Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Cleaner, Quieter, Better: Electric and Hybrid Fleets

It’s not just individual drivers who are trading in their gas cars for plug-in electric vehicles or hybrids.

Businesses and public agencies are making the same transition with their fleets. Fleet managers are discovering that plug-in vehicles bring other advantages beyond environmental benefits, such as less maintenance, fuel savings, smoother ride, reduced noise, and better performance.

Today and tomorrow, our fleet asset management team is hosting the Western Energy Institute’s quarterly Fleet Management Forum at our Kearny Mesa headquarters. About sixty representatives from utilities and utility districts across the American West are in San Diego to share the latest in fleet innovations and learn about our efforts to green our fleet.

Pioneering Hybrid Ford F-150 Trucks and Bucket Trucks

Currently about 15 percent of SDG&E’s fleet vehicles run on alternative fuels. Some are purely electric. Some are hybrids that run on both batteries and gasoline, and some run on compressed natural gas.

Our goal is to have 22 percent of our fleet upgraded to alternative fuel by the end of 2020.

We are among the earliest adopters of the plug-in, Ford F-150 pickup trucks made by XL Hybrid. Other clean vehicles we have in our fleet include:

  • A hybrid fault-finding van, which is used to help repair power outages. The 28kWh lithium-ion battery on this van can power the fault-finding systems, heating and air conditioning, plus lighting for the duration of an average work day.
  • A fleet of hybrid bucket trucks, which are used to repair overhead power lines. Unlike conventional bucket trucks, these do not produce loud noises or fumes. Auxiliary functions, such as the bucket and crane, run on battery power.

Benefits of Alternative Fuel Vehicles

The hybrid trucks come with many benefits. Beyond noise reduction, there is fuel savings because crews don’t have to idle the engine to run auxiliary functions.

More importantly, the hybrid trucks help us provide better customer service. Imagine a crew showing up in the middle of the night to fix an overhead power line because there is an outage.

Which type of bucket truck do you think your customers would prefer your crews to use for the job? A hybrid or a conventional truck? Less noise does equal happier customers.

By greening our fleet, we are also doing our part to lessen our environmental impact. In California, tailpipe emissions make up the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (41 percent of all GHG emissions), far eclipsing the amount of carbon emissions coming from electric generation.

Looking Down the Road

Recently, Ford announced that it plans to build hybrid and eventually full electric versions of the Ford F-150. Tesla is building electric semi-trucks. Other makers of electric trucks include BYD and Rivian. What this means is that fleet managers will have plenty of options to choose from when they retire old vehicles and bring in new ones to their fleet.