• Alternative Fuel Vehicles
  • Vehicle Fleets
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Light Duty Vehicles

How Colorado Is Making Alternative Fuel Fleet Conversion Easier

Raquel Soat
Jan 08, 2019

EV Fleet

Converting to an alternative fuel for a fleet of vehicles can be a daunting and costly task. There are difficulties regarding refueling infrastructure and vehicle availability for all vehicle types, particularly with heavy duty vehicles. Resources for fleet managers do exist, however, such as the Colorado Refuel Coaching program. This program works with fleets, communities, fuel providers, dealerships, and advocacy groups to help create a self-sustaining alternative fuel market in Colorado. It goes beyond helping fleets minimize purchase and operating costs by looking at the fuel-vehicle market holistically and engaging with communities in fleet operation areas.

Launched in 2013 as a pilot in nine Colorado communities and funded by the US Department of Energy, the program is now funded by the Colorado Energy Office and operations have expanded statewide. In 2016, the program had:

  • 258 fleets engaged in coaching
  • Hosted 45 outreach events
  • 37 compressed natural gas vehicles and 85 EVs purchased
  • 22 fleets planning or making purchases

In its current form, the program has technicians (called coaches) help fleets identify cost savings and other advantages of alternative fuel fleet conversions free-of-charge. The coaches calculate the life-cycle savings from switching to an alternative fuel, taking into account applicable grant programs or tax credits that may exist in variety of forms from local, state, or federal government agencies. They also aid fleets in identifying existing and publicly available fueling infrastructure.

Support for the Community

Most importantly, beyond the basic benefit-cost analysis, the program aims to support communities by creating an ecosystem to transition to alternative fuels. The coaches engage with communities beyond the fleet managers to teach about the financial, environmental, and economic development of alternative fuels, as well as their energy security advantages. Moreover, the coaches interact with fuel providers and dealerships to further develop the alternative fuels ecosystem. Interacting with the communities in which the fleets operate ensures spreading of alternative fuel knowledge, breaking down misconceptions surrounding clean fuels. 

Outside of light duty vehicles, fleet conversion to alternative fuels, especially electric, are in the early stages of adoption. However, some medium-duty fleets are beginning to convert to electric and other alternative fuels, particularly delivery fleets such as UPS and FedEx. Fleet conversion programs like the Colorado Refuel Coaching program are necessary to continue this push toward alternative fuels. Taking a holistic approach and engaging all stakeholders, including community members, ensures that the alternative fuels fleet market progresses from early adopters to the mass market, ultimately leading to fewer emissions in our communities.