Alternative fuels and hybrid drive technologies are not only a step towards sustainability – they are also a great path toward cost efficiency
Embracing sustainability initiatives in your fleet’s fuel management means combining green practices with your fleet’s strategic objectives. Alternative fuels and hybrid drive technologies can certainly be integrated with great success.
While a lot of sustainability talk these days is about reducing fuel consumption and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, these goals might seem a bit too far out of reach for truckers. When the topic, though, is practically merged with short-term fleet goals, offering more diversity in fuel and vehicle choice and lowering costs, then sustainability practices become much more functional and meaningful for fleet owners looking for effective innovations.
Let’s explore some of the top alternative fuels and hybrid drive technologies that can inspire you for your own sustainable practices and lead your fleet to a greener, less costly and more productive functioning.
Pulling away from using traditional fuels might not be an easy step initially, but understanding the benefits of alternative fuels certainly can help. In many cases, alternative fuels don’t come from finite fossil fuel resources, and so they’ve become a prerequisite for sustainability and energy independence. They are also generally greener. Check out two alternative fuels that are not at all obscure – both are already widely used across the U.S.
Let’s talk alcohol here. Ethanol is certainly a great alternative to gasoline, even if you don’t want to completely switch your fuel supply. It is already being added to regular gasoline, usually in a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, sold as E85. The most common way of obtaining ethanol is from crops such as corn.
While there have been some concerns about potential food cost hikes because of the demand for corn, alternative ways of getting ethanol are currently being developed. That’s why Ethanol is certainly a biofuel worth considering — it allows a gradual switch from traditional to alternative fuel sources and does not affect vehicle performance significantly. Ethanol also allows for easier vehicle maintenance and decreases pollution check costs, which means it’s not only sustainable, but also good for your fleet’s finances.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid natural gas (LNG) are other biofuels that have been on the market for some time and have proven benefits. Retrofitting of vehicles to use CNG and LNG can be done easily and safely, and there are also ready-made vehicles available for sale now. A transition to these alternative fuels is rather smooth, as they don’t affect vehicle performance in terms of power, speed or acceleration. That’s why companies like Waste Management Inc. are planning to switch up to 80% of their trucks to natural gas. UPS is also doing the same.
Natural gas is obtained by drilling, but it is available in much higher quantities in the U.S. than oil, so there are no serious concerns regarding available quantity. In its liquefied form, it is very energy dense, which means it gives a lot of power in a small quantity. In general, natural gas burns much cleaner than traditional fuels. It is also less expensive and currently not that susceptible to price hikes. More natural gas stations for trucks are expected in the foreseeable future.
Hybrid and electric drive technologies
With so many innovations in the field of hybrid and electric drive technologies, it’s simply a pity not to reap the benefits they offer in terms of sustainability and monetary savings. Let’s take a look at some of the newest and most innovative options in the field.
It’s worth checking out the XL Hybrids, nominated for the title of the most innovative company by Fast Company. As they saw the need for low cost hybrid options for urban pickups and vans, XL Hybrids set out to fill this niche, and they’ve done it well.
By incorporating an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries, they turned these gas-greedy vehicles into hybrids. The fuel savings work through regenerative braking – the process of breaking charges the batteries. Ultimately, this leads to a 20% reduction in fuel and emissions.
According to XL Hybrids, the switch to hybrid pays off only in a few years, and fleets can start with a few vehicles initially. Additionally, they have partnered with GM and Ford to assure that the retrofitting does not change the warranty on vehicles. FedEx and Coca Cola are already benefiting from XL Hybrids’ new technology.
It’s no coincidence that the slogan of the Freightliner Trucks’ Hybrid Electric series is “It pays to run clean.” The M2 106 Hybrid trucks use the Eaton parallel-electric hybrid system, which means they can use either diesel alone or together with the hybrid-electrical motor. They also use the method of regenerative braking, so no energy is lost in the breaking process – it is captured and reused.
Freightliner Trucks’ hybrids also have optional electronic power take off (ePTO), which is perfect for high-idling conditions. In ePTO mode, idle time is cut down by 87%, as is fuel consumption – by 60%. This leads to immediate savings for your fleet.
With the great number of innovations in alternative fuels and hybrid and electric drive technologies, it’s only a matter of time before these steadily replace traditional fueling methods. While sustainability and environmental protection are of high priority, the cost effectiveness of such technologies and fuels is also significant for fleet owners.