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Posted by Nicole Deck

Sustainable Fleet Technology Conference & Expo 2018

Industry experts discuss the present and future of alternative fuel vehicles

Allison Carr, Clean Transportation Specialist at NCCETC, talks about the 50 States of EVs reports.

Fleet industry professionals, alternative vehicle experts, and sustainability advocates from around the country gathered recently for the 2018 Sustainable Fleet Technology Conference & Expo in Durham, NC.

More than 50 speakers presented their practices and ideas at the two-day conference, including fleet managers, technicians, company presidents and CEOs, university professors, researchers, analysts, nonprofit managers and more. With all of the varying backgrounds in transportation, there seemed to be a definitive consensus on alternative fuels – whether electric, propane, biofuel or natural gas – the industry is moving forward, and the future looks bright.

“The electrification movement and the movement to diversify our source of fuels – it’s happening. There’s no point of return now,” said Tony Posawatz,  industry leader and keynote speaker on day one of the conference. “The costs are coming down; the ecosystem is being built. But it will take some time.”

Tony Posawatz, the keynote speaker on day one of the Sustainable Fleet Technology Conference.

Keynote speaker Posawatz; who is recognized as an industry leader in product innovation and electrified vehicles as Vehicle Line Executive/Director for the Chevrolet Volt (and founding member), Avalanche, and Cadillac Escalade; kicked off the conference on Wednesday morning.

Posowatz noted the alternative fuel market has steadily risen each year, and more and more choices have become available to consumers.

“It’s important for the industry to grow and for customers to be satisfied,” Posawatz said.

“The Triangle Research area is an important area for taking transportation where it needs to go,” Posowatz said. “It’s an area for emerging technology, automobile, mobility as well as energy and environment altogether.”

Posawatz noted that while the industry is obviously improving, it’s still impossible to predict.

“The future of mobility is before us,” Posawatz said. “It will surprise us all, even myself. Anyone who tells you they know what it will look like… they’re wrong.”

Panelists speak at the Electric Vehicles breakout session, including Christopher Facente, Fleet Manager at UNC-Charlotte; Ben Prochazka, Vice President of Electrification Coalition; Jesse Way, Climate Policy Analyst, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM); Mark Goody, Manager of Electric Vehicle Programs at FleetCarma; and Whitney Schmidt, EV Charging Sales Director, Carolinas and Tennessee, ChargePoint.

The three conference tracks included Connected Fleets, Alternative Fuel Solutions, Deployment and Lessons Learned, while 12 breakout sessions covered Predictive Analytics; Electric Vehicles; Solutions for Port & Freight; Smart Mobility; Propane; Local, State, Federal Policies & Resources; Managing for Fleet Efficiency; Biofuels; Sustainable Garage & Facility Operations; Smart Cities & Smart Grid; Natural Gas; and Idle Reduction.

Future of Sustainability panel, left to right: Tony Posawatz, Stuart Weidie, CEO of Alliance AutoGas; Scott Phillippi, Automotive Maintenance and Engineering Manager at UPS; Loreana Marciante, Low Carbon Mobility Strategy Manager at Paul Allen Philanthropies; and Scott Curran, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The first plenary panel, Future of Sustainability, featured Stuart Weidie, CEO of Alliance AutoGas; Loreana Marciante, Low Carbon Mobility Strategy Manager at Paul Allen Philanthropies; Scott Phillippi, Automotive Maintenance and Engineering Manager at UPS; and Scott Curran, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Phillipi compared the current state of the industry as a ‘big sandbox with a lot of different technologies.’

“We’re in a time in technology where perfect is a moving target,” said Phillippi. “As technology evolves, we may find that different things come to the forefront.”

While the plenary panel all came from different backgrounds, they agreed each alternative fuel and technology has its place and application.

“We’re seeing change happen more rapidly,” said Rick Sapienza of NCCETC. “There’s not one set solution. Use all the tools available to you.”

VW Settlement Plenary Panel, left to right: Michael Abraczinskas, Director, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDEQ); Alexa Voytek, Senior Program Manager of Office of Energy Programs at Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEQ); Joe Annotti, Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA); Debra Swartz, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; and and Michael Buff, infrastructure team, Electrify America.

At the VW Settlement Plenary Panel, Michael Buff of Electrify America; Michael Abraczinskas of NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDEQ); Alexa Voytek of Office of Energy Programs at Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEQ); and Debra Swartz, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; discussed settlement funds coming from Volkswagen.

Over 40 exhibitors showcased their products, services, and vehicles in the Expo Hall. Plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Chevy, and Chrysler were on display, as well as other vehicles fueled by natural gas and propane, including a heavy-duty Freightliner CNG trash roll-off hoist truck.

 

“The conference was a great success,” said Rick Sapienza, Clean Transportation Director at NCCETC. ” It brought together transportation professionals to exchange ideas on clean transportation technologies with a good mix of what is working today, and strategic thought-provoking discussion to consider and prepare for what might be coming tomorrow.”

“As we deploy new technologies and new companies come on board, the one thing that is certain is there are going to be bumps along the way,” Phillippi said. “This is not going to be easy, but it will be worth the effort.”

Posted by Nicole Deck

100 Best Fleets – City of Raleigh

https://www.raleighnc.gov/home/content/AdminServSustain/Articles/AltFuelProgram.html
City of Raleigh Prius vehicles charging up. Courtesy: www.raleighnc.gov

The City of Raleigh has more than 2,000 registered vehicles in its fleet used for a wide variety of services, including the police force, garbage, maintenance and repairs, public utilities, water and sewer and more, according to Fleet Services Superintendent Travis Brown.

Along with the wide range of vehicles, Raleigh also has a large number of alternative fuels and alternative vehicles to match.

The City, which isn’t new to the 100 Best Fleets list, uses 385 vehicles with B20 biodiesel, over 1,000 E85 flex fuel-compatible vehicles, 223 hybrids, 18 electric powered neighborhood vehicles,  25 vehicles that use propane, and 7 that use natural gas.

Brown, who has worked with the City of Raleigh for 16 years, said the City has been working to transform the fleet even before he arrived, when the City was already using biodiesel.

Brown said that so many alternative fuels have been introduced into the fleet because they help to reduce emissions, improve air quality, promote domestic energy production, help decrease fuel costs, and can help farmers.

The goal of the City is to take care of its citizens, Brown said – and using alternative fuels is a part of that.

“It’s about being a good steward of a city, and trying to do the right thing,” Brown said.

Raleigh also uses anti-idling technology in many of the police fleet vehicles. The Energy Xtreme Law Enforcement anti-idling system allows vehicles to operate their full electrical system (including lights, camera and radio) without using the vehicle’s engine, according to the City of Raleigh website.

After the first quarter of the anti-idling technology usage, about 962 gallons were saved from 29 vehicles that used it, according to the website. The projected annual savings were estimated at $63,199.

Previously, many City police vehicles were driving Ford Crown Victorias, and now they’re driving hybrid sedans – which Brown said saves a lot of money when it comes to fuel. The Crown Victorias were getting around 13-18 miles per gallon (MPG), he said, and the hybrids get around 30-38 MPG.

“It’s been a good investment on return, going that way,” Brown said.

In addition to alternative fuels, the City schedules vehicle replacements every year to ensure the fleet is kept modern.

Raleigh also uses a maintenance management system, which provides GPS information for departments on engine faults, idling, equipment and accountability.

The most challenging part of managing a fleet, Brown said, is communicating and educating – getting the word out to all staff about changes and plans, and educating on new ways of doing things and how those changes are beneficial.

Brown said he addresses it as much as he can by having meetings with service departments and providing data on fuel usage.

When running a fleet, Brown advises doing research, networking with those in the same industry to see what works for their fleet, looking at your own to figure out what could work for yours, and attempting to do some forecasting.

“There’s so much technology out there, and the automotive industry is changing so much,” Brown said. “Don’t look at necessarily what’s happening today – try to find what’s coming up three years down the road. You don’t want to get something approved, and then it’s outdated.”

Looking ahead, Brown said Raleigh hopes to push more telematics, eventually adding the technology to all vehicles being used. Currently, Raleigh uses a maintenance management system, but the City would like to upgrade to a web-based system so they can provide more transparency to users and customers.

Learn more about the City of Raleigh’s alternative fuel use by visiting the website here.

Posted by Nicole Deck

100 Best Fleets series: Wake County

Wake County Government General Services Administration Fleet Operations displays its 100 Best Fleets awards since 2010.

The goals of Wake County’s fleet are the same as most: to carry out productive, safe, efficient and sustainable service at the lowest cost possible.

But the smartest and most successful way to achieve that goal, they have found, is by implementing new technology to continuously track data and uncover information.

“It doesn’t appear to be moving fast, but there’s a lot going on,” said Fleet Director Thomas Kuryla as he walked around the vehicle shop at Wake County General Services Center. “Even on slow days when there isn’t a lot of mechanical work, there’s a lot of planning and data analysis.”

Wake County has been on the 100 Best Fleets list every year since 2010, once placing number three out of the country.

There are about 1,000 vehicles in the fleet, including cars, trucks, trailers and boats, with emergency response vehicles representing half.

About 60 vehicles run on diesel, and 20 run on B20 biodiesel, Kuryla said. 400 of their vehicles are E85 compatible. Wake County hasn’t purchased new hybrid or electric vehicles in about 3 years, but around 50 hybrid vehicles are currently in the fleet.

Wake County EMS truck is lifted for maintenance repairs.

Out of the 1,000 vehicles and 200 that are serviced, there are a total of 10 mechanics.

“Our vehicles are in good enough shape that we don’t need as many,” Kuryla said.

Wake County has a preventative maintenance program in place that averts as many repairs. Vehicles are also sold with less mileage than most fleets. Many fleets keep their vehicles too long, Kuryla said, which means they’re stuck in the shop more for repairs, resulting in more downtown for drivers.

“By keeping our vehicles ahead of the game, we provide more service than other fleets out there,” Kuryla said. “People will say, ‘No, we can’t afford a new car…’ They need to think long-term and look at the big picture.”

Maintenance in the fleet is also done swiftly.

“At some places, the vehicles will spend two weeks in repair,” Kuryla said. “Here, they wait and leave — they’re working on it within 15 minutes and they’re out in less than an hour unless it’s a major repair.”

Kuryla has been Wake County Fleet Director since 2002, and he has orchestrated and seen many changes. One of the first adjustments Kuryla recommended was to transform and redesign the service and parts departments so that they were connected, and could communicate openly as a team.

“In a lot of industries, they’re battling each other,” Kuryla said. “We really wanted them to be teamed together.”

Kuryla said a big success Wake County’s fleet has had is with telematics, a system that collects data from vehicles when they’re on the road to improve efficiency. Telematics tracks the vehicles’ locations, miles per hour, time spent idling, starting or stopping too fast, whether or not the driver is wearing his or her seatbelt, and more. Drivers will be alerted with a beep when going beyond their limits, and supervisors are also automatically notified in some instances.

When telematics was first installed on the vehicles, drivers were getting a lot of beeps, Kuryla said. It didn’t take long for that to reduce considerably.

Wake County Sheriff vehicle.

Additional upgrades and changes are still to come.

Recently, the fleet introduced reusable oil filters, which increase the life of oil and keep them from ending up in a landfill. The reusable filters were put on 20 vehicles and tested for over a year. Kuryla plans to have all of their vehicles transitioned within 6 months.

The oil is also tracked with software that automatically changes intervals and notifies departments when the oil needs changing.

This year, they plan to introduce a drive over tread depth tire reader, which will generate data on the pressure and alignment, measuring the tread depth of each tire to decide whether or not it should be replaced.

Kuryla said the biggest challenge for their fleet is a common one — making advancements within the budget.

“We try to do our research and data analysis to justify why we want to do something,” Kuryla said. “Like the oil filters. Saying ‘I want to spend $75,000 buying filters’ – someone would say, ‘You’re crazy.’ But we just spent a whole year testing and found that we’ll have that buyback very quick.”

Kuryla suggests when trying to implement changes for a fleet, it’s helpful to talk to those who will be affected by asking their suggestions and opinions. For example, the new tire depth reader is talked about openly in the shop on purpose, Kuryla said. He hopes to increase interest and encourage discussion. When the oil filters were implemented, the mechanics openly discussed their experience and then helped come up with a better system.

“Get buy-in for everything you do.” Kuryla said. “Ask what would you like? What would make your job better? Get them involved. ”

Posted by Nicole Deck

100 Best Fleets series: UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte fleet vehicles. Photo provided by Christopher Facente.

This week, we take a look at UNC Charlotte‘s fleet and talk to Automotive/Motor Fleet Supervisor Christopher Facente. The university has been a part of the 100 Best Fleets three years in a row, improving its place each time.

There are 500 vehicles in the fleet, and about 150 of them are electric — ranging from Nissan Leafs to smaller work trucks, Facente said.

Older, less fuel-efficient vehicles have been replaced with utility carts and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), and most of the fleet’s Ford Rangers are now NEV Global Electric Motorcars (GEMs). The total cost of ownership, potential future repairs, and life-cycle costs are calculated to keep the fleet up to date and sustainable.

Facente said to keep improving on the fleet, he’s looking at more sustainability in general. There is already a recycling program in place, and the fleet reduces waste by carrying out practices such as recycling oil filters and enforcing a no-idle policy on campus.

“We looked at our processes, started to streamline little things…”  Facente said. “It’s slow, but it does take time to implement these changes. As we work on them, we get better.”

UNC Charlotte also has a robust maintenance program for electric vehicles, which are maintenanced monthly, Facente said. The repairs are tracked through Archibus, a centralized data platform, and history is checked for repeat problems/technician faults.

The fleet restructured the campus into zones and put maintenance shops near areas where the fleets work. In the old system,  there was a central base dispatch to anywhere on campus.  Now, each zone has electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians and are never over 3 miles from the buildings they service.  Telematics have also been put on vehicles.

UNC Charlotte fleet vehicles. Photo provided by Christopher Facente.

With all of the different changes, Facente handles it by communicating.

“You’re always going to have challenges with change,” Facente said. “Getting an employee to give up a truck and go to an EV can be a challenge. But if you take your time, explain the benefits, you can pretty much get everyone on board.”

As for advice, Facente suggests having a top-down strategy so that upper management approves, and being sure to not make a sudden change. In addition, taking the time to do a lot of homework to find the correct vehicles that will fit your fleet is vital.

“Electric works for us, but it may not work for everyone,” Facente said.

To share ideas among employees freely within the fleet, there is a brainstorming session every month, a fleet email group to share ideas, and a shop meeting weekly where technicians are encouraged to share ideas and problem-solve. The fleet has a Learning and Development center on campus with a variety of soft skill classes for every staff member.

Along with brainstorming meetings, there is a staff meeting every quarter where teams are recognized for their job performances. The safe team award is also given when the team goes without accidents.

(Facente would like to thank Associate Vice Chancellor Phil Jones and the late Larry Lane, who was his predecessor getting the program started.)

Posted by Nicole Deck

CFAT awards & new funding

NCCETC Awards $1.2 million in Air Quality Improvement Grants
New round of funding released

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) announced the results of a call for projects through the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) Project. The 2017-2018 $5.6 million initiative, focused on reducing transportation-related emissions, is supported with federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funding from the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). More than $1,245,300 is being awarded for eight projects to a variety of public and private entities. A new round of funding has also been released, and the applications are due June 8, 2018. Apply here!

The awards include: 

Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) leasing by BuildSense, Inc.

AFV conversions and idle reduction technology by City of Charlotte

Idle reduction technology by Convoy Solutions and Viatec Incorporated

AFV conversions by Gaston County North Carolina Propane Gas Association (NCPGA), and City of Winston Salem

Diesel retrofit by North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division

The CFAT project operates in counties that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. More than half of North Carolinians live in counties that have unhealthy air. In total, the awarded equipment displaces 353,265.16 gallons of diesel/gas a year, reducing 97.02 kg of daily emissions.

Round 2 of funding request for proposal period has opened and awards will be announced by September 2018. Up to $1,455,000 in federal funding is being awarded for projects to a variety of public and private entities. The deadline to apply for this final CFAT round of funding for 2018 is June 8, 2018. For the application and more information, click here.

Posted by Nicole Deck

Particle Falls art exhibit in Winston-Salem

Particle Falls projected on the Stevens Center building in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Photos provided by Clean Air Carolina
The orange fireball represents the amount of particulate matter in the air in real time, a form of pollution that can negatively affect your health just by breathing.

Winston-Salem’s 10-story tall Stevens Center was illuminated last month, displaying a giant animated light art projection of a blue waterfall turning into a fireball.
But the art wasn’t just for show — the spectacle represented the amount of particulate matter in the air in real time, a form of air pollution that can negatively affect your health just by breathing.
The animation, Particle Falls: Air Made Visible, was designed by artist Andrea Polli, Art and Ecology professor at the University of New Mexico, by using specialized computer software. It is generated by translating real-time particulate matter data from the surrounding air, using a nephelometer — an instrument that takes in air samples and gathers data about the concentration of particle pollution. A computer program then transforms the data into visual bursts of color over the background of blue light.
“With this particular exhibit, it’s so beautiful … yet it stands for something that can be so ugly,” said Dr. Stephanie Dance-Barnes, Associate Professor of Cellular & Molecular Biology at Winston-Salem State University.
Particulate matter, which occurs year-round, is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets, the smallest measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter – just 1/30th the width of a human hair, according to Clean Air Carolina. While larger particles known as soot affect your health, it is the fine particulate matter that is more dangerous because it can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier.
There is no safe level of particulate matter.
“Most air pollution in North Carolina is invisible, so it’s not on most people’s radar at all,” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina. “So this particular public art installation gets people’s attention, and gets them to start asking questions.”
Winston-Salem has been ranked as the 142nd most polluted cities in 2016 and traditionally ranks above the national average of US cities for average annual particle pollution, according to Clean Air Carolina.
Sources of particle pollution in Winston-Salem include cars, trucks, diesel buses and construction equipment, landscaping tools, agriculture, industrial facilities, power plants, biomass, and residential wood burning.
“For climate deniers, for climate believers — it’s something that you can come down and say, ‘You know what? I may not believe about the climate changing, but I know that I’m breathing that in, and what that means for me,'” said Wendell Hardin, Sustainability Manager of City of Winston-Salem.
For more information about Particle Falls, check out this video.

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