Energy-Saving Techniques for SMBs: Vehicles

When it comes to saving money on your fleet of company vehicles, everything from properly inflated tires to smart trip planning can make a difference. If you think your company is ready to move to alternative-fuel cars, be aware of the upfront investment.

Although technologies like Web conferencing can reduce your business travel needs, for many midmarket business owners a fleet of company cars is necessary. Your company's road warriors often still do the best business shaking hands in the flesh, and sharply lower fuel prices have reduced the extreme pressure the $3.50 gallon of gas put on small-business owners. However, there is more to saving money on your fleet than curbing unnecessary trips.
If your business maintains a vehicle fleet or provides delivery or on-site repair services, you will want to investigate how you can save money on fuel. In the following sections we'll explain how you and your employees can save money and energy by using conventional-fueled vehicles, or by using alternative-fueled vehicles. Besides achieving money and energy savings, these measures will also help lessen transportation-related air pollution and potentially make your business eligible for government subsidies. Let's break it down into conventional-fuel vehicles and alternative-fuel vehicles.
Hit the Gas
Each year the U.S. Department of Energy publishes a Fuel Economy
Guide, which lists the miles-per-gallon ratings for all vehicles available for the new model year. If you are planning to buy new vehicles this year, you may want to review the guide to help determine which vehicles are likely to save your company money through lower fuel costs. The guide can be ordered free of charge from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse, so if you're looking for a research starting point, it won't get more cost-effective than this.
Your drivers can also be made more aware of ways in which they can drive more effectively to save on fuel. Combining errands into one trip, turning an engine off rather than letting it idle for more than a minute, getting tune-ups regularly and not carrying unnecessary weight in vehicles are all ways to save on gasoline. As pointed out in this year's presidential campaign, even something as simple as properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage.
Electric Wheels

If you have a fleet of 10 or more vehicles, it is possible that you may be required to comply with either the Clean Air Act or the Energy Policy Act requirements for fleets. These requirements have been put in place to help increase U.S. energy security through increased use of alternative fuels, as well as improving the country's air quality.
The Energy Policy Act requires the use of alternative fuels such as natural gas, electricity, methanol, ethanol or propane in certain percentages for some fleets. The Clean Air Act requires that your vehicles meet certain emissions standards through the use of alternative fuels or reformulated gasoline and clean diesel fuel.

Hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles also send a message to your customers, your employees and the larger community that your business invests in forward-thinking solutions. While the ROI on that type of investment may be difficult to determine, you may reap the peripheral benefits that give your business the image of an innovative leader.
If you're willing to spend the extra money up front, the improved gas mileage of hybrids, coupled with the environmentally friendly image they conjure, could make their purchase the right kind of investment. And because hybrid sales are so strong right now, companies can likely resell hybrids after a couple of years close to the price they paid for them.