Chicago Area Clean Cities Chicago Clean Drives, image courtesy of Chicago Area Clean Cities.

Chicago Area Clean Cities on the Future of Green Fleet

Chicago Area Clean Cities logo, courtesy of Chicago Area Clean CitiesThere are a lot of very good people actively trying to change the fleet and transportation world.  Chicago Area Clean Cities is a member of the larger U.S. Clean Cities program.  The Clean Cities program is fascinating and the work they do is vital towards ensuring that clean fuel and green technology actually makes it into fleet vehicles.

We took a little time to speak with Joe Koenig, Communications and Sponsorships for Chicago Area Clean Cities on their vision of the future of Green Fleet.  If you are interested in more about the organization, or want your company to be a member, visit www.ChicagoCleanCities.org. You can also follow them on Twitter at @ChiCleanCities.

Here’s their vision of the future of green fleet:

Proterra electric bus at Chicago Green Drives 2015

Q: Tell us about your company or organization and its products or services.

A: Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit coalition focused on promoting cleaner energy for transportation and automotive fleets in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. CACC is one of nearly 100 coalitions across the country that are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, which brings together stakeholders to increase the use of alternative fuel and advanced-vehicle technologies, reduce idling, and improve fuel economy and air quality. CACC concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county Chicago area, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

CACC is a voluntary coalition whose mission over the last 21 years has been to support local actions to improve the environmental performance and efficiency of public and private fleets in the six-county Chicago metro area. CACC’s members are comprised of federal, state and local governments, auto manufacturers, local car dealerships, fuel suppliers, conversion companies, environmental organizations, corporations, small businesses, and individuals. These stakeholders come together to share information and resources, educate the public, help craft public policy, and collaborate on projects that reduce petroleum use.

In 2014, CACC’s member fleets saved more than 25 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) of petroleum and nearly 240,000 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions. This is the equivalent of removing 3,150 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline.

 

Q: What do you see as the top 3 challenges to growing a sustainable fleet?

A: Most businesses and municipalities want to be environmentally friendly. However, there are challenges to using green technologies.

The first factor to consider is cost. Will your organization be able to save money over the long run in using alternative fuels or electric vehicles, or is the payback time too great to justify the cost?

The second challenge is infrastructure. Is there a fueling or charging infrastructure in place that is accessible to your fleet?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is important to match the technology with your organizations’ needs. Some businesses, such as GE Capital have decided that hybrid-electric and electric vehicles serve them well in reducing their carbon footprint. Others, such as Ozinga Bros., Inc., which operates 27 concrete mixing plants in the Chicago area and has more than 150 alternative fuel vehicles, have decided that compressed-natural gas (CNG) serves their needs more effectively. To be sustainable, you have to match the needs of your business, municipality, or organization with the technology.

 

VIA Electric at Chicago Green Drives 2015. Image courtesy of Chicago Area Clean CitiesQ: Between hybrid, electric, biofuel, natural gas, propane, and dual-fuel do you see a leader emerging?

A: We definitely agree with philosophy of the power of choice. As you are seeing today, there will be many types of green technologies that serve both fleets and consumers. We expect that trend to continue.

In our region, our coalition is a catalyst for expanding the fuels market and driving business in the compressed natural gas (CNG); liquefied natural gas (LNG); propane; hybrid-electric and plug-in electric; bio-diesel; and ethanol and hydrogen industries. As part of the DOE’s Clean Cities program, we support all fuel types in an effort to reduce petroleum usage and strengthen the local economy.

 

Q: 5 years ago, where did you expect green fleet and alternative fuels to be by now; and where do you see it in 3 years?

A: Clean Cities launched in 1994 and Chicago was the 10th city overall to pledge support for the use of cleaner vehicles and fuels. One of the reasons Chicago was a leader is because the city was looking for ways to improve air quality. The City of Chicago, the State of Illinois and other supporters came together to help launch the public-private coalition in May 1994. Our mission for Clean Cities, Clean Vehicles, Clean Fuel, and Clean Air is not new.

Fuel prices started to rise consistently about 10 years ago. While petroleum fuel prices currently are lower than they were a year ago, most experts believe they will rise again, as history has shown us. Subsequently, due to petroleum fuel prices, and because it is the right thing to do from a global citizenship standpoint, the trend towards green fleets, and the use of alternative fuels such as CNG, propane and eventually hydrogen, will continue. Electric vehicles also will continue to grow in popularity.

EVs have terrific potential due to the increasing advancements in battery power, and improvements in range over the long term that could make the range of EVs a good choice for consumers and businesses.

 

Kinetics Hybrid at 2015 Chicago Green Drives

Q: How can politicians help or hurt the advances that green fleet has made so far?

A: You cannot build a market solely based on legislative incentives, and we’ve seen various initiatives come and go. Most folks see incentives as icing on the cake, but they think, ‘I have to justify it because this technology incentive might not be there forever.’ Incentives are a stimulus, but it does not sustain a market. However incentives will help the use of alternative fuels move forward, especially to assist in building fueling infrastructure.

There’s being green, and there’s being economically green. The ideal situation is to do that hand-in-hand. You can do both at the same time, and most good politicians know there is green to be made in being green.

 

Q: What is the one technology, issue, opportunity or problem that the industry is either under- or over-estimating?

A: The biggest challenge right now with environmentally friendly technologies is infrastructure for fueling, such as expensive CNG and LNG and fast electric-charging stations. There is not an endless supply of petroleum in the world, and over time these challenges need to be tackled, and we are seeing that happen slowly but surely as the demand for green solutions continues to grow.

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Sebastian James

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