by Mahanth Joishy, Fleet Superintendent

Fuel pump made out of plants.

Vehicle fuel is a hot topic right now in every part of the world, especially when it comes to shortages and price fluctuations. Since keeping it flowing for other City departments is one of the core duties of Fleet, we see trends and perspectives worth sharing. Our actions in this area impact all of our work lives and personal lives, and have consequences both local and global.

First, the good news. We are sharply trending downward in fossil fuel usage to run 1,400 City assets. 2022 will be even better than 2021, and every subsequent year will be better than the previous. This is thanks to the addition of 70 electric vehicles, 145 hybrid-electric vehicles, less speeding, and less idling thanks to GPS tracking. We have only just started this complete overhaul of the fleet.
2020 and 2021 Fuel Usage

Madison Fleet has officially ceased buying any regular gasoline cart, sedan or SUV for any City operation as a policy, and will never make such a purchase ever again. In perpetuity. Please don’t ask Fleet for one from now on. 😁

For nearly all light and medium duty vehicle types (cars, SUVs, vans, pickups, box trucks) the market’s selling viable zero-emission EV alternatives right now, and all of these types are on order by the City already. MFD is already operating an EV full-size Pierce fire engine at Station 8, the first and still only one in North America, made right in Wisconsin. More EV full-size trucks are arriving this year to Streets and other divisions. The gasoline engine will be extinct soon, and Madison will be on the cutting edge of the transition. The diesel engine will limp on for a while though. We have announced publicly the ambitious goal of eliminating fossil fuel gasoline AND regular diesel by 2030. No municipality anywhere is anywhere close. The race is on. We will be the first. But how?

Biodiesel will bring us home where EVs can’t. For anything that cannot be converted to EV by 2030, which is mostly heavy duty trucking and construction equipment, we are aiming to run it all on 100% biodiesel on the exact same engine platforms, if the relevant retrofit technology (which we are about to pilot with Streets and Parks this year) allows- all of which is renewable, near-zero emission, and processed right here in Dane County from Wisconsin-only agricultural products like soy plants and used cooking oil that will never run out. In the news every day we hear about energy independence, and domestic fuel production. Biodiesel is doing it, not talking about it, with over 80 plants in North America in operation or coming online supporting domestic workers and farmers.

Unfortunately, with prices up dramatically for fossil fuels across the board we are using up more of the City budget for fuel year over year despite consuming less, and despite eliminating over 8 millions pounds of CO2 since 2018 with these efforts. That’s not including the massive amount of derivatives a fleet needs such as engine oil, and petroleum rubber tires, which are made of fossil fuel feed stocks. A hefty chunk of our division’s human resources are spent daily on changing engine oil, and changing tires, if not changing parts. The costs of all of these have spiked dramatically recently, attacking our capital and operating budgets alike.

Did you know EVs and hybrids eliminate oil changes and most parts changes, saving labor time and money?

We have installed over 850 soybean oil based tires and counting, which eliminate petroleum rubber use and further support the Midwest economy.

To date, almost all of the gasoline and diesel used by our fleet and everyone else in the Madison community comes from out of state or even other countries. Just think of how much fuel is used to fuel up fuel trucks and deep ocean fuel tankers to transport over the fuel we use in this community, which claims to be concerned about climate change?
With EVs, we can plug into the grid or solar charging stations and avoid emissions altogether, avoiding fuel trucks and oil tankers completely. Think about what you pay for power in your home. Costs are regulated by the government with limited fluctuations, unlike gas and diesel. You can predict what an EV will cost to power up for the next 15 years. Any predictions on what gasoline will cost us in 2037? Although the initial cost for an electric vehicle is higher, there are several federal and state tax incentives available for all. You can learn more about them in the US Department of Energy's website.


Finally with biodiesel, we are supporting only the Wisconsin economy from end to end by buying local, keeping it circular.

The rest is up to you. Simple reminders for work or personal life:

  1. Take the bus where possible, for work or for personal reasons. All City employees are entitled to unlimited ride bus passes. It's an awesome perk most people don't get!
  2. Keep tires inflated to recommended PSIs. For assistance with City vehicle tires, stop by one of our shops. This saves up to 3% of fuel.
  3. Ride a bike! Or if you're like me - get on an e-bike. E-bikes are EVs too!
  4. If you must drive for work - reserve one of our growing list of City EVs or hybrids.
  5. Drive at the speed limit or just above. You will save emissions, fuel and money whether City's or yours. If you slow down traffic, that is an added bonus: all of those saving fuel and money, and less likely to crash, behind you should be thanking you. As a City vehicle driver it is our obligation to set an example in the community on safety and also sustainability, when our customers see the City seal on the door. 
  6. Do not idle unless absolutely necessary for the operation (ie, ambulance for medical work, bucket truck on-site for repair).
  7. If you own a car: convert to EV, as I wrote about in the Cap Times; if it's not all of us working together, none of this matters on bit. The City is working on a plan to blanket this town with new, efficient charging stations in the future, adding to the already growing inventory.
  8. Learn more about global green industry trends at the Madison Transportation & Innovation Expo co-hosted by Fleet on 4/28/22, anytime between 8am - 4pm. 
This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Fleet Service and a link back to the original post.