bonus is minimal maintenance expenses and minor energy vehicle power costs.

Four fleets—two universities, a construction company and a seafood delivery company—reveal the process of adopting different types of electric vehicle technology and how they made it work within budget for their individual applications.

SUNY Buffalo Goes Solar-Electric

Alfred Gilewicz, assistant director, utility operations with the State University of New York at Buffalo, has installed solar panels from Cruise Car Inc. on two of the university's already-existing electric golf carts. By next spring, he plans to have two more solar-electric-powered golf carts on the road. The fleet also operates 10 Global Electric Motorcars (GEM, owned by Chrysler).

University President John B. Simpson recently signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment letter, which, according to Gilewicz, is consistent with the university's environmental efforts to reduce energy consumption and be good stewards of the environment.

"Part of our overall plan is to reduce the use of vehicles on campus, including fleet vehicles in our operations department," says Gilewicz.

Initially, the university engaged its frontline staff to ensure the vehicles would meet their needs. In August 2008, the first trial vehicle equipped with a solar panel was placed on the road using no external power. Gilewicz says there's virtually no maintenance, and using solar power makes them truly climate neutral.

SUNY Buffalo encompasses three campuses about five miles apart from each other. The golf carts are parked in the sun to charge, making them an ideal fit for the university's utility operations staff who run from building to building within each campus all day long.

Brian Ongaro (left), Willie Ghilotti and Richard Ghilotti, owner of Ghilotti Construction Co., stand beside their two ZAP electric vehicles. The company uses the four-wheel unit to run parts off site and the three-wheel unit to transfer paperwork, time cards and invoices to opposite ends of the company’s five-acre facility.

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