Status Report: Fuel Brands Commit to Green Energy

Green energy fleet vehicle

By FleetCardsUSA

July 31, 2020

When it comes to using green energy to power business fleets, fleet managers run the gamut in their degree of enthusiasm for the transition from traditional gasoline and diesel to green fuel alternatives. 

Although 90% of truck fleet managers acknowledge that commercial fleets are headed in the direction of electric vehicles (EVs)1, and 83% say that adopting alternative fuels is desirable in order to meet sustainability goals,2 not everyone is rushing out to replace their traditional fleet vehicles. Naysayers and skeptics point to a number of issues; notably,

  • The uncertainty of a lower total cost of ownership with EVs over traditional internal combustion engine vehicles;
  • Lack of confidence in the availability and reliability of accessible charging stations;
  •  “Range anxiety,” or insecurity about the distance/length of time a vehicle can be driven on a given charge.3


Green Fuel Options

There’s usually more than one way to skin a cat, and this maxim holds true when it comes to using cleaner and more sustainable forms of fuel. Yes, EVs beginning to catch on, but they are not the only option. And while petroleum products like gasoline and diesel are still used in over 90% of fleets on the road today, other options for fleet fuel are becoming more popular: 

  • Biofuels, usually added to petroleum products. These include ethanol and biodiesel, a non-hydrocarbon fuel produced from renewable feedstocks, used by metro buses in Washington State4 and being experimented with by other fleet managers looking for an alternative that is easy-entry and gets them closer to sustainability goals.5
  • Natural gas, typically used in a compressed state as a fleet fuel, but also important as a resource for electricity generation.
  • Hydrogen, a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen that can be used in fuel cells or in internal combustion engines. It has been used in buses for many years.
  • Electricity, used in pure battery-driven EVs, as well as in hybrids, which tend to be more attractive to many from an initial investment perspective.

Fleet managers who want to make progress with green fuel options but are hesitant about going all-in at once can take a phased-in approach, gradually replacing older vehicles with models using greener fuel as they "right-size" their fleets.

Major Oil Brands Commit to Sustainability

The good news is the major oil companies have your back. It takes not only time, but a substantial investment to effect change in fuel use and in the resources to make the transition happen. With the major fuel brands on board, fleet managers can rest assured that, whatever approach they take, products and resources will be there to ease some of the uncertainty.

Renewable energy initiatives cover a broad spectrum; and, admirably, most if not all of the major brands have committed to projects across the board. But for our purposes here, let’s focus on the ones that have the most impact on fleet managers: cleaner traditional fuel, and investments in infrastructure that supports alternatives.

Cleaner Fuel 

BP was one of the first major oil companies to commit significant investments to renewable energy projects, dating back to the 1980s. As a part of its plan, BP has set aggressive goals to reduce the carbon intensity of its products by 50% and cut its own carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 or sooner. The company’s flagship products now contain Invigorate®, BP’s proprietary detergent additive which goes beyond minimum standards in an effort to provide additional benefits to drivers.

In the biofuel category, BP has entered into a joint venture with Bunge, a Brazilian agricultural company, to produce sugarcane ethanol, one of the most carbon-efficient biofuels available globally.6

Marathon Petroleum, parent company to ARCO and the second-largest fuels manufacturer in the U.S., recently announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil equivalent processed to 30% below their 2014 levels by 2030. Marathon’s gasoline products are certified Top Tier™ and include STP® additives to optimize fuel economy, remove engine deposits, and reduce emissions. The diesel product line includes both low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels.

ExxonMobil introduced a new line of Synergy™ fuel products several years ago, culminating in its Synergy™ Diesel Efficient fuel for diesel vehicles, specially formulated to run cleaner and reduce maintenance and downtime. Targeted to truck fleets, the products are formulated to increase fuel economy, boost engine power and responsiveness, reduce emissions, burn cleaner, improve injector cleanliness, and provide corrosion protection.

What About Infrastructure Support?

When it comes to alternative fuels and energy sources, the reality is that green energy is the wave of the future, and our major traditional fuel providers have no choice but to embrace them and be proactively involved. It’s not just a responsible decision; it’s a business imperative. Still, it’s comforting to know that major fuel companies have a stake in the game. As we’ve seen, fleet managers are much more open to making the investment in hybrids and/or EVs and to experimenting with alternative fuel engines when they know the infrastructure is going to be there to support them.

Let’s look at BP’s investments as an example.

In 2018 the company made three key investments to support the coming growth in EVs:

  • A $20m investment in StoreDot, an Israeli developer of rapid-charging batteries.
  • A $5m initial investment in 2018, followed by a more significant investment in early 2020 in FreeWire Technologies, a California-based developer of mobile and low-infrastructure vehicle chargers. Although FreeWire is initially focusing on public chargers that would potentially be placed with utilities, charging operators, and retail stores7, developing a charging solution for fleets may not be far behind.
  • The acquisition of Chargemaster, the UK’s leading network of electric vehicle charging points.

As adoption has begun to pick up, other major oil companies have jumped into the fray, including Shell, which acquired European charging company NewMotion in 2017, and Chevron, with their sizeable investment in California-based ChargePoint.

At the rate venture capital is pouring into the industry, increasingly green fleets cannot be far behind.

 

1 “Electric Trucks Are the ‘Inevitable Future,’ Fleets Say.” The Climate Center, 2 June 2020. https://theclimatecenter.org/electric-trucks-are-the-inevitable-future-fleets-say/. Accessed June 22, 2020.

2 “Curve Ahead: The Future of Commercial Fleet Electrification.” UPS/GreenBiz Research Study, 2018. https://sustainability.ups.com/media/UPS_GreenBiz_Whitepaper_v2.pdf.

3”The Future of Electric Vehicles in Fleet,” Automotive Fleet,  15 October 2019. https://www.automotive-fleet.com/342585/the-future-of-electric-vehicles-in-fleet. Accessed June 8, 2020.

4”Greening Local Fleets,” Green America, Washington DC. https://www.greenamerica.org/fuels-future/greening-local-fleets. Accessed June 24, 2020.

5Think Alternative Fuels Lower Fleet Costs? Look Closer at Maintenance,” Neste, 15 January 2019. https://www.neste.us/releases-and-news/think-alternative-fuels-lower-fleet-costs-look-closer-maintenance. Accessed June 22, 2020.

6 “BP announces major expansion in renewable energy, combining biofuels and biopower with Bunge in Brazil to create a world-class bioenergy company,”  22 July 2019. https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/news-and-insights/press-releases/bp-announces-major-expansion-in-renewable-energy-with-bunge-in-brazil.pdf. Accessed June 24,2020.

7Green Tech Media (GTM), “FreeWire Technologies Raises $25 Million As It Ships Battery-Boosted Fast Chargers,” 24 April 2020. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/freewire-technologies-raises-25-million-as-it-ships-battery-boosted-fast-chargers. Accessed June 26, 2020.

Status Report: Fuel Brands Commit to Green Energy