City government using 17 electric and CNG vehicles for cleaner air, cost savings
The City of Aurora has purchased 17 alternative fuel cars and trucks for its fleet, an environmentally friendly investment resulting from the city’s Smart Fleet Initiative and the Colorado Energy Office’s Refuel Colorado Fleets program.
“I am proud that our city is exhibiting leadership in such an important area to our public health and environment,” said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. “Alternative fuels make environmental and economic sense, and we thank the Refuel Colorado Fleets program for assisting us in the planning process.”
Refuel Colorado Fleets is a statewide program, funded by the Colorado Energy Office, that works to build market demand for domestically produced alternative transportation fuels such as compressed natural gas, propane autogas and electricity.
Refuel’s “fleet coaches” work with fleet managers to help identify the right alternative fuel for each type of vehicle needed in a overnmental or business fleet.
The fleet coaching process evaluates factors such as vehicle performance, range, fueling, lifecycle costs, maintenance and safety, to determine the right fuel choice. Fleet coaches serve as neutral consultants and information sources for fleet owners and managers, helping them plan the right alternative fuel vehicle purchases to align with their replacement schedule.
Aurora was an early participant in the Refuel program, which started as a nine-county pilot project in 2013. The city government was looking for guidance on the most effective ways to incorporate alternative fuels into their fleet operations.
In September 2013, Refuel fleet coach Tyler Svitak conducted a comprehensive fleet analysis for the city government. Svitak looked at the city’s entire vehicle fleet and identified specific opportunities where alternative fuel vehicles would reduce emissions and save money over the life of the vehicle.
“The analysis concluded that there were multiple departments where plug-in electric, propane, and natural gas vehicles could save the city significantly by using cheaper fuel. Those savings can be compounded by leveraging available grants and incentives,” said Svitak, who is also the Clean Cities Manager at the American Lung Association in Colorado.
Fleet coaches also help government and private sector fleets take advantage of grants and tax credits offered by the State of Colorado to offset the higher cost of an alternative fuel vehicle compared to a standard gasoline model.
With the hard data of Svitak’s fleet analysis in hand and extensive planning in place from Aurora’s Smart Fleet Initiative, the city is purchasing seven plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2015 — three Ford C-Max Energi and four Chevy Volt sedans — adding to the three Ford C-Max’s that arrived in December 2014. The 10 plug-ins will be used by administrative staff in the police, fire and finance departments.
Aurora won a package of Charge Ahead Colorado grants, administered by the Regional Air Quality Council, which funded $8,260 for each of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
The city has also purchased seven bi-fuel compressed natural gas (CNG) Ford pickups for the water, parks and public works departments. Aurora obtained grant assistance of $7,000 per truck from the ALT Fuels Colorado program, administered by the Colorado Energy Office and Regional Air Quality Council.
Aurora city staff will fuel the CNG trucks at one of Colorado’s newest CNG fueling stations. The GAIN Clean Fuels station, located near Interstate 70 and Tower Road, opened in September 2014.
The electric vehicles, meanwhile, can charge up using electric vehicle charging stations installed in 2014 at the Aurora Municipal Center, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway. One single-port charge station is located inside the city fleet parking structure. Two more dual-port chargers at the Municipal Center can be used by city fleet vehicles and by the public, and public charging is offered at no cost.
All three charge stations were funded by Charge Ahead Colorado grants. Aurora has won a new grant through the program to install three dual-port chargers for free public charging at the RTD Iliff station Park and Ride on the R Line, opening in 2016.
Alternative fuels offer a variety of economic and environmental benefits, but it takes planning and preparation to make sure the fuels, infrastructure, and vehicles suit the purpose.
Svitak said he is excited about the example Aurora has set.
“Our state is lucky to have a program like Refuel Colorado Fleets paired with very strong grants and incentives that make it easier for fleets to make the transition to smarter fuels,” Svitak said. “The City of Aurora has exhibited leadership and foresight by making a commitment to alternative fuels. It is a shining success story for the program and for Colorado.”