CCC Adds First Hybrid Vehicles to Its Fleet

CCC Adds First Hybrid Vehicles to Its Fleet

May 09 2013


Photo by CCC's Marilyn Reynolds

Willis Horton, an HVAC maintenance technician at Central Community College-Hastings, sits inside a GEM, one of the college's electric vehicles.

The arrival of four hybrid vehicles has set Central Community College on the next leg of its journey toward a sustainable environment.

CCC’s journey began when it signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and became a member of the SEED (Sustainability Education and Economic Development) Center, which works to advance sustainability and green workforce development and practices at community colleges.

The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid SEs were bought as part of the college’s normal fleet rotation, using its regular purchasing process, said College Business Officer Larry Glazier. CCC typically replaces vehicles when they reach 100,000 miles.

“We’d been looking at buying hybrids for a while,” Glazier said, “but when we looked at the cost versus gas savings, the trade-off wasn’t there.”

This time around, though, Glazier thought the trade-off was there. The price difference between the hybrids and traditional vehicles was small enough for the college to move forward on this investment. Assuming a gas price of $3.25 per gallon and a car lifespan of 100,000 miles, the college will save about $3,500 in fuel costs.

“The hybrid cost a little more, but carbon also has a cost,” Glazier said. “The higher cost we paid for the hybrids allow for a reduction in carbon emissions.”

To decide which hybrids to buy, Glazier began with the Nebraska Administrative Services office to see what vehicles were available through the state contract.

He also consulted to check the environmental ratings of various models. The website was founded by John DeCicco, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and Energy Institute and an expert on automotive energy and environmental issues. It looks at how vehicles were manufactured, including the extraction, production and disposal of the materials used and the energy consumed.

“Gas mileage is only one aspect of environmental impact,” said Minetta Khan, CCC’s sustainability coordinator. “AutoEcoRating gives a full picture of the car. Dr. DeCicco and his team analyze all aspects of a vehicle and then give it a number based on this analysis. The higher the number, the better the vehicle is environmentally.”

Taking into account the state contract and the eco rankings, the college narrowed its choices to the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Prius. Both vehicles were relatively comparable in price and lifetime gas savings.

“The Prius had a higher eco rating, but the scales tipped to Ford because it is a U.S. company,” Glazier said. “I thought supporting an American company was an important consideration.”

One of CCC's new 2013 Ford
Fusion Hybrids

The four cars will be assigned to the college fleet with one car going to the Hastings Campus and two to the Grand Island Campus. The fourth one has yet to be assigned.

But the purchase of the hybrid cars wasn’t the first step CCC has taken toward addressing energy issues where its transportation needs are concerned. The college had already bought bicycles and electric maintenance vehicles for use on its campuses.

“These are heavy-duty bicycles made in the U.S. and used by our maintenance staff,” Glazier said. “As for the maintenance vehicles, we have small campuses so we don’t always need full-sized vehicles to take care of them.”

Because the maintenance vehicles run on electricity, they don’t have tailpipe emissions and have the added advantage of being quiet. These qualities make them a healthier option for the people who operate them.

One trade-off for these benefits was that the vehicles are plugged into a coal-based energy grid. “Coal has a lot of carbon emissions so an electric vehicle isn’t as clean if it’s plugged into this type of system,” Khan said, “but even this situation is changing as power companies start to add more renewable power to the mix.”

The idea of addressing the college’s transportation needs in a sustainable way first surfaced after an AASHE (the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference a couple of years ago.

“We’re a commuter college, and transportation is a complex issue,” Khan said. “The hybrid vehicles are a first step in what will be a long-term effort for the college.”

For more information on CCC's sustainability efforts, click here to go to its sustainability page.

Written by Joni Ransom   
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 May 2013 17:17