Case study: Greening the NT Governments Vehicle Fleet

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How is the Territory Government’s Greening the Fleet Strategy progressing?

Background

The Northern Territory Government's Climate Change Policy sets the target for reducing emissions from the Territory Government’s vehicle fleet by 20% by 2014 and 50% by 2020.  Under the Greening the Fleet Strategy minimum greenhouse emissions standards are set to encourage the adoption of vehicles that achieve lower fuel use, create less greenhouse gasses and evaluate different fuels, such as LPG, biofuel or electric hyrid vehicles.  The strategy will also assess the viability of low emissions vehicles such as electric cars as they become available in Australia.

All vehicles purchased for use by government Agencies are required to have a minimum greenhouse rating of 5.5 for passenger vehicles and 3.5 for light commercial vehicles.  Careful selection of Government plated vehicles will be made to ensure that appropriate fuel efficient vehicles are matched to operational needs.

As the NT Government disposes of fleet vehicles locally, the availability of lower emissions vehicles will flow though to the Territory’s second hand vehicle market which will assist the Territory to become an early adopter of climate friendly vehicles and vehicle technology. 

Consideration of the Issues

Whole of Government Target 

The Greening the Fleet strategy is being implemented in two stages.

  • Stage 1, occurring between 2009 and 2011, has a target reduction of 14% CO2. This equates to a reduction in the production of CO2 gases of 39 gm's/km resulting in an actual average of 239 gm/km after 2 years. This will lead to a saving of 1,850 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

    Implementation of Stage 1 has been challenging as it involves personal and attitudinal change as well as having appropriate alternative vehicles available for selection.


  • Stage 2 covers the remaining three years, 2012 – 2015 with the aim of a further reduction of at least 6%. This equates to an additional saving of 17gm/km for an actual average of 221 gm/km for a total saving of 2,640 tonnes of CO2 gas over the 5 years.  The uptake of Stage 2 is expected to be faster as the decisions being made by agencies a individuals are changing and lining up with the objectives of the Greening the Fleet Program.

Annual agency targets will be negotiated as part of the overall target to reduce emissions over the next 5 years.  Each agency is required to negotiate an annual target with NT Fleet. The start point for negotiation is 7% of its actual average CO2 production in gm/km. The percentage may rise or fall, depending on the capacity of each agency to reduce its carbon footprint.  

 It is acknowledged that some agencies have already made a significant effort to reduce production of CO2 gases whereas some agencies still have significant opportunities to achieve similar results.  Some agencies have already achieved savings of up to 20% in fuel use as a result of careful examination of the primary purpose and the available substitutes for use in their vehicle fleet.  Reviews in all agencies are planned to monitor progress to achieving fuel consumption reduction and greenhouse gas emissions targets.

 An incentive program has been introduced to encourage government departments to select more fuel efficient vehicles from the approved 'green list'.  To make the 'green list' a vehicle must have a greenhouse rating of at least 7.5.

Incentives to encourage higher uptake of Green Fleet vehicles have also been introduced for government executive contract officers

Selection of Government plated vehicles will be based on three functional categories of Location, Primary Use and Road Surface. A fourth consideration when assessing appropriate vehicles fit for purpose might relate to seasonal travel, such as wet and dry season travel.  

Lessons Learned

The intent of any policy is always tested when the policy is being implemented.  In the case of Greening the Fleet the factors that provide challenges for the Territory are the operational requirements imposed by remoteness and the size of our population. 

For example, the remote nature of much of the Territory Government’s operations mean that there will always be a requirement for heavy duty 4 wheel drives, because service delivery requires robust heavy duty vehicles.  About half of the NT Government Fleet is 4wheel drives.  Many of these heavy duty vehicles operate in regional and remote areas and there are few green alternatives available, and appropriate vehicles are an important issues for NT government employees as safety is a prime consideration when travelling in remote country.  Some substitution, without limiting service provision may be possible, for example Landcruisers can be substituted for Hilux’s.  But the savings may be marginal.

As with any emerging technologies or policy responses implementation often involves a higher level of capital expenditure.  This is also the case with Greening the Fleet.  As some of the efficiencies obtained in vehicles are the result of technology some green vehicles are more expensive to purchase, for example the Toyota Prius and expensive to maintain due to greater inbuilt technology and higher service charges from dealers.

Diesel vehicles may offer improvements in fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However not all vehicle ranges offer diesel alternatives and even when they do they are more expensive to buy and may have higher services costs, as maintenance schedules are more complex.

The role of NT Fleet in contributing to the overall market for used vehicles also complicates the situation as resale values of Green Vehicles are harder to calculate or unknown as there is no brand history to compare.  When there is no sales history for particular types of vehicles, say small diesel sedans, or electric hybrids then it is difficult to calculate the optimum point for resale or to work out the demand from the market some 2 years after they are purchased for use by the government.

There can also be unanticipated consequences in adding non mainstream vehicles to the lists of available choices.  For example, dealership support for niche brands may be unreliable or franchises leave the Territory due to low sales volumes.  Support for other than mainstream vehicles is often non existent outside the major towns and cities.

The range of vehicles, and the amount retained as stock by the manufacturers and importers has also changed considerably since the Global Financial Crisis.  Lead times for ordering certain vehicles is now normally 4 – 6 months from the time of placing the order.

Conclusions

A progress report of the Greening the Fleet policy is due at the end of 2010.  Nonetheless innovative approaches have been trialled and substitute vehicles purchased.  The range of more efficient vehicles available has been expanded.  More diesel powered passenger vehicles are now common, more hybrids are available, and a trial is being conducted of a plug in electric vehicle.

Also ways to collect more useful data are being considered to better inform decision making.  For example a trial of GPS tracking systems to more accurately monitor vehicle use, location journey frequency and range are being considered.  This information would enable better allocation of vehicles to best suit the primary purpose of the service delivery.

The planned upcoming review of this initiative will determine how successful the Greening the Fleet Strategy has been and should identify ways to progress the initiative over the next three years.

Next Steps

The NT government is maintaining close contact with other governments across Australia to keep informed of the results of any trials they are carrying out. 

NT Fleet will continue to monitor the availability of more fuel efficient vehicles and trialling them across the NT.

Supporting and, where appropriate, adopting alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video link are being used as alternatives to long distance travel if the same level of service delivery is possible.

If you have any suggestions that we should consider for Greening the Fleet please contact us through this website.

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