Greener vehicle fleets for cleaner air, smaller carbon footprints

Companies with large vehicle fleets can make a substantial contribution to cleaner air – especially in cities – by investing in green vehicles, such as electric and hybrid cars. Maintenance, service, transport, and sales vehicles can all become cleaner and greener.

To keep cities livable and human-centered, we need to reduce the number of cars in them. However, at least in the immediate future, it will not be possible to completely ban cars from cities with a history of car use. That’s why it is particularly important for owners of large vehicle fleets, like companies with maintenance vehicles, to move towards the adoption of green fleets. Rather than waiting around for the widespread adoption of motor vehicle alternatives, perhaps it’s time to accelerate solutions that can reduce the emissions of vehicles on the streets today. Green fleets can help make that difference.

Individual vs. large-scale vehicle owners

While it’s great when individuals trade in their old gas-guzzlers for new electric or hybrid cars, the best thing an individual can do is to not own a car. Living in a city – particularly one with smart mobility solutions like Barcelona – makes it easier to rely on public transportation, car-sharing, or biking.

But right now, when a sudden ban on motor vehicles is not practicable, the biggest difference can be made by large-scale vehicle owners, i.e. organizations who own large fleets. Whether it’s public or private institutions, companies, car-sharing service providers, or taxi companies, they can all make a difference.

Take the taxi cabs in New York City, for example. By switching to hybrid vehicles, the fuel efficiency of 13,500 yellow taxis more than doubled from 2009 to 2015 according to Science Daily.1 This resulted in an 82% decline in nitrous oxide emissions and a 49% cut in particulate exhaust – a trend that surely helps New Yorkers breathe easier.

NYC taxis are gradually transitioning.

Greater responsibility of fleet owners

Simply by owning a large number of cars, vans, and service trucks, fleet owners can make a very big impact when they transition to a green fleet policy. The only way to make a bigger impact is when governments require cleaner vehicles, such as the UK’s move to ban all fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2035. However, the environment demands that we take action now – and not wait until it becomes a legal requirement.

By putting greener vehicles on the streets, companies also gain greater respect from their employees, customers, and local communities. It’s a win-win for everyone, but companies will only enjoy an image boost if they are proactive early adopters, making the shift before it becomes mandatory.

The impact that vehicles have on local air quality is very clear. In fact, the impact became visible in recent history. During national lockdowns in response to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, cities around the world reported visibly cleaner air due to the lack of vehicles on the road. Some even reported blue skies for the first time after a long history of smog.

Greener vehicles can help prevent smog in cities.

What does a “green fleet policy” look like?

A green fleet policy should have two main strategies: (1) the adoption of greener (electric and hybrid) vehicles and (2) a reduction in distances traveled. This policy should be part of a company’s overarching environmental strategy and include specific goals and deadlines.

With an increasing number of shareholders demanding information on a company’s environmental goals, it is important to publish the goals of a green fleet program and then provide continuous updates throughout the implementation.

The selection of fleet vehicles will depend on local infrastructures and required vehicle ranges. A transition to plug-in vehicles necessitates the widespread availability of charging stations and/or company-owned charging stations. So the adoption of plug-in vehicles will be easier in countries like Norway, where plug-in electric vehicles account for more than 60% of new vehicle registrations according to Statista.2 At the moment, electric vehicles tend to be best suited to dense urban areas, while hybrid cars are a better choice when longer distances need to be traveled.

Green fleets in practice

TK Elevator is working towards transitioning to electric and hybrid vehicles to reduce the carbon impact of its vehicle fleets around the world. In Spain, for example, the company is introducing both hybrid and all-electric vehicles to its fleets. This transition will also help the company adhere to strict emissions requirements in cities like Madrid and Barcelona.

The North American business unit of TK Elevator plans to replace about 600 gasoline vans with approximately 460 hybrid vans and 140 electric vans over the next ten years. Similar measures are planned for other countries.

The global transition program includes the use of IT solutions that optimize route planning and reduce distances traveled. Other measures address more efficient planning of elevator maintenance runs. Predictive maintenance solutions like MAX will help ensure that elevators are “fixed” before they break down or that technicians arrive on-site with exactly the right parts (i.e. no need to return for parts). Technicians can also travel more in the evening and thereby not contribute to traffic congestion.

Revolutionary predictive maintenance technology for elevators – always available and always safe, thanks to real-time communication.

Beyond vehicles

TK Elevator plans to achieve a 25% reduction in direct emissions of its own assets (like vehicles) as well as indirect emissions from electricity consumption by 2030 as compared to 2019. It aims to reduce 50% of emissions by 2040.

The company is also looking into reducing indirect emissions from further up the supply chain and cutting the emissions that come as a result of customers using their products.

Green outside, green inside

Green vehicle fleets can contribute to air quality, especially when we are talking about large fleets in urban areas. These fleets, however, should stand as an outward sign of the company’s comprehensive environmental action plan – and that plan should be backed up with ongoing reporting according to a recognized standard such as CDP.

But when it comes to the green revolution, the voices of individuals remain very important. It is of vital importance that individuals encourage their employers, business partners, and local governments to adopt green policies. And if you notice a service provider using a green vehicle, let them know you approve.

Image Credits
NYC Taxis, photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, taken from commons.wikimedia.orgAttribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Smog in Shanghai, photo by Holger Link, taken from unsplash.com