Grace Suizo

Using Technology to Reduce Engine Idle

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In the U.S., roughly 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline are consumed each year by idling engines on medium- and heavy-duty trucks, according to Argonne National Laboratory (www.anl.gov). So, improving fuel economy – and thus lowering fuel expenses – without sacrificing performance is a must for utility fleets that often have to idle assets during working hours. 

UFP recently reached out to industry experts to gain some deeper insight about this issue and discover possible idling solutions for utility fleet operations.

A Changing Landscape
For a long time, technology selections for medium-duty trucks were very limited, according to George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com).

But that’s changing. And while many fleets take a driver-behavior-based approach to idle reduction, one advantage of an equipment-based solution is that the change typically is good for the life of the equipment, said Survant, who also spent more than 25 years as a telecom fleet manager.

“We, as fleet operators, are becoming more sophisticated in our acceptance of new technology and sensitive to the need for better solutions,” he said. “Consequently, the market is producing more viable solutions that are made for an increasing number of applications.”

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Fiona Soltes

Strategies to Reduce Fuel Theft and Fuel Card Misuse

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Yes, it could happen: A nefarious individual could approach one of your pieces of equipment parked on the lot and siphon fuel right from the tank.

What is perhaps more likely, though, is loss due to improperly used fuel cards.

“By and large, employees do the right thing,” said Geoff Scalf, director of global energy business development at Telogis (www.telogis.com). “But you will have some employees who will make poor choices.”

Leveraging the proper technology and techniques can help ensure fuel theft is kept to a minimum.

It’s important that employees understand what the proper use of fuel cards means. Aside from using the cards to fill up personal vehicles, Scalf said he often hears of employees who travel in groups and don’t think twice about using one employee’s card to fill up several vehicles at once. There’s nothing fraudulent about that sort of misuse, but it can make for messy paperwork, numbers that don’t add up and misallocation of funds in the future. Another example of misuse: when an employee pulls a trailer with, say, a backhoe loaded onto it, and then uses the card to top off both the truck and backhoe without changing any codes in the system.

Telogis Fleet offers one way to keep closer tabs on misuse, whether or not it was intentional. The Telogis platform includes a module that gives increased visibility into fuel usage.

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Sandy Smith

How Easy is it to Hack a Utility Fleet Vehicle?

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hackers may be able to access a vehicle’s systems via a phone or tablet connected to the vehicle by USB or Bluetooth. The vehicle’s diagnostic port is another access point.

But a vehicle’s biggest vulnerability may be behind the wheel. According to a November 2016 blog post published by Promon (see https://promon.co/blog/tesla-cars-can-be-stolen-by-hacking-the-app/), a Norwegian firm that specializes in app hardening, the company’s researchers demonstrated just how easy it is to trick a Tesla driver into giving a hacker access to the car’s systems. Tesla, like many vehicle manufacturers, offers a remote app that allows the driver to unlock the vehicle. During the experiment, Promon employees:
• Created a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
• Developed an ad for Tesla drivers that offered a free hamburger at a local restaurant if the driver downloaded a particular app.
• Used the app to gain access to the Tesla driver’s username and password.
• Located the car and used the Tesla app – and the previously captured username and password – to access the vehicle.
• Drove away in the Tesla.

Get Ahead of the Curve
When UFP spoke with Matt Gilliland, director of transportation and facilities for Nebraska Public Power District, he indicated that cybersecurity in vehicles was not historically a fleet management “care about,” but change is definitely on the horizon.

“The connectivity of our fleet is very limited,” he said, before noting that NPPD uses telematics and GPS intelligence, and that the fleet contains a limited number of new vehicles with Bluetooth capabilities. All of those are potential entry points for hackers and cyberattacks. In 2016, 3.6 million vehicles were recalled to fix cybersecurity issues; that figure is double the number recalled in 2015, according to the NHTSA, and this comes before vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity has really taken off.

“Technology grows and advances so fast that a lot of utilities and fleets are going to find themselves behind the curve,” Gilliland said. “I think it’s going to be a significant concern and will maybe catch a lot of us unaware.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Electrified Pickup Trucks in the North American Market

The State of Electrified Pickup Trucks in the North American Market

While a growing number of utility fleets are purchasing electrified passenger cars – like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf – and bucket trucks with plug-in electric power takeoff capabilities, one vehicle segment still seems out of reach for electrification for most fleets: light-duty pickup trucks.

But there have been some new developments in this space that could have important implications for utility fleets. Workhorse Group says that it will unveil a concept electric truck this May at the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it would offer a plug-in hybrid-electric version of the F-150 pickup. And XL Hybrids recently introduced a plug-in hybrid system designed for half-ton pickups.

So, what exactly are the prospects for electrified pickup trucks in North America? What are some of the key challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And when can we expect electrified pickups to become more cost-competitive with conventional-fueled trucks?

UFP recently spoke with Scott Shepard, senior research analyst with global market research and consulting firm Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com), to get his outlook.

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Sean M. Lyden

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

If your fleet operates plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) – or is planning to do so – there’s an emerging technology you’ll want to put on your radar that could impact your vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions within the next year or two.

It’s wireless EV charging, which proponents believe holds the key to widespread transportation electrification.

That’s because one of the friction points of operating EVs is the inconvenience of charging with a conventional cord and plug-in system, said David Schatz, vice president of business development and sales for WiTricity (http://witricity.com), a firm that develops wireless charging systems for EVs, headquartered in Watertown, Mass.

Schatz cites a major automaker’s internal study that found that 70 percent of all plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners never plug in and opt for fueling only with gas because of the “inconvenience” of plugging in their vehicle.

The idea here is that if you cut the cord, you make EV charging more acceptable to a larger market because you’re not forcing users to change their behavior. “PHEV and EV drivers simply park over a charging pad in their garage, or at work, or at a shopping center and charge up with no hands, no effort,” Schatz said.

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Fiona Soltes

Getting Utility Fleet Drivers to Embrace Idle Reduction

Getting Utility Fleet Drivers to Embrace Idle Reduction

Regardless of how cutting-edge a type of technology may seem, getting buy-in from prospective users often requires a pragmatic approach: They need to be convinced it works.

Such is the case with anti-idling technology. Today’s tools – aimed at reducing emissions and wasted fuel – include automatic shut-off systems, real-time alerts and plug-in hybrid vehicles that allow systems to work when the engine is off. But the only way utility fleet operators will fully embrace such tools, experts say, is when they grasp the difference that can be made, in terms of both the environment and their organization’s financial bottom line.

“It’s very spotty,” said Linda Gaines, transportation system analyst at Argonne National Laboratory (www.anl.gov) and a recognized idling authority. “You’ll go to some meetings and talk to some fleets, and they’re on board. It’s like your job is done, and the information is all out there. A lot of states have regulations, and it seems like we’ve made a lot of headway. And then you go and visit some company and see how far there still is to go.”

Gaines referenced one organization that is interested in idle reduction and went through the process of installing telematics, but, she said, was still “absolutely shocked by how much idling their trucks were actually doing. I think that’s not an unusual occurrence. Just by sharing that information with the drivers, without any kind of threat or any kind of reward, either way, just by being aware, the drivers reduced their idling by some very significant fraction.” That fraction was near 30 percent.

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Jim Galligan

New Power Sources Aid Anti-Idling Efforts

New Power Sources Aid Anti-Idling Efforts

Unnecessary idling is still the bane of many utility fleets, and while not every fleet wants to turn off vehicle engines at job sites, some new and updated technologies are offering improved auxiliary energy options.

In March, Altec (www.altec.com) introduced JEMS 4, the latest version of its Jobsite Energy Management System, which offers integrated engine-off cab heating and cooling and an on-demand, electrified PTO for hydraulic power.

The anti-idling system is automatic; as soon as the truck is put in park or neutral, the engine shuts down. “In this way, idle mitigation is not something the operator has to think about,” said Mark Greer, Altec market manager.

JEMS 4 relies on a new generation of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, which offer improved thermal and chemical stability – safer chemistries – than the previous cobalt-based lithium-ion batteries. Also, the battery pack is about half the weight of previous versions and takes up about half the space, Greer said. (For more information, see the “Better Batteries, Lower Prices” sidebar at the end of this article.)

The core of JEMS is the idle and power management system from Cullman, Ala.-based ZeroRPM (www.zerorpm.com). In addition to the controller, components include lithium-iron power and energy modules to power booms, buckets and systems, said Evan Miller, vice president of sales and marketing. ZeroRPM also offers a stand-alone AC unit powered by the energy modules, and for organizations with enough roof space, the company has a solar-powered option to charge the batteries.

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Jim Galligan

Top Trends in Utility Fleet Telematics

Top Trends in Utility Fleet Telematics

What’s next for fleet telematics? Utility Fleet Professional talked to a few experts in the field to see where it is trending in the coming years. The conclusions? By 2020, better data analysis, broader connectivity across platforms and devices, and more choices could mean increased safety, improved efficiencies and lower costs up and down a fleet’s hierarchy.

Data Analysis
“The most significant trend we’re seeing is the investment in data analytics,” said Tony Candeloro, vice president of product development for ARI (www.arifleet.com).

Fleets are being swamped with the amount of data their telematics systems are delivering, but fleet managers have to know what data is important and what data is not. “Telematics solutions without data analytics to assist in trending, predicting and engaging with the outcomes will have minimal impact in how a fleet operates,” Candeloro explained. “Aggregating telematics data with vehicle life-cycle data, operational data and historical business data opens up tremendous opportunity to find operational efficiency opportunities.”

In the near future, predictive analytics – i.e., using data to predict what will happen next – will have a significant effect on fleet safety by identifying risks sooner than is currently possible, noted Kimberly Clark, product leader with Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

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Grace Suizo

How Plug-In Hybrids Impact Vehicle Maintenance

How Plug-In Hybrids Impact Vehicle Maintenance

Utility fleets are leading the way when it comes to the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – a growing solution for operations that must work around the clock to provide vital services to the general public.

While going green and convenience are definite pluses, plug-ins also enable significant operational savings over conventional vehicles and typically have longer useful lives, according to the Edison Electric Institute. Extending vehicle life also means lengthening purchase cycles and really getting the most value out of these units.

Fewer Parts Provide More Savings
Part of the value of owning and operating plug-ins is reduced maintenance expenses. Manufacturers and fleets agree that electric-based vehicles have lower maintenance costs due to fewer parts and less engine use. Some manufacturers even purposely design their trucks with that in mind.

VIA Motors (www.viamotors.com), for instance, did away with the transmission, starter motor and alternator in designing its “virtually maintenance-free” single-speed, extended-range electric pickup, according to Jeff Esfeld, VIA’s director of national fleet sales and business development. The company currently installs its technology on GM platforms, specifically the Silverado truck and Express van. Installed components are maintenance-free except for coolant. Any component failure is a plug-and-play replacement.

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Jenny Malcolm

Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

The benefits of advanced telematics systems are widely known today. They can help fleets deploy resources more efficiently, increase the number of jobs completed each day, reduce costs and more. But even so, having an awareness of these benefits is often not enough to convince fleet managers that an investment in telematics is worthwhile. To discover if a fleet-wide system will truly deliver value, fleet professionals must first take the time to identify their business challenges, set criteria and pilot different systems.

To identify the business problems a telematics system could potentially solve, fleet professionals should study their fleet’s productivity, fuel and labor expenses, safety concerns and quality of customer service. The fact is that a number of utility fleets are unable to answer important questions about these operational areas that make a big impact on a utility’s bottom line. Gaining a better understanding of the primary challenges the fleet faces is the first step toward building a business case for a telematics system implementation.

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Jim Galligan

Plug-In Pickups: A Market in Need of Products

Plug-In Pickups: A Market in Need of Products

An initiative to increase utility fleets’ use of plug-in hybrid electric pickup trucks (see “Utilities Push Toward Fleet Electrification”) runs up against the reality that there are few vehicle options available to interested fleets.

But as growth in the electric power industry slows, electrifying the transportation sector “is a huge, albeit long-term opportunity for load growth,” the Edison Electric Institute stated in a June 2014 report, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge."

Electric utilities, EEI suggests, are missing an opportunity to help themselves by not expanding their use of plug-in electric vehicles. Only about 1.7 percent of the vehicles purchased by electric utilities in the last five years were equipped with plug-in technology, EEI noted, using data from Utilimarc, a consulting firm based in Minneapolis.

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Cheryl Knight

The Business Case for Natural Gas Vehicles in Utility Fleets

The Business Case for Natural Gas Vehicles in Utility Fleets

As utility fleets continue to search for cleaner-burning vehicles that operate more efficiently and use lower-cost fuel, the business case for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) is becoming clearer thanks to advancements in vehicle technologies and evolving infrastructure.

And yet, the recent decrease in oil prices – which is being driven, in particular, by a slowing global economy and increased supplies of shale gas in the U.S. – has left some people wondering about the future of NGVs. Do they still offer an economically viable solution for utility fleets? How will the decrease in oil prices impact initiatives to switch to clean-energy vehicles?

“Despite the current low cost of oil, natural gas still enjoys substantial cost savings compared to gasoline and diesel,” said Matthew Godlewski, president of NGVAmerica (www.ngvamerica.org), an organization dedicated to the development of a sustainable market for vehicles powered by natural gas or biomethane. “Utility fleets that have already begun to make the switch to natural gas and have seen its economic and other benefits firsthand are continuing to stay the course.”

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Cheryl Knight

Preventive Maintenance and the Electric Vehicle

Preventive Maintenance and the Electric Vehicle

In an effort to reduce fuel costs, extend replacement cycles and lower greenhouse gas emissions, an increasing number of utility fleets now operate electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, in November 2014, the White House and Edison Electric Institute announced that more than 70 U.S. electric utility companies have plans to devote at least 5 percent of their fleet acquisition budgets to buying plug-in EVs and related technology. Their investments will total approximately $50 million each year.

With fewer moving parts and less reliance on oil to lubricate and help cool the engine parts that do move, EVs represent a sound investment, over time, for many utility fleets. In addition to lower fuel costs and fewer emissions, others benefits of operating EVs include reduced noise levels, exportable power and lower total cost of ownership.

“While you pay more for a plug-in, the overall cost of ownership is significantly lower,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), explaining that payback for the company’s fleet usually ranges from two to seven years. “For our bucket trucks, we’re looking at paybacks in 24 to 30 months. Some of our light-duty applications pay back in five years or less. And some of our pickup trucks see payback in seven years.”

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Curtis Marquardt Jr.

How Standing Idle is Setting You Back

How Standing Idle is Setting You Back

Pop quiz: Which uses more fuel and produces more emissions – letting a passenger car idle for 15 seconds or turning off a car and restarting it after 15 seconds?

If you answered that restarting the car uses more fuel, you would not be alone. Most people believe that starting is the less efficient option. But that’s not the case, according to research conducted by Argonne National Laboratory. Results of their experiment revealed that just 10 seconds of passenger car idling time actually uses more fuel than stopping and restarting the engine.

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Seth Skydel

Electric Vehicle News

EEI-WebSupport Grows for EEI White Paper on Utility Fleets and Electrification
As part of an effort to advance sustainability through fleet adoption of electric vehicles, the Edison Electric Institute has released a white paper, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge,” that focuses on the electric power industry’s effort to accelerate the expansion of electric transportation in commercial and retail markets, beginning with electric utility fleets.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

ACT-Expo-3-WebACT Expo Highlights
Nearly 200 alternative fuel and clean transportation industry leaders were on hand at the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in May to present information on key advancements in alternative fuels and clean vehicles, including electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, clean diesel and renewable fuels technologies.

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Seth Skydel

Green Truck Summit

Isuzu-Green-Truck-Summit-WebThe Green Truck Summit, held in conjunction with The Work Truck Show 2014, provided an opportunity for more than 550 attendees to gather information about innovative clean vehicle technologies, alternative fuel trends and upcoming products. Produced by the NTEA and presented by International Truck, the 2014 Green Truck Summit was opened with a keynote address by Patrick Davis, director, Office of Vehicle Technologies, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

Chevy-Impala1-WebEPA 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards Proposal Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. The proposal for annual volume requirements, developed with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, is required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 for all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2014.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

Green-Fleets-ePTO-Odyne-WebCALSTART and its industry partners have helped pass legislation in California aimed at enhancing short- and long-term funding for clean trucks, buses and cars. These measures that are expected to have a nationwide impact include:
• Assembly Bill (AB) 8 that will extend and expand funding for advanced vehicle and fuel demonstrations and deployments through 2023, for a total of more than $2 billion. The funds will continue and enhance funding of the current AB 118 program demonstration and incentive projects, including the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).
• Senate bills 95 and 359, which fill a funding gap in the HVIP voucher program for hybrid and electric trucks and buses, and rebates for clean passenger cars for 2014.
Visit www.calstart.org.

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John Dolce

Alternative Fuel Options for Fleets

Dolce 1 300pxFleet fueling today is primarily done using gasoline and diesel fuels, which are derived from crude oil and emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct of combustion. For every gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted into the air. Diesel emits 22 pounds of carbon dioxide, and propane, the third-most popular world fuel, generates 13 pounds of carbon dioxide. Methane – the primary component of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – generates a little less than propane, approximately 12 pounds per gallon equivalent.

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