Clark Public Utilities highlights efficient vehicle fleet


From cost-saving electric vans to a cleaner diesel fuel for a diverse vehicle fleet, Clark Public Utilities (CPU) continues to broaden its mission of being more efficient.

Jeff Carter, CPU fleet services manager, has found ways to save on fuel costs, as well as cut the company’s carbon footprint. One of those ways has been through renewable diesel.

Renewable diesel has fewer drawbacks than conventional diesel fuel.

“It’s bizarre to think that there would be something that good that like. Usually when you switch to something that’s more renewable and everything, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, what’s all the drawbacks,’ ” Carter said. “It’s amazing.”

CPU is now using renewable diesel in all its diesel vehicles in the fleet because it is a cleaner-burning fuel, gives off fewer emissions and performs better in colder weather. Renewable diesel uses organic materials, such as wood products, animal fats and cooking oil, for example. Carter added that when the renewable diesel organic materials go through the chemical process for diesel engines, the renewable diesel is chemically identical to conventional diesel. Despite being chemically identical, renewable diesel remains sludge free, does not grow algae when sitting, and provides an all-around better performance.

Another way CPU is improving efficiency and reducing environmental impacts is by using electric vehicles (EVs).

“Most of our utility vehicles operate like mobile workstations,” CPU media specialist Dameon Pesanti said. “The onboard computers, safety lighting and other tools put very high loads on the electrical system. EVs can sit and maintain those electrical demands without using gasoline or diesel.”

CPU currently operates six electric Volkswagen SUVs along with three Ford EV vans. The vans have roughly a 100-mile range, while the SUVs can approximately double that, Carter said. CPU uses the SUVs for light-duty jobs, while the vans are mainly used for work between the utility district’s operations center and headquarters.

Pesanti thinks CPU will expand its EV usage.

“As we replace equipment, we evaluate each classification to see whether electrification, hybridization, etc., … is the most efficient choice,” Pesanti said. “More than 10 years ago, we started to bring hybrid vehicles into the fleet when and where they could meet our specifications, and over the years we have increased our use of hybrids from only sedans to include SUVs and pickup trucks. I think we will probably see the same progression with EVs that we experienced with hybrids.”

Currently, replacing the larger work trucks used for fixing wires, poles and more with an EV or its equivalent costs upwards of four times the price of the diesel-powered versions.

However, CPU saves more than $10,000 a year on fuel by using EV vans for their headquarter and operation center duties.

“They’re extremely cost effective to own and operate. Because fuel rates remain high and our energy rates are low, the EVs cost-per-mile to drive is significantly lower than a gas- or diesel-powered equivalent vehicle,” Pesanti stated. “Also, because they don’t require any fluid, hose or belt changes, they free up shop space and our mechanic’s time and energy to work on our other vehicles. That also saves the utility money from having to pay for those services or purchase those materials.”