In a clear case of high bar-setting, earlier this year the U.S. Department of Energy kicked off its National Clean Fleets Partnership with a select group of official partners: AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon. The program aims to reduce diesel and gasoline pollution from fleet vehicles, and with these global A-listers on board others were bound to follow. Sure enough DOE has just announced a new round of Clean Fleets partnerships consisting of Coca-Cola, Enterprise Holdings, General Electric, OSRAM SYLVANIA, Ryder, and Staples. Together, the new additions operate commercial fleets totaling almost one million vehicles in the U.S. alone.
Clean Fleets is a casebook example of how the Obama administration is riding the wave of corporate responsibility to promote alternative fuel and low-emission vehicles through federally-coordinated programs. Picking a small group of leaders that already have good CSR cred virtually ensures that other, similar companies will follow suit.
Clean Fleets is part of a broader national program called Clean Cities, which is designed to address fossil fuel use across all transportation groups. For fleet owners, the social responsibility component provides an indisputable civic benefit -- who wouldn't want to be part of a national effort to reduce childhood asthma and other ailments linked to vehicle exhaust? However, clear bottom line benefits are the key to making the program effective operationally rather than just as a PR exercise, and Clean Fleets provides those benefits in the form of access to federal experts and federal R&D laboratories as well as savings from group purchasing programs, along with a load of analytical tools like cost calculators and interactive maps.
Rental Cars and Social Interaction
Among the new partners, you may not be familiar with Enterprise Holdings but think Enterprise car rental and you're on the right track. Enterprise is adding the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf to its rental fleets, which contributes a whole new level of social interaction to the Clean Fleets program. Having cleaner delivery and service vehicles roaming city streets can help promote general public awareness of new technologies, but through Enterprise the partnership now includes a way for individual consumers to get behind the wheel.
Leading by Example
As with the previously announced Clean Fleets partners, the new members have already been actively engaged in transitioned to more efficient, lower-emission vehicles. They represent a wide range of strategies in addition to Enterprise's consumer-centered program: Coca-Cola's fleet of hydraulic hybrid vehicles, GE's commitment to deploy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, Ryder's use of liquid natural gas, Staples's emphasis on driver training (no idling over three minutes, no speed over 60 mph), and OSRAM's energy efficiency upgrades.
Different Sources, Different Solutions
As the Clean Fleets program reveals, there is no one size fits all strategy for reducing emissions and the program is designed to showcase the strengths of its various partners. This dovetails with a similar program coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is designed to reduce emissions in coastal communities due to ports and shipping facilities. In these facilities, a wide range of long distance, short haul, and off-road vehicles contribute to the problem along with tugboats, cargo ships, shipping cranes and other diesel-powered equipment.
Image: Tailpipe emissions by Simone Ramella on flickr.com.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.