Wanna be green? Who doesn’t? But the reality of acting green sometimes runs into a hard economic wall. Projects that on the surface make perfect sense get stalled when the accountants get involved.
Case in point: alternative fuel vehicles. We’d love to have 100% alternative fuel vehicles in our fleet of package cars. But the reality is that the math doesn’t work. Most alt fuel choices cost 30-100% more than traditional diesel. The fuel savings usually doesn’t equal the extra costs, even over a decade.
That doesn’t account for the operational shortfalls of the new alt fuel technology: some don’t work well in cold weather; some have higher maintenance costs; others have limited mileage ranges; others haven’t proved to be reliable. And in many parts of the country, the fueling infrastructure isn’t even available. That would require a major capital expenditure.
Then there’s the risk of obsolescence to think about: if you planned to keep your vehicle for 20 years (UPS does), which technology would you choose. Propane, CNG, electric, electric hybrid, hydraulic hybrid? We have all of those today. And then, you have to compare each to diesel vehicles with advances in fuel efficiency and emissions that are quickly closing the gap between the alternatives.
Nevertheless, UPS still has the largest private alternative fuel/advanced technology fleet in the shipping industry (1,200+ package cars) deployed around the world. And compared to our competitors, no one has the diversity of advanced technology we are operating today.
We’ve decided it’s worth the investment to help us plan for the future and test the viability of these emerging technologies on real-life road conditions. In fact, after testing CNG vehicles, for example, we bought 300 last year. And we were the first in the industry to buy hydraulic hybrids.
But will UPS have a 100% Green Fleet anytime soon? Not if we stick with our philosophy of balancing the social, economic and environmental aspects of our business. And not until the technology is reliable AND the cost of the vehicles shows a good ROI. As Kermit says, it’s not easy being green.
What kinds of green projects would you like to do…but find the economics just don’t work?
Edit: This entry was reposted on the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship blog.
|Tags:||alternative fuels, alternative vehicles, Environment, fleet, green, hybrid, technology, transportation|