Red Deer adds electric car to fleet

Red Deer’s fleet will be a shade greener when an electric car drives into the city next year.

Red Deer’s fleet will be a shade greener when an electric car drives into the city next year.

While the city is expected to roll out its Greening the Fleet action plan in 2013, efforts to reduce the carbon footprint are already underway.

Tom Marstaller, City of Red Deer fleet superintendent, said the city is taking small steps to ensure the route taken is headed in the right direction. He said that’s part of the reason the city isn’t jumping head first into the new technology pool.

“We do want to get the fleet a lot greener than it is but it could take us a few years,” said Marstaller. “We want to make sure we are heading into well-developed areas before we just jump and we end up with a technology that doesn’t work.”

Marstaller added the difficulty with being an early adopter is sometimes the technology is not as far along as it should be.

Pending approval, the department will conduct a review of available fleet-related technologies, a situation assessment and eventually establish goals, targets and measures in its action plan.

The city fleet of 600 vehicles, including 52 transit buses, already includes two hybrids (an SUV and a car) used by two deputy fire chiefs in the Emergency Services Department.

The city is monitoring what’s happening in the hybrid vehicle industry and has considered purchasing hybrid transit buses.

“There have been some recent reports of some large difficulties with some of the hybrid buses out there,” said Marstaller. “There are so many variables. At this point in time, we have backed away from buying a hybrid bus right now. We’re going to buy some regular plain jane transit buses and watch what the marketplace is doing and see where we go.”

From time to time, the idea of purchasing smaller transit buses comes up but the current plan is to keep buying the same 40-foot buses.

The approved electric vehicle in the 2013 capital budget, possibly a Nissan LEAF, will be used as a pilot in the Electric Light and Power Department. The Nissan LEAF is a 100 per cent electric vehicle that produces no emissions.

The vehicle’s performance will be tested and tracked. From this data, the city will determine whether the existing electrical distribution network is able to meet these types of operational demands or whether upgrades would be needed should electrical vehicles become more common in the community.

The electric vehicle is expected to join the fleet by the end of 2013.

In 2009, the idle free project was launched, encouraging reduced idling to lower emissions.

“We are starting to see our fuel leveling off even though our fleet is growing,” said Marstaller. “So that’s a good sign.”

Drivers are encouraged regularly to turn off the ignition instead of idling their vehicles.

The city is also considering a Natural Resources Canada fleet fuel sense program where drivers learn new habits to become more fuel-efficient.

“We look at trying to find things that are more fuel efficient but once you get to a certain size of vehicle, vehicle efficiency data isn’t readily available,” said Marstaller. “It becomes less of a factor at that point.”

In 2014, a tank that will dispense biodiesel for the city fleet will be installed at the civic yards. The fleet currently uses some biodiesel depending on the season but mostly uses regular diesel. The onsite fuelling system for the fleet currently has three tanks: one for unleaded fuel, one for clear diesel and one for marked diesel. But with advances in technology, there may be opportunities to increase biodiesel concentrations, which has the potential to reduce emissions.

“We have a lot of great opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint with bigger things like reducing methane at the wastewater treatment plant,” said City of Red Deer environmental program specialist Lauren Maris.

“We are doing some renovations to the plant and that will involve co-generation, which means that the methane being emitted will be used for heat and electricity. Those are bigger opportunities but Greening the Fleet is a small but important piece of our plans to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The city is working on goals and targets as part of the Environmental Master Plan. Greening the Fleet falls under the air section of the plan.

Part of the plan is to determine the city’s carbon footprint as a corporation and later the community as a whole.

The city is wrapping up its corporate greenhouse gas inventory, which involves converting things like natural gas used in the facilities, electricity use and methane emissions from the landfill into carbon dioxide equivalents and adding them up to determine the carbon footprint.

From the carbon footprint, the city will be able to set reduction targets and goals.

For the city at large, the greenhouse gas inventory still needs to be conducted and the footprint information is expected to be completed in late 2013 or early 2014. Goals for the city as a corporation should be released in early 2013.