Reducing fuel consumption in the real world

Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2011 00:00
Posted by James Cowham

It has been two weeks since my presentation at Sustainable Transport 2011 and I have had some interesting feedback. The first part is that a number of organisations seem to have divorced the issues with CO2 from the cost of fuel. Secondly what is interesting is the number of organisations that do not have a joined up strategy on fuel saving and ultimately carbon reduction. Lastly is that the number of organisations that seem to have no real understanding of the impact of ‘low carbon vehicles' on carbon emissions throughout the whole life cycle of the vehicle.


Let me deal with each of these points; Divorcing CO2 from cost of fuel.

The mantra here is simple, use less fuel produce less CO2, I have seen a number of local authorities pass the responsibilities for this carbon reduction to an individual rather than making it the remit of the stakeholders who produce the most, including Head of IT, Fleet Manager and Building Services etc. Ultimately this could be inefficient, as the business need often means the CO2 impact becomes secondary as the CO2 reduction officer is never an expert in Buildings, IT or Vehicles.

CO2 and Fuel reduction strategy, this is more than saying lets see how we can reduce both. This is about a real and meaningful strategy followed by measurement and implementation and potentially the difficult decision of maybe investing in a more expensive item to be most efficient. It is also about not believing everything that a product and in particular vehicle manufacturers tell you.

Lastly, before you all rush out and buy fleets of Electric Vehicles and Hybrids consider their real impact on the planet. Most, despite what the manufacturers might tell you are much less flexible than the diesel or petrol vehicles you will be used to. Most have future maintenance issues such as battery replacement and disposal but above all the typical EV/Hybrid costs at least 100% more than its equivalent fossil fuel counterpart. So this poses some serious questions such as:

1) What services are you going to cut for the vanity of the EV marketing?
2) Will the EV really cost less to run over its life? Take maintenance, cost of money needed to buy it, the cost of inflexibility, whole life CO2 impact (not forgetting most electricity comes from coal, its impact is not just CO2 its sulphur dioxide, ash and particulates etc etc)

I am not saying don't buy EV's and Hybrid vehicles; I am however saying be realistic about whether firstly you actually need them, and can afford them. The greenest vehicle is the one you have, so ask yourself what can you do to make it Greener? 

I have just done some back of a fag packet calculation, if every council in the UK used just one of our fuel saving products on just their waste vehicles then it would save £36,000,000 each year and reduce CO2 emissions by 89,142 tons. It really is that simple so here is a challenge.

I want to find the public sector organisation with the most joined up strategy on fuel saving and carbon reduction. I am really interested to find out what you are all doing and if any of you have some great ideas.  See if you can beat the example above, for simplicity and ease.

James Cowham, Managing Director, Economy Tuning Ltd

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