A non-profit public transit agency, the California Vanpool Authority (CalVans) provides ride-sharing services paid for by users, a cost it strives to keep as low as possible by making the most effective equipment choices. At the same time, the agency has continually focused on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its fleet.
According to CalVans Executive Director Ronald Hughes, over the past two years CalVans has eliminated more than 218 million miles of travel by government employees, farmworkers, students and commuters. As a result of its successful ride sharing initiative, he adds, in that time period the vanpool program has eliminated approximately 120 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Along with eliminating harmful emissions by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, our efforts to improve air quality for communities are driven by vehicle choices that lower our fleet’s fuel use,” Hughes says. “Today, our fuel efficiency will be improved further by the deployment of 154 new GMC Savana vans with XL hybrid electric technology. We expect to realize a 25% increase in MPG with these vehicles compared to standard gasoline-powered models, saving money on fuel costs and helping achieve our sustainability goals.”
The XL hybrid electric GMC vans at CalVans will be used in the agency’s Agricultural Worker Vanpool Pilot Project, which is funded by the California Air Resources Board to help increase access to zero- and near zero-emissions transportation options. The project provides vanpools for seasonal agricultural workers, who travel up to 85 miles each way to and from job sites.
“After exploring battery electric options, we realized that upfitting new GMC Savana vans with XL’s hybrid electric technology would be the most cost-effective option for improving MPG and reducing emissions,” Hughes says. “These systems will help decrease our operating costs and meet our sustainability goals with no impact on fleet operations. In addition, while other alternative fuels and technologies offered similar benefits, they were too expensive up front for a price-sensitive public transit agency.”
XLH hybrid electric drive systems from XL can be factory installed or retrofitted onto GM powertrains in GMC Savana or Chevy Express vans with 4.3-, 4.8- and 6-liter engines. The OEM engine, transmission, fuel and exhaust systems are left completely intact. The hybrid electric vehicles provide the same acceleration and do not require driver training or a special fueling infrastructure. The charge-sustaining system uses regenerative braking to slow the vehicle and charge the hybrid battery, which powers an electric motor that provides propulsion.
CalVans, the largest agency in the U.S. providing public vanpools to farm workers, began in 2001 with a single vehicle. Today, it provides qualified drivers with 800 vans, including 600 as part of its farm worker vanpool program. CalVans covers the cost of fuel, maintenance and repairs and insurance and recovers those costs through user fares charges to the riders.
The CalVans fleet is acquired through five-year lease purchase agreements or purchased outright using grant funds. The agency specifies the make and model of vans it requires and dealers throughout its operating area bid on providing equipment.
An independent company provides all maintenance and minor repairs for the CalVans fleet. Its six service vehicles are staffed by trained technicians who perform PMs and minor repairs on site at driver homes or work locations. Major repairs are taken care of in a service center and dealers handle warranty work.
The maintenance program at CalVans is overseen with Silent Passenger, a web-based fleet management system. Its SP Vehicle Maintenance PM, expense and inspection platform sends scheduling reminders when services are due, and can use telematics data to transmit diagnostic alerts when unexpected issues arise that need immediate attention.
“CalVans is recognized by local, state and federal agencies as a safe and cost-effective service that meets the needs of workers in a variety of California industries,” Hughes says. “Equally important is our ability to use the latest vehicles and technologies to keep costs low without sacrificing reliability, and to realize our sustainability goals.”
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