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Environment: Five ways fleets have reduced CO2 emissions

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1. Offer driver incentives

Publishing group Archant introduced an incentive scheme to encourage drivers to choose lower emission cars.

“All new cars on the fleet have average CO2 emissions below 130g/km and, as the CO2 rate chosen reduces, the driver qualifies for a bonus payment that is a greater proportion of the wholelife cost saving on the vehicle,” says Greg Parton, group head of procurement and strategy. “This goes up to 90% if the car has lower than 90g/km.”

Most company car drivers who opt for a greener car will receive a top-up payment of £40 per month. In some instances, it can be as much as £150.

Parton says Archant is also targeting CO2 reductions across the fleet by introducing the lowest emitting models where the driver has limited choice of vehicle, moving to a 130g/km upper limit for user-choosers.

Its fleet of around 350 vehicles currently has average CO2 emissions of 105.9g/km.

In addition to diesel options, user-choosers can also select petrol and are offered a green option of petrol- electric hybrids.

2. Remap engines

Engine remapping cut BT Group’s vehicle CO2 emissions by around 20% – with the 25,000-tonne annual reduction the equivalent of removing 1,900 taxis from the road.

The initiative also cut fuel costs by 10%, saving the company more than £4  million annually.

“Engine remapping changes the way the burn happens in the engine,” says Duncan Webb, commercial director at fleet management company BT Fleet, which manages BT’s 33,000 vehicles.

“It’s a cleaner burn so there are less carbon deposits.”

The idea to carry out engine remapping came from Webb’s engineering team.

“We saw that the technology was being used in the premium sports industry and, when we explored it further, it was clear that it could be used for economic purposes, not just performance improvements,” he says.

BT Fleet decided to partner with Viezu Technologies  to assess whether remapping was viable and the two companies began trialling the technology at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedford, in mid-2012.

The trials, which included throttle, revs, speed and power limiting, showed fuel consumption could be reduced by about 11-16%, depending on vehicle type.

The project gained board approval and the first vehicles were remapped in August 2012. All its 24,000 vans were remapped during 2013.

3. Improve vehicle design

Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) began working with Leeds University in 2010 on a ‘green ambulance challenge’ to design a vehicle that would replace what it called “a yellow and green driven brick”.

Leeds University’s research showed that drag forces acting on the common box-body ambulance designs could be reduced significantly by employing aerodynamic styling.

By using a new design concept based on aerofoil shapes common in the aerospace industry, whereby the light-bar is integrated within the roof design, university researchers reduced the drag factor from 20% to just 3% – more than an ambulance with no light-bars. The new, aerodynamic vehicles returned an average 21.18mpg, travelling more than 560 miles per week – an improvement of almost 25%. For YAS, with its £7m annual fuel bill, this could result in savings of up to £700,000 a year and a reduction in carbon emissions by a potential 500 tonnes of CO2.

“There are financial benefits to be had by adopting  technology that will reduce our carbon footprint,” says Alexis Keech, environmental and sustainability manager for YAS. Engineers have also cut 800kg from the vehicle’s weight through innovative storage.

4. Install night heaters

Fitting night heaters to its vans has helped Scottish Power reduce emissions. The company installed a telematics system into its fleet and this identified the company had  a “massive idling issue”, says John Moore, vehicle  maintenance manager for Scottish Power.

“We found that engineers who, for example, were repairing pylons in cold weather would leave the van’s engine running so when they returned to it after several hours it would still be warm inside.

To reduce this, we fitted night heaters which are  thermostatically controlled so keep the interior of the  van at a set temperature.

“They still use diesel but at a fraction of the CO2 which leaving the engine running would produce.”

Scottish Power also operates 10 electric Peugeot Partner vans to reduce emissions.

“They are strategically placed through our depot  locations and we use them as short distance vehicles,” says Moore. “For example, we’ve got one at our Cathcart base which, if I was going to a meeting in the Glasgow area, I’d book out and use. We’ve been pleased with them.”

5. Adopt ultra-low emission vehicles

The Environment Agency has added almost 70 plug-in hybrid commercial vehicles to its fleet – and described the decision as a "win-win" situation.

“We have been working on introducing low emission vehicles into our fleet for a long time, but in the last 12 months we have made a very significant push,” says Dale Eynon, head of fleet services. “We’ve just received 69 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in commercial vehicles and the business case stacks up beautifully.

“They cost the same to buy as the diesel variant, they cost slightly less to run and they’ve got a resale value that’s not too disimilar based on what we know at  the moment.

"So, actually it’s a win-win in terms of environment, cost and being fit for purpose.

“On the car side, we took a decision at the beginning of the year to make sure that, by the end of 2015, our car fleet had an average CO2 level of less than 100gkm.

“It currently stands at 108-109g/km, so we’ve put a cap on everything that is coming in.”

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