EPAct Fleets and Clean Cities Help Each Other Achieve Transportation Goals

Photo of a flex fuel trucks

The Colorado State Fleet uses flexible fuel vehicles that run on E85 and relies on a network of public fueling infrastructure.

April 1, 2010 – From providing educational resources and building stakeholder networks to securing financial assistance and supporting the installation of alternative fuel infrastructure, the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities initiative helps Energy Policy Act (EPAct)–regulated federal, state, and alternative fuel provider fleets surpass their alternative transportation requirements. In turn, EPAct-regulated fleets throw their considerable weight behind Clean Cities petroleum-displacement efforts.

"Like Having Employees That You Don't Have To Pay"

Fleet personnel don't have time to be experts on every aspect of advanced transportation and every opportunity available. Clean Cities fills these education gaps.

"Fleets can outsource a lot of work to their local coalitions," says Denver Metro Clean Cities coalition coordinator Natalia Swalnick. "While they're busy buying vehicles, establishing fueling stations, and complying with various mandates, we can help with things like education and public awareness."

Swalnick regularly attends Colorado's Motor Vehicle Advisory Council to listen to issues and inform fleet managers about transportation resources such as the Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool (PREP), Alternative Fueling Station Locator, TransAtlas, and FuelEconomy.gov. She coordinates lunch-and-learns, expos, and employee fairs for fleet personnel from individual Colorado agencies and clears up misconceptions about hot topics such as the impacts of biofuel use. She also provides labels to identify flexible fuel vehicles so drivers know they can be fueled with E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline).

"Natalia and her coalition have been a tremendous help with education," says Colorado State Fleet Manager Art Hale, who has worked closely with all three Colorado Clean Cities coalitions. Hale's almost 6,000 vehicles are subject to EPAct.

Education and networking often go hand in hand. The Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities coalition provides all interested parties in its region with Clean Cities newsletters, alerts about meetings and events, and funding information—giving stakeholders a common education and bringing potential partners together.

"We're working with all fleets who want to deploy alternative fuels, connecting them so they can share alternative fueling facilities," says Dallas-Fort Worth co-coordinator Mindy Mize.

If you're not working with a Clean Cities coalition, you're missing out on one of the best opportunities you have.
Art Hale, Colorado State Fleet Manager

Don Lewis, who oversees 10,000 on-road vehicles as fleet manager for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), appreciates the efforts. "Our coalitions (there are six in Texas) keep stakeholders involved and aware," he says.

Colorado's Hale agrees: "Our three coalition coordinators have helped us do a ton of collaboration and networking; it's like having three extra employees that you don't have to pay."

Alternative fuel infrastructure is a need for fleets and a focus of Clean Cities assistance. The State of Arizona set up funding mechanisms for EPAct-regulated fleets to add alternative fuels to their fueling sites, and Clean Cities is helping state agencies add E85 and biodiesel fueling capability. "We educate people by department about why using these fuels is important and then help them get started," says Tucson Clean Cities coalition coordinator Colleen Crowninshield.

When fleets believe they are paying too much for alternative fuel, the Tucson coalition works with fuel vendors. In one instance, an EPAct-regulated federal fleet paying full retail price for compressed natural gas was ready to stop using the fuel. The coalition educated the fleet about fuel options, and the vendor lowered its prices after the fleet issued a competitive request for bids. "Once fleets know the facts and know their options, they want to use alternative fuels," says Crowninshield.

Clean Cities also helps EPAct-regulated fleets secure financial assistance for transportation projects. Recently, many fleets applied for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds. In one instance, a state transportation agency worked with Clean Cities and the state energy conservation office to apply for funds to convert conventionally fueled vehicles to use propane. In another instance, Clean Cities brought together 30 partners to apply for funds that would expand use of electric, hybrid electric/hydraulic, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the state, including installation of 600 new charging stations. Many grants are larger than any fleet could apply for alone, but coalitions are able to work collectively to obtain grants and do projects.

Mutual Goals, Mutual Accomplishments

Clean Cities has helped EPAct-regulated fleets meet and exceed EPAct requirements and meet additional state and local regulations, while fleets have helped Clean Cities advance its petroleum-displacement goals. In Colorado, Clean Cities is helping state fleets meet the governor's executive order to reduce petroleum consumption 25% (compared with 2006 consumption) by 2012. In addition to working together to secure alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) and idle-reduction grants, Clean Cities and the state fleets participate in the Governor's Biofuels Coalition. The coalition has expanded Colorado's E85 infrastructure tenfold in 2 years and is helping support more than 1,000 flexible fuel vehicles in state fleets. These efforts have improved Clean Cities' bottom line. The Denver coalition's petroleum displacement increased from 2.4 million gallons in 2007 to 3.3 million gallons in 2008. "The state fleets helped boost our numbers," says Swalnick.

In Texas, TxDOT's fleets have accumulated 6,000 EPAct credits by surpassing EPAct's AFV-acquisition requirements. "We are beyond compliance," says Lewis. "We lead by example. If a big fleet like ours can do it, others can, too."

Mize and fellow Dallas-Fort Worth co-coordinator Pamela Burns are proud of TxDOT's and other fleets' AFV successes, and they are proud of their Regional Transportation Council's Clean Fleet Vehicle Policy. This policy establishes a framework for reducing emissions through vehicle acquisition, maintenance, operations, and compliance verification and serves as a standard fleets must meet to compete for Regional Transportation Council funding. Ninety-six entities—including TxDOT—have adopted the policy.

Tucson's Crowninshield celebrates the alternative fuel accomplishments of outstanding EPAct-regulated fleets such as Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the Arizona Department of Administration but thinks the best is yet to come. She recently was contacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Fleet Efficiency and Alternative Fuel Program manager, who wanted to know how Clean Cities could help the USDA's 40,000 vehicles achieve federal petroleum reduction and alternative fuel use targets. "This request shows that the Clean Cities name is getting out there, that fleets know Clean Cities can help them achieve their goals," says Crowninshield.

Secrets of Success

Clean Cities and EPAct-regulated fleets have collaborated for more than 15 years and have learned many lessons along the way. TxDOT's Lewis has worked with Clean Cities from the beginning. His advice for fleets: "Get in touch with Clean Cities stakeholders and coordinators and learn from their experiences. Go to the websites—Clean Cities and AFDC (Alternative Fuels Data Center). The world has changed, and Clean Cities has kept up with disseminating up-to-date information." Mize adds, "Also know that funding opportunities are available, and Clean Cities can help with those to lower transportation project costs." Fleets can ensure they receive all the benefits of Clean Cities by becoming formal members of their local coalitions. For Clean Cities coalitions, understanding fleet needs and building relationships are paramount. Swalnick sets up in-person meetings with each fleet representative that joins her coalition, visits fleet sites, and shows she understands the fleet's work and challenges. "You need to listen in order to be heard," she says.

"Fleets are hit with so many mandates," says Crowninshield. "Clean Cities needs to help them with alternative fuels, save them time, go the extra mile for them."

Learn More

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 and subsequent legislation and associated regulations require certain federal and state government and alternative fuel provider fleets to acquire AFVs and/or reduce petroleum consumption. Find more information on the EPAct website.

Clean Cities is a government-industry partnership with nearly 100 local coalitions that reduce petroleum consumption by providing resources to regulated fleets and voluntary adopters of advanced transportation solutions. For more information—including locations, contact information, and links to the websites for all Clean Cities coalitions—visit the Clean Cities website. Also visit the AFDC for numerous advanced transportation resources.