A neat plan to make cab fleets green

Green Fleets
Once again I findmyselfwriting a column in praise of the City of Toronto’sAtmosphericFund (TAF). This time it’s for an innovativescheme to cutgreenhousegasemissionsfrom cars, vans, and trucks.

Within the city, 20 per cent of the emissions come from the transportation sector, with the thebulk of that (79 per cent) comingfrompassengertraffic –cars, light trucks, minivans, and sports utility vehicles.

The hurdlethat TAF faces isthatwhilelowemissionvehiclescanbecheaper to run, they’re more expensive to buy — anywherefrom $3,000 to $8,000 more per vehicle. So it’s tough trying to persuade owners to switch.

What TAF isgoing to do is help ownerspay the extra purchaseprice on condition the ownersrepay TAF out of their operating savings. To getthingsrolling, itiscontactingownerswhocanexpectbigreductions in their operating costsbecausethey have large fleetsthat put on a lot of mileageeveryyear. Taxi groups, for instance. TAF president, City Councillor Dan Leckie, points out that a single cab can put on 500,000 to a million kilometres a year. Thenthere are deliverycompanies, rentalfirms, and institutions such as the University of Toronto.

The first stepis to identifyownersinterested in joiningwhat TAF calls its Green Fleetspartnership. This stage willcompleted by the end of July. The second phase willbe to develop a financingmechanism. According to Leckie, TAF willprobably put up $3 to $4 million to help ownerscover the extra purchaseprice. The target date for having the financingmechanisms in place isOctober 1. The final phase isimplementation.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which has its world headquarters at City Hall, has been hired by TAF to complete the first two phases. The partners, including TAF, willhandleimplementation.

TAF’s goal is to create a market for vehicleswithloweremissions. The expectation isthat a good-sizedbuying group willstimulatebothmanufacturers and usersinto innovation. And once innovation has a toehold, there’llbe no stoppingdemand.

On the list for examinationwillbevehiclespowered by naturalgas, propane, or electricity, as well as hybridvehicles. One of the problems in figuring out what fuel ismostsuitableiscalculatingwhat are the « upstream’’ emissions. For instance whatgreenhousegases are emitted in refining or in generatingelectricity? Whatemissionsoccur in transporting fuels to market? How muchleakage of fumes isthere at pumps, or fromvehiclesthemselves?

Thenthere’s the problemwithmethane — and naturalgasis about 95 per cent methane. It is 21 times more potentthancarbondioxide (CO2) as a global warming agent, sothat has to befactoredinto the equation.

Calculationsvary, but on the wholeitappearsthatnaturalgas or propane poweredvehiclescanreduceemissions by at least 5 per cent, evenwhenupstreamemissions are included.

And thenthere are the hybridvehicles, such as the one Toyota issupposed to bring on the marketsoon. It will have agasolineenginelinkedwith an electricmotorthathelps power the drive shaft. Supposedlyitwillrun on 3.5 to 4 litres per 100 kilometres (70 or 80 miles to the gallon).

TAF’stargetis a reduction of 20 per cent in greenhousegasemissions over the vehiclesreplaced. That’s a big drop, but the hopeisthat the prospect of sales to TAF-inspiredpartnershipswillspurmanufacturersintodesigningenginesthatcanmeet the target.

Leckieexpects the first partnershipswillinvolveowners of about 200 vehicles. In the world of alternative fuels, that, with the prospect of more buyers to come, willbeenough, hethinks, to getmanufacturerssitting up and taking notice.

All in all, it’s a prettyneat package. Fleet ownersgetcheaper operating costs, TAF getsrepaid, research and developmentgetsstimulated, greenhousegaslevels come down, everybodybenefits. I likeit.

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