Just as that recycling bin became an iconic symbol of environmental commitment several years ago, the logos on hybrid and electric cars are quickly becoming the new badge of green consciousness. Whether cruising down Main Street or catching a consumer’s eye in the dealership, these vehicles represent automotive ingenuity and a fundamental shift in how we view transportation.
This shift is what has caused businesses to spend more time looking for solutions to make their fleets more environmentally friendly. Before making an investment, here are six items to consider that should influence purchasing decision.
1. Fuel Economy: Fuel economy remains a top influence in the vehicle purchase process—and, it also translates to emissions reduction. As gas prices rise, fleet owners will be even more concerned about finding convenient ways to fuel up efficiently.
2. Lifecycle Costs: Depending on the non-hybrid car for comparison, the time it takes before the gas savings equals the upfront investment will vary. Even though that sticker price may be higher, the payoff with improved fuel economy is compelling. Plus, you may be able to leverage other possible benefits such as better resale value, insurance discounts and tax incentives.
3. Intended Use: Every company’s needs are unique and luckily there’s a vehicle to fit each business’s requirements. First, fleet managers should identify what’s important to them, whether it’s space, performance or environmental aspects. For example, a sales fleet requiring daily long-distance travel may not want to purchase a battery-electric vehicle due to limited public charging infrastructure. But, an extended-range vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt would be viable given the infrastructure is under the hood and its range totals more than 350 miles.
4. Driver Safety: Even though hybrids and EVs may offer qualities like smaller size, lighter frames and/or efficient systems, they still undergo and meet rigorous safety standards. This is a bonus for fleet owners since they can take advantage of available insurance discounts for features like OnStar, air bags, automatic headlamps and stability control.
5. Driver Comfort & Convenience: Employees are a company’s greatest asset, so fleet owners will want a vehicle that is comfortable for long drives. Check for technology features like Bluetooth hands-free calling and GPS as well as spacious seating and lumbar support for optimal comfort.
6. Corporate Image: When you consider adding a hybrid or EV to your fleet, it may be part of a larger environmental commitment. Think about ways to maximize this addition and communicate it to your customers. By buying an EV or hybrid, you’re greening your supply chain since the automaker is dedicated to green practices throughout its operations.
Many companies have communicated their alternative fuel vehicle strategies, like AT&T, Enterprise Rent-a-Car (it now offers hybrid and electric rental cars to “empower” their customers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions) and General Electric (they announced a plan to purchase 25,000 hybrid and electric vehicles.)
The bottom line is fleet managers can now save money and the planet at the same time, but it’s important to first take stock to ensure the implementation is a success for their business. Vehicle options may increase as the green vehicle market continues to evolve, but the major issues to consider likely will remain the same.
By Michael McGarry, Marketing Manager, Alternative Fuels, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations