The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

GM Helps Fleets Go Green with Expanding Alt-Fuel Lineup

December 2008, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

“General Motors is aggressively identifying companies that have the express desire to ‘go green,’ ” said Mike McGarry, marketing manager – Alternative Fuels for GM’s Fleet and Commercial Operations (FCO). “FCO’s dedicated alt-fuels team supports the FCO organization and ensures our fleet customers' needs are met.”

FCO’s goals include helping fleets manage federal, state, and local mandates; manage rising fuel costs; reduce the environmental impact of their fleets; build reputations as environmentally responsible companies; and manage alt-fuel issues for their global fleets.

“Managing fuel costs and identifying ways to lower this expense is what fleets live with everyday,” McGarry said. “We know they are also concerned with the environmental impact of fleets and how that influences the reputation of their company. They are looking at technologies that can help them reduce their dependence on petroleum and help reduce vehicle emissions.”

Many companies that FCO works with have global reach, and they ask GM for help in both the United States and other markets in which they operate.

FCO’s dedicated alt-fuels field sales staff consists of 11 fleet account executives (FAEs) who directly support local municipal and government fleets. These FAEs participate in conferences and fleet and consumer events throughout the country and educate those groups about alternativefuel and hybrid vehicles.

Ramping Up Alt-Fuel Initiatives
GM offers the largest number of cars and trucks that get 30 mpg or more on the highway, flex-fuel vehicles that run on E-85 ethanol, and advanced hybrids. The automaker is also developing fuel cell propulsion technology vehicles, including the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell and the innovative electric vehicle, the Concept Chevy Volt. “We believe alternative fuels offer a great opportunity to diversify our energy sources and help reduce emissions,” McGarry said. “GM feels ethanol is the biofuel with the greatest potential to displace petroleum-based fuels in the U. S.”

In 2008, GM will offer 13 E-85-capable models. These flex-fuel vehicles can run on either ordinary gasoline or E-85 ethanol. Running on E-85, the vehicles can gain increased horsepower for better engine performance.

“GM has made a major commitment to produce more than 400,000 flex-fuel vehicles in 2007,” McGarry said. “We’ve also established partnerships with states, fuel providers, and other groups to expand E-85 ethanol availability and educate consumers on E-85’s benefits.”'

Thanks to GM’s pioneering efforts to help make E-85 a viable alternative to gasoline, more than 2 million GM flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on E-85 travel U.S. roads today. GM has also committed to make half its annual production biofuel-capable by 2012 as part of an overall national energy strategy, providing E-85 is amply availabile and distribution infrastructure occurs.

Another GM pioneering effort is the Concept Chevy Volt. Unlike previous electric vehicles (EV), the Volt features a rechargeable electric drive system and rangeextending power source. The power source can be configured to use gasoline, E-85, or biodiesel, all made possible by GM’s E-Flex Propulsion System.

Five GM Hybrid Models Set for 2008
In 2008, GM will offer five hybrid models in an effort to improve fuel savings in two ways: target the highest fuel-consuming vehicles first, while also offering different hybrid systems at various price levels to give more consumers the opportunity to benefit from this technology.

In 2007, GM will introduce four new hybrid models. The Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu each will come equipped with the GM Hybrid System, helping boost fuel economy by about 20 percent.

GM partnered with other auto manufacturers to develop the world’s first two-mode hybrid system for passenger vehicles. The new two-mode hybrid system utilizes two transmission modes that adapt to optimize power and torque depending upon conditions.

“This technology will be available in two of GM’s most popular full-size SUVs — the GMC Yukon Hybrid and the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid,” McGarry said. The first full-size hybrid SUVs offered by any automaker, the Tahoe and Yukon Hybrids maintain SUV-like power and capability with a 25-percent improvement in overall fuel economy.

GM also continues to promote and support its alt-fuel efforts via a dedicated Web site: The site offers product information on all the manufacturer’s current E-85 and hybrid vehicles, along with specific information unavailable on other GM Web sites.

GM Helps ‘Green’ Novartis Fleet GM works with companies, such as Novartis Pharmaceuticals, to help “green” their fleets. Two years ago, Novartis began working with GM to implement alt-fuel vehicles into its fleet. Currently, the company has approximately 1,000 E-85 Chevy Impalas driven by sales reps.

“We’re looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles to add to our fleet that can meet the business requirements of our sales reps,” said Paul Tomaszeski, executive director of business support services at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “GM has been an excellent partner in this initiative.”

The pharmaceutical company has also added 100 Saturn VUE Green Line’s into its fleet in 2007. “They have been very favorably received at our manager level,” Tomaszeski said. “They are getting excellent gas mileage, and our driver satisfaction has been very high in that vehicle.”

The VUEs replace vans or small SUVs, and vehicle mileage has gone from 18-19 mpg to 26-27 mpg. Novartis also plans to add the 2008 Saturn Aura Green Line hybrid and the 2008 Malibu hybrid to its fleet.

“GM has been very clear about how their product and their model lineup can contribute toward our environmental initiative,” Tomaszeski said.

GM Remains Technology Pioneer
GM’s success in the alt-fuels market comes from its belief that tomorrow’s automobiles must be flexible enough to accommodate many uses and many energy sources. The development of electrically driven cars and trucks is a crucial element of that flexibility.

“From conventional gasoline and diesel fuel to biofuels, such as E-85 ethanol and biodiesel, to electricity — whether stored or generated on the vehicle, with an internal combustion engine or a hydrogen fuel cell — we see a logical journey from stand-alone, largely mechanical automobiles to vehicles that run on electricity,” McGarry said.

In the near term, GM expects fleet customers interested in fuel efficiency, lowered dependence on petroleum, and reduced operating costs to be at the forefront of adopting the new technologies that GM offers.

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