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Sustainability: Carbon Footprint Fleet Edition

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

The sustainability drum has a lot more businesses marching to it these days.  The concept of "sustainability" is all about encouraging business practices that are environmentally-friendly and help ensure that the environment is kept safe and sound for future generations.  The State of New Hampshire defines sustainability as "any strategies or business practices that you put in place that are designed to keep (both) your company and the environment healthy and prosperous."  We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

carbon-footprint-fleetSustainability for business - not just a buzzword

Bell Performance has long been in the business of sustainability.  We started 105 years ago based on a simple premise by our founder Robert J. Bell, who was adamant in his goal “may the world be better because of Bell”.  At the time, Robert Bell saw his new fuel additive invention as one that everyone could benefit from.  He must have been a real forward thinker because not that many people owned cars in 1909. Or maybe he could see what Henry Ford’s new marketing plan for going to do to get more cars in the hands of the average American worker.

At any rate, in today’s world, we see our role in sustainability as helping people get more out of the fuels they use. Reducing carbon footprint is a big buzz word with regards to that. Petroleum fuels like gasoline and diesel burn because they’re carbon-based fuels.  So where does the carbon go when you burn the fuel? To the angst of the environmentalists, it goes into the atmosphere - unless you’re running a diesel truck, in which case it gets trapped by a particulate filter so it won’t go into the atmosphere. 

What goes in, must come out

One of the unchangeable laws of nature is that, when it comes to engines, what goes in is what must come out. In this case, the carbon in your fuel goes into the engine, and therefore it has to come out as carbon.  The only thing you can change is what form it comes out in. Perfect combustion gives you carbon dioxide; imperfect combustion (like in an inefficient engine) will give you carbon monoxide (that’s bad). 

So what does this have to do with sustainability?

In this case, it’s very much in the best interests of business to be sustainable. And in Bell’s best interests to help everyone do that.

For businesses that run vehicles and fuel-burning equipment, sustainability is all about doing more with the fuel they use. Doing more work. Driving more miles – because that’s the work that a vehicle does.  Making more widgets.  Doing more in all of these ways, but not using more fuel to do it.

That’s the sustainability rub. No business that uses gas or diesel or another petroleum fuel is going to completely reduce their carbon foot print. Not even if they switch to biodiesel or ethanol. 

What they can reduce is their effective carbon foot print. And that has real value.

If your diesel fleet gets 5 miles per gallon of fuel, and you clean up your engine to make the truck more efficient, maybe you now get 5.2 miles per gallon – a four percent improvement.  That’s a reasonable expectation.  Four percent seems like peanuts to the average car driver, but business and fleet administrators know that a four percent improvement on a fleet of any substantial size is going to return an easy six figure savings per year, back to their budget.

Sustainability becomes a business’ friend

Being four percent more efficient not only saves a fleet boatloads of cash, but it means they can do the same amount of work while using 4% less fuel.

What does that mean in practice?

A city bus might reasonably burn 75 gallons of diesel a day, or more. Every gallon of diesel contains almost 20 pounds of carbon – and therefore, about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide that’s going to be made when all that fuel is burned in the engine.  If that truck is being sustainable to the tune of 4% fuel savings, that’s almost 1100 gallons of fuel saved a year for just one truck.

And over ten tons of carbon dioxide that isn’t going into the atmosphere. If that truck is actually a fleet of fifty city buses, you start to see the real value to the rest of the community in that business being more sustainable. 

That city bus fleet is going to save over $200,000 a year in fuel, while the carbon emissions saved by just that 4% mileage improvement is the equivalent of removing 178 tons of waste from a landfill.

Or not burning 533,000 lbs of coal.

Or powering 45 homes for one entire year.

Or planting 12,733 trees.

Sustainability is awesome and Bell Performance is proud to be a part of it. We save businesses more and do our part for the community. We like to think that’s what Robert Bell had in mind back in 1909.

If you are concerned about Carbon Footprints of Fleets, you may like these other posts:

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This post was published on January 15, 2015 and was updated on January 15, 2015.

Topics: Fleet