By next summer, Secura Insurance, based in Appleton, Wis., plans to convert its entire fleet to hybrid and E-85 (ethanol)-capable vehicles. Of the company’s 75 vehicles, 40 are currently Ford Escape Hybrids. Starting with just a few, Secura committed to hybrids 16 months ago because of environmental reasons and the gasoline price spike that has plagued the U.S. in recent years.

“It takes about two-and-a-half years to completely turn over our fleet, and we are more than one year into this,” said Scott Huiras, senior VP of claims for Secura. “About half of our fleet is now hybrid, and by this time next year, almost all will be hybrid.”

Corporate Culture Chooses Green
Secura has a history of environmental consciousness. The company’s president was named Wisconsin’s Environmentalist of the Year and the company actively attempts to reduce its heating and cooling expenses. “It’s the right thing to do and corporations can make a real impact by implementing hybrids into their fleet because they are low-emissions vehicles,” said Huiras.

Management chose the Escape Hybrid because it was the only small SUV option available. Secura’s claims and sales personnel required vehicles that provided room to carry equipment.

Though the hybrids cost more up-front, Secura receives a government rebate for vehicle purchases and has experienced improved fuel efficiency and reduced gasoline expenses. Drivers achieve 8 mpg more than their previous vehicles and average vehicle lifecycle is 60,000 miles. “But the wildcard is resale value, which may be affected by the price of gasoline,” said Huiras.

Huiras maintains that drivers are happy with the hybrids and that there is no difference in terms of acceleration compared to the models’ gasoline counterparts.

Does E-85 Have Potential?

Secura is currently investigating the possibility of adding E-85 vehicles to its fleet since ethanol stations are starting to grow in numbers in the upper Midwest. Wisconsin, for example, has 75 stations, according to Huiras. “Unfortunately, while OEMs have a number of E-85-compatible models, when it comes to SUVs and pickup trucks, they are the more expensive models.”

However, in expanding the company’s alt-fuel profile, Hurias is hopeful of E-85’s potential. “Ethanol supports the farm economy, so it would be a nice fit for us.”

Secura also plans to offer more choices to fleet drivers. “We need larger vehicles and would be interested in a hybrid van,” said Huiras.

A few field personnel prefer sedans, though, so Secura will provide those drivers the E-85-compatible Chevrolet Impala. Huiras said the company will make E-85-compatible compact SUVs available to its associates when domestic manufacturers begin to offer them.

Hope for the Future
Going hybrid is good for the corporate brand if it’s consistent throughout the fleet, according to Huiras. It differentiates a corporation from others, and Huiras is optimistic that more commercial fleets will follow suit.

“So, when the transition is complete, I’d guesstimate we’ll have 90-percent Escapes and a smattering of E-85 vehicles,” said Huiras.