Greening The Massive Government Vehicle Fleet

The General Services Administration (GSA) ordered 5,600 gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles earlier this year, and the first batch arrived about a month ago. More new vehicles will continue to arrive throughout the summer as they roll off assembly lines. The purchases, announced last March, are in addition to the 3,100 hybrid vehicles agencies received last year as part of the 2009 Recovery Act. This brings the total of the federal hybrid vehicle fleet to more than 11,000 cars and trucks, slightly less than two percent of the 600,000 vehicles the government operates.

GSA leases the new hybrids to federal agencies as they trade in their older gas-guzzling vehicles, which GSA sells at auctions. Proceeds from the auctions, in addition to taxpayer funds earmarked for the purchases, help fund the hybrid purchases.

The Department of Energy is a leader in the government’s transition to fuel-efficient hybrids and has committed to an all-hybrid fleet within three years. This year the agency is leasing 753 vehicles from GSA: 334 Ford Fusions, 273 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, 145 Ford Escape sport-utility vehicles and one Honda Insight.

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DOE is also adding 145 Ford Escape Hybrid sport-utility vehicles to its hybrid vehicle fleet.

Three all-electric vehicles are on the GSA schedule for the first time this year. All are light- and medium-duty cargo vans and trucks that can travel between 50 and 100 miles on a single charge. To date, GSA has received just one order, an electric van produced by Enova Systems of Torrance, Calif. The Army will lease the van for use at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

Enova Van height="348" />

The U.S. Army will lease an Enova Systems all-electric van for use at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, State. It is the only commitment for an electric truck for government use to date.

Another part of greening the government fleet is plug-in vehicles. Last March, the Obama administration announced plans to buy “the first 100 plug-in electric vehicles to roll off American assembly lines.” While that would seem to leave the Chevrolet Volt as the only choice, General Motors in response stated while it was “pleased to see that the Federal government is interested in the greening of their vehicle fleet,” it had “no further details regarding these purchases.”

Chevrolet Volt height="405" />

Will General Motors fulfill the federal government’s purchase order for “the first 100 plug-in electric vehicles to roll off American assembly lines,” and ship 100 Chevrolet Volts ?

Regardless of which vehicle model will be first, GSA has committed to purchasing 100 plug-in vehicles that will either be leased or sold to government agencies. The vehicles will be placed in clusters near auto dealers who are selling them to ensure that trained technicians can service the vehicles.

GSA is considering partnering with industry or other users to share the cost of charging stations located where the vehicles will be housed. In addition to standard electric power, the agency wants to be a leader in different energy sources for the stations, including solar and wind power.

This is a good first step to meet the mandate of a 30 percent reduction in the government’s vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020. However, unless there’s another round of stimulus funds, don’t look for announcements of additional hybrid, plug-in or electric vehicle purchases anytime soon.


  • veek

    Excellent idea. Our local government purchased hybrids long ago.

  • Anonymous

    That is how the mild american hybrids get there sales numbers … I was always wondering who is spending the money to buy these if there are better otpions out there.

    In general it is a good move that the goverment moves ahead and purches environment friendly vehicles, but this looks like another covered up ‘stimulus’ for the failed american auto industry.

  • Hybrid Fan

    How did the goverment decide which vehicles to buy? Did they put out a bit for the lowest offer? Did they take into account purchase price and fuel savings?

    The goverment has way too much dept and they should be only allowed to purchase these things based on savings over the lifetime of the vehicles.

    Fusion Hybrid: 39mpg combined and price of $27,300
    Prius Hybrid: 50 MPG and price of $22,400

    Ford must have given a giant discount to justify the purchase – Otherwise I agree with the previous poster that this is nothing more than a hidden stimulus package.

  • calvin

    The government is under pressure to buy from the Big 3 because that’s what middle-Americans are always railing on about with their “buy American” crap. If the government decided to buy a fleet of Japanese vehicles, it would draw up a shit storm from those people.

    But babying the Big 3 like this just keeps them from needing to be competitive against foreign automakers. It perpetuates incompetent management and business models, allowing the American auto industry to be dominated by mediocre companies.

    But at least there’s one small-time startup in the mix (the EV truck/van was created through a partnership between Navistar and Tesla).

  • Mr.Bear

    I drive a civic hybrid and a prius hybrid at work. It’s a great idea, but they aren’t always the best option for some trips and I have to go back to the SUVs.

    I have no experience with the hybrid SUVs, but they have always seemed to be more of a hybrid-in-name-only vehicle.

  • Nelson Lu

    HybridFan, drive a Fusion Hybrid for a while and tell us with a straight face that the Prius is in the same class of vehicle as the Fusion, in terms of comfort, handling, power, and passenger room. You know, a better car should cost more.

  • Nelson Lu

    Oh, and Toyota’s entry in the Fusion’s class — the Camry Hybrid — gets 5 MPG less than the Fusion. It’s certainly not Toyota’s superior technology that gets the Prius its MPG figures; it’s all the compromises that the Prius had to make to get it to that fuel efficiency, when compared to the Camry/Fusion.

  • calvin

    @Mr.Bear:
    SUVs are great when you want to go camping or off-roading and have too many passengers/equipment for a jeep. But aside from some forestry/wildlife agencies, I don’t think most government vehicles require an SUV. It’s just more fashionable to drive an SUV over a van, which is a really stupid mentally that has unfortunately seeped into government purchasing and resource allocation.

    For instance, I live in a medium-sized suburb and our police department has a couple of SUVs despite their only ever being driven on paved roads. And whenever I’ve seen them driven around, they’re completely empty and not towing anything.

    Like you said, most hybrid SUVs seem to be in name only. Purchasing 100 conventional ICE sedans or vans is probably more fuel efficient than purchasing 100 mild hybrid SUVs. The government would do better to compile and promote a set of intelligent purchasing guidelines for state and federal vehicles. Just encouraging public agencies to take fuel economy into account would probably go a long way to improve the environmental friendliness of the government fleet. And it makes more sense than continuing stupid purchasing decisions just with “hybrid” slapped on each vehicle.

  • calvin

    @Nelson Lu:
    It’s unfair to compare the Fusion with the Prius, but _all_ engineering is about compromise. That’s why the Ford Fusion uses an i4 instead of a V12 engine. It’s why it doesn’t have an extra 500kg of luxury features. And it’s also why the Camry Hybrid is about 50% more powerful than the Ford Fusion Hybrid while the Fusion is 13% better in fuel economy.

    The Prius is a compromise in all the right places for a fuel-efficient car. It uses a kammback design that, while aesthetically unappealing to some, reduces its drag coefficient and increases its fuel economy. It is also a relatively compact mid-size sedan and uses a modestly powered but fuel-efficient and adequate i4 engine. Lastly, it has an excellent HSD full hybrid system. All of these factors combine make it the most fuel-efficient mass-production vehicle sold in the U.S.

    The Prius isn’t 20 inches longer and 1000 pounds heaver for the same reasons why you don’t see Formula 1 cars with spacious cockpits. It’s not suitable for that type of car. Acting as if every single car out there should be the same size, trim, and performance is incredibly naive–equally naive as thinking that the Ford Fusion Hybrid was designed without any compromises (it has worse power-to-weight ratio than both the Prius and Camry hybrid).

    There’s no reason why all government sedans need to be as large as the Camry or Fusion when the Prius itself is spacious enough for most drivers. As already mentioned, fuel economy isn’t just about slapping a “hybrid” label on everything. The best ways to increase fuel economy is still to reduce weight, and more compact hybrids are the smart choice.

  • Nelson Lu

    The Camry is not 50% more powerful than the Fusion; in fact, it is (very slightly) less powerful. (The Camry has 187 HP and the Fusion has 191 HP.)

  • Nelson Lu

    (For reference, the Camry Hybrid’s power numbers are at http://www.toyota.com/camry/specs.html, and the Fusion Hybrid’s power numbers are at http://www.fordvehicles.com/cars/fusion/specifications/engine/.)

  • Nelson Lu

    Oh, and the Camry Hybrid weighs 40 pounds less (3680 to 3720). Not a significant difference.

  • Nelson Lu

    And, if I have my calculation right, the Fusion Hybrid has a (again, very slightly) better power-to-weight ratio than the Camry Hybrid. But basically, they’re two very, very similar vehicles, but Ford’s got a significantly better fuel efficiency advantage.

    As far as the Fusion not being a better vehicle for every application, that much I’ll grant. But I do contend that the midsize sedan is a more versatile vehicle than the compact/midsize hatchback that the Prius is.

  • Hybrid Fan

    Nelson Lu, first of all, I totally love the Prius – I test drove the Fusion and it is also a good car. Which one you prefer depends probably on what you need the car for … not every car is for everyone.

    But point is, the goverment has to SAVE money – they HAVE to get the MOST fuel efficent car for the LEAST amount of money. The goverment can’t affort to waste any money. At least the combination of fuel savings and purchase/lease price should be minimized.

    Goverment workers don’t need big luxury cars payed by the tax payer (not the the Fusion would fall in that category). I’m not saying the need some piece of sh** car to safe money but the Prius is comforable to drive and brings them safe from point A to B while saving money (and the environment) ….

    At least be honest and call it another goverment stimulus made with my tax dollars to support stupid car companies that made stupid decisions.

  • Hybrid Fan

    > Oh, and Toyota’s entry in the Fusion’s class — the Camry Hybrid — gets 5 MPG less than the
    > Fusion. It’s certainly not Toyota’s superior technology that gets the Prius its MPG figures;
    > it’s all the compromises that the Prius had to make to get it to that fuel efficiency, when
    > compared to the Camry/Fusion.

    You don’t get it. Goverment workers dont need a ‘bigger’ car – they need a car that saves moeny. If you for yourself decide you need a ‘Fusion’s class’ car, that’s fine, than the comparison with the Camrey is fine. But in this case no ‘fusion class’ car is needed – the most efficent car to the most effortable price is needed.

    If the goverment spends my tax dollars, I want that they spend the least amount of money to get the job done. The Prius will bring you for the least amount of money from point A to point B. I do not care what you compare the Fusion to – it is about saving tax dollars.

  • Anonymous

    Seems like Nelson Lu is working for the Ford PR department … I also don’t understand why he always brings the Camry into the equation. I think this is about money saving and it is stupid to keep comparing to a car that does not safe money compared to the Prius (in a case where a Prius sized car does the trick) … why does he not show a Ford car that would save money compared to the Prius ???

  • Nelson Lu

    I don’t work for Ford; I’m just a satisfied customer.

    The Camry belongs in this discussion because it is the comparable car to the Fusion. (Hybrid Fan’s comparison with the Prius, while I understand his/her points, I believe is not a fair one because the Fusion’s capabilities are different than the Prius’s, and the Camry is a fairer comparison since the Fusion and the Camry are very comparable.) It is true that if a Prius is sufficient, a Fusion is not necessary. But there are things that the Fusion can do that the Prius cannot, and vice versa. (The Prius, for example, has a larger, but unseparated, cargo area, so if you need to carry more cargo, the Prius is better; if you need to separate the cargo from the passenger space, you’ll need the Fusion (or Camry).)

    But Anonymous, you are correct that Ford does not currently have a comparable vehicle to the Prius, and does not have one in the foreseeable future. (I will say that I still don’t understand why Ford doesn’t have a hybrid version of the Focus.) But we’ll see how it looks with the Focus EV (whose comparable is the Nissan Leaf) next year. For those who can live with its limitations (which I think are not many), it should save money over the Prius.

  • Nelson Lu

    And, actually, it does matter how good the car is overall, rather than just the money factor. One probably saves money by getting the Honda Insight over the Prius, for example (despite the Prius’s higher fuel efficiency). But one would be getting such an inferior product that it makes no sense.

  • Timothy J

    I am a 6 foot tall 280 male who played football. I am also an environmental engineer who is attempts to be environmentally conscious. I test drove the prius and could not bring myself to buy it, I just was not comfortable. I test drove the fusion hybrid and bought one immediately.

    That being said, why is it so bad for the US government to buy US. When I went to Germany the taxis were mercedes. In Japan, all of the government vehicles were Japanese vehicles. Almost every country in the world buys home made products, why shouldn’t we. Stop attacking the big three as a corporation and remember that outside of agriculture they are pretty much the only industry that America has left.

    Lets face it hybrid sales are not going to make a significant dent in vehicle sales for decades, if US made Hybrids are not purchased the Big three will just return to much more profitable the gas guzzling SUVs and Sedans that will continue to make up the majority of new car purchases for years to come. Lets be honest the profit margin on a mass produced Hybrid has got to be less than the profit margin on a traditional ICE.

  • Golf Carts

    I don’t work for Ford; I’m just a satisfied customer.

    The Camry belongs in this discussion because it is the comparable car to the Fusion. (Hybrid Fan’s comparison with the Prius, while I understand his/her points, I believe is not a fair one because the Fusion’s capabilities are different than the Prius’s, and the Camry is a fairer comparison since the Fusion and the Camry are very comparable.) It is true that if a Prius is sufficient, a Fusion is not necessary. But there are things that the Fusion can do that the Prius cannot, and vice versa. (The Prius, for example, has a larger, but unseparated, cargo area, so if you need to carry more cargo, the Prius is better; if you need to separate the cargo from the passenger space, you’ll need the Fusion (or Camry).)