Start Me Up: The first Climate Corps fellow takes his knowledge to a startup

By: Jeff Crystal, COO of Voltaic Systems

In 2007, EDF Climate Corps helped launch me into my career at the intersection of business and the environment. When the opportunity came to work with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on an innovative new program called Climate Corps, I jumped at the chance. The team at the time was small, and the program wasn’t yet clearly defined yet, just filled with unknowns. Having been at four startups prior, this felt just like home to me.

As the unofficial first Climate Corps fellow, I spent that summer working on a financial model, while running EDF’s own energy audit and implementing changes to reduce the NGO’s energy consumption.

The next summer, EDF brought 7 official Climate Corps fellows on board to search for energy efficiency opportunities at leading companies on the West coast. Now here we are, three years later, and the program has expanded seven-fold – with more than 80 total Climate Corps fellows working at Fortune 1000’s around the country to identify projects that could avoid more than 557,000 metric tons of GHG emissions. Though it’s seen its share of tweaks, the financial model I developed that first summer has been used to analyze all of these projects along the way.

Climate Corps confirmed my love for “hands dirty” operational work, and almost immediately after I completed my fellowship, I joined a startup that focuses on producing small scale energy systems, Voltaic Systems. Voltaic designs solar chargers and solar backpacks for powering electronics from cell phones to laptops and will soon introduce solar lighting.

Longer term, the Climate Corps experience has opened up a network of technical resources, a framework for thinking about sustainability and the knowledge to talk intelligently about this topic with a broad range of people in the industry. This fellowship has also given me a whole new vocabulary supported by a background of training and hands-on experience. I love being able to talk about the need for proper ballast settings on a T5 bulb or about the payback period of an HVAC tuning session.

The appreciation I maintain for sustainability is evident, not only in my company’s end-products but in all aspects of our business. Voltaic is constantly looking at ways to make our products more environmental friendly. We try to use fabrics and materials that use less energy to produce and require fewer (or no) toxic materials in their production process. I’ve kept in touch with former colleagues at EDF who have advised me on packaging providers that are doing interesting things with recycled PET, the limits of a Material Safety Data Sheet and emerging standards on phthalates.

When discussing my job opportunity with Voltaic, one question  that came up was whether that team could have a big enough environmental impact. EDF’s staff tends to think in terms of policies and programs that can remove millions of tons of carbon. Could a startup producing solar products make a dent? When we think about introducing new products that could have a negative carbon impact and potential ways to pressure our suppliers to use more recycled materials, EDF is in the back of my head, urging me to do more.

Answering the president's call on both sides of the energy equation

By: Dylan Hedrick, Ignite Solar, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at ServiceMaster, Rice University MBA

The law of supply and demand is simple: If demand for a good rises while supply remain the same, the equilibrium price rises and forces consumers to pay more for the good. This is one of the first economic principles I learned in business school and one of the most prevalent themes in my energy-focused career to date.

Demand:

As a 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow,  I spent last summer focused on demand.  At ServiceMaster’s corporate headquarters, I spent ten weeks working toward reducing the demand for electricity.

Armed with energy efficiency know how from the EDF Climate Corps training, guidance from the Climate Corps Handbook and support from experts at EDF, I was able to find opportunities to reduce electricity demand by implementing computer power management software, installing lighting retrofits, and tinting building windows. Employing these energy reduction strategies would reduce ServiceMaster’s electricity cost by $495,000 and would prevent 4,816 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually – the equivalent of removing more than 800 trucks or SUVs from the road.

Supply:

After business school, I will continue to work in the energy field – this time on the supply side of the energy equation.  I recently accepted a position with Ignite Solar, a startup solar development company that develops commercial-scale solar installations.

I look forward to working with the company and its innovative project types. Most recently, Ignite Solar completed the largest rooftop solar installation on a public school in Texas.  The project, a 145 kW installation in Pasadena that resulted from an out-of-court settlement from the nearby Shell refinery for alleged air-pollution violations – will result in significant reductions in CO2 emissions over its 20-year lifespan by displacing coal-generated electricity with renewable sources in a city mainly known for its petroleum refineries.

In his most recent State of the Union Address, President Obama called for America to “reinvent our energy policy” with 80 percent of America’s electricity coming from clean energy sources by 2035.  My work at both ServiceMaster and Ignite Solar has helped me realize that reinventing our energy policy will require great action on both sides of the energy equation.

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Energy efficiency: Just another walk in the (P)ARC

By Eva Zlotnicka, 2010 Climate Corps fellow at Genzyme, Joint degree MBA/MESc candidate at Yale School of Management and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, Member of Net Impact

This is the first in a series of blog posts from our EDF Climate Corps alumni fellows.

As the EDF Climate Corps program gears up for another summer of seeking energy savings, I can’t help but reflect on my own experiences with the program.  In fact, since my return to Yale last fall I often refer back to my time as a Climate Corps fellow at Genzyme Corporation where I discovered first-hand the importance of numbers and frameworks in making the business case for energy efficiency.

Quantitative models and numbers are an integral part of making this case. However, analytical tools do not themselves implement change; organizations and their members do. With my background in economics and engineering, I understand the hesitation in giving up spreadsheets for so-called strategic “frameworks” used to qualitatively analyze an organization. That said, during my time at Genzyme Corporation I learned that you can have your frameworks and your spreadsheets, too. In fact, you need them both to effectively implement energy efficiency opportunities.

The typical business school curriculum teaches a plethora of structures used to evaluate internal organizational design, so it‘s no surprise that I found a way to integrate the (P)ARC framework into my work with Genzyme.  (P)ARC represents the “levers” that tweak an organization towards greater competitive advantage — People, Architecture, Routines and Culture. (For a more detailed explanation of (P)ARC, I recommend “Strategic Management” by Saloner et al.) The core message behind the framework is that the four levers must be designed to reinforce one another as well as the company’s overall strategy.

While my project last summer focused on identifying a software tool that will centralize energy efficiency investment decisions across Genzyme’s buildings, each of these organizational elements was also essential to the tool’s success:

  • People. The appropriate people and talent must be in place to take responsibility for the tool, such as a central energy manager, in addition to the people expected to use it and populate the data, such as individual site managers.
  • Architecture. This refers to the communication paths established among the software tool users. Reporting mechanisms, whether formal or informal, must be reflective of the information flow needed to make the tool work.
  • Routines. The systems and processes express how decisions are made and how people interface with one another. In a decentralized organization, individual site managers are likely to already have their own decision-making procedure; these must be integrated and standardized in order to make the data and information provided through a central software tool easily understood and processed by other individuals.
  • Culture. People have to feel motivated to use the tool and believe in its mission. For this, buy-in from both the corporate level as well as the local site level must be achieved.

My final recommendations for Genzyme thus had to be accompanied by a corresponding implementation plan. It was not enough to rely on a stack of numbers to hold its own; it was imperative to include the supporting people, process, and policies to ensure the tool’s adoption and overall success.

My summer with Climate Corps is evident in my other experiences at business school as well. This past semester, my coursework included a project for a social enterprise in India. My team built a financial model that suggested the organization should scale up its sales volume in order to meet its funding gap. Upon learning more about its culture and structure, however, we realized our initial recommendation was not aligned with the enterprise’s core competency. Instead, a sister for-profit company could handle sales, while the non-profit would receive royalties that allowed it to focus on its social mission.

It turns out that whether your organization is a global corporation evaluating energy efficiency or a local non-profit growing its business, numbers and words both matter.

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Walmart's Zero Waste Program

In 2005, Walmart’s then-CEO Lee Scott announced his goal to generate zero waste. Vonda Lockwood, now Walmart’s Director for Store Innovations and Sustainability, remembers thinking that the zero waste goal was really going to complicate someone’s life. Shortly thereafter, she realized the newly complicated life was her own, when she was handed the task of developing Walmart’s zero waste strategy in the U.S.

EDF was right there, adding to the complications. Walmart defined the first step in zero waste as 100 percent diversion from landfill from its U.S. operations by 2025, using a 2008 baseline to measure progress. Pretty quickly, EDF stepped in to advocate for true reductions and reuse of waste materials, and against incineration as a diversion strategy. Regardless of the energy incineration might generate, EDF has had a long-standing aversion to burning trash for two key reasons. Incineration rarely recaptures the energy used to make a product, and incineration infrastructure is so expensive that once in place, waste must continue to be burned to pay the bills, regardless of better reuse options. Air emissions and ash disposal add further complications.

To the credit of Walmart and Vonda, they listened, and set out to identify true reuse and recycling strategies. The results to date are worthy of note.

Most people who follow Walmart’s sustainability efforts are now familiar with the super sandwich bale, essentially a bundle of waste cardboard that encases up to 32 items for recycling, including aluminum cans, plastic hangers, plastic water and soda bottles, loose plastic wrap, office paper, and paperback books. In 2009 alone, Walmart redirected from landfills more than:

  • 1.3 million pounds of aluminum
  • 11.6 million pounds of  mixed paper
  • 18.9 million pounds of plastic hangers
  • 120 million pounds of plastic

More than 4.6 billion — yes, billion — pounds of cardboard have been sent for recycling. While those numbers are impressive, even for Walmart’s scale, most of those items have been recycled for years. What’s more impressive is that Walmart has also been creating new systems for diversion, especially around food waste.

According to EPA, the hierarchy for disposal of organic waste, which includes food and other plant and animal matter that decomposes, is as follows: source reduction → feed people → feed animals →  industrial uses → composting→ landfill/incineration. Walmart has spent the last several years creating infrastructure on several options.

Given Walmart’s reputation as a retailer, its efficiency with fresh food (essentially source reduction) likely rivals anyone’s. We want an abundance of choices, we want it to last for a week or more after we get it home, and we rarely purchase less than perfect selections — a guaranteed formula for leaving a lot of edible food at the end of viable retail shelf life.

Working with Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity, Walmart began the process of enlisting its entire network of Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club locations for a nationwide food donation program that was also a zero waste strategy. Recognizing that many food banks were ill-equipped to handle highly desirable fresh fruit, produce, meat, seafood, dairy and other items requiring refrigeration, the Walmart Foundation donated refrigerated trucks and funds to enable fresh food to reach people in need. Setting a goal of donating 100 million pounds of food during its 2010 fiscal year, Vonda and her teams more than doubled their target, providing nearly 200 million meals as the program rolled out nationwide.

Walmart has been equally successful in diverting food that is past its prime. Around the country, lions, tigers and other big cats at more than 130 wild animal parks are beneficiaries, as are many swine operations. Walmart’s search for organic diversion options has accelerated the development of a national infrastructure for commercial composting facilities. In other communities, anaerobic digesters now capture methane and other greenhouse gases from organic waste and convert it to energy.

Really getting to zero waste is hard. Some folks use a green paintbrush and tell you they’re generating “renewable” energy by burning the last 20 percent. Don’t buy it. Renewable energy comes from truly renewable sources – wind, solar, tides, but not trash.  Look at any waste stream that flows from U.S.-based Walmart facilities, and many outside the U.S., and you are likely to find people working on innovative strategies to truly redirect the leftover resources to a new life.

For more information on EDF's work with Walmart, visit edf.org/walmart.

This content was originally published by Greenbiz.com on March 21, 2011.

Carbon Data Driving Freight Decisions

An article in Fast Company caught my eye last week.  A “caviar production facility in Abu Dhabi” worked with a “biotechnology company” and a “cleantech logistics company” to find a cheaper, less-carbon intensive manner of moving sturgeon from Germany to Abu Dhabi. This venture was successful, as the companies were “able to perform the largest-scale transport of live fish ever, all while slashing 90% of CO2 emissions compared to conventional live fish transportation methods.”

Through some innovative chemistry, the solution enabled an increase in the “amount of time that sturgeon can stay in the same water without getting harmed by waste buildup.” This enabled a mode shift from air freight (the most carbon-intensive mode) to container shipping (a relatively carbon-efficient one). Hence, the 90% improvement in carbon performance.

What is most notable about this story to me is the fact that it is becoming a fairly common theme. Leading shippers (the companies demanding goods movement services) are telling carriers (the companies that actually move freight, such as Maersk, JB Hunt and BNSF) that carbon emissions matter. Carriers are starting to compete on minimizing carbon emissions from origin to destination while meeting other key criteria, such as time, cost and reliability.

CMA CGM, the world's third largest container shipping company, recently announced that it was making a carbon calculator available to its clients who are increasingly asking for data on the carbon impact of goods movement services.

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, announced last month that it was building the largest container ships ever, and that carbon-efficiency was a key reason for the project.

“[Reducing CO2 emissions] is not only a top priority for us, but also for our customers, who depend on us in their supply chain, and also for a growing number of consumers who base their purchasing decisions on this type of information," noted Maersk CEO Eivind Kolding.

Carbon makes an excellent key performance indicator for freight too. It allows the comparison to be easily broken down along functional unit, grams of carbon per TEU kilometer for container ships or grams of carbon per ton-mile for truck, rail and air. It is technology neutral. It is also strongly correlated with operating costs.

The lack of transparency around carbon data has been a barrier for shippers seeking to signal their desires to carriers. Efforts are underway to overcome this barrier, including Smartway 2.0, the clean cargo working group of Business for Social Responsibility, and the new tool from the Carbon War Room, shippingefficiency.org. Clearly, carriers are beginning to recognize that it’s good business to position themselves as lower-carbon service providers and share carbon data with their clients.

The question going forward is: will others now follow their lead?  I believe the answer depends on the actions of shippers.  They drive the goods movement market. It is up to them to starting asking for the data they need to make performance-based decisions to reduce the environmental impact of their down-stream logistics.

Private Equity 3.0 – A new approach to sustainable value

Even incredibly successful products, services, and business models need to be reinvented from time to time to remain competitive. You might browse using the latest and greatest version of some new technology – Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8, the BlackBerry Torch, or the new iPad 3G.

These updates are happening faster than ever and not only in the technology space. Today's changing world and challenging economy is forcing all businesses to make adjustments. The private equity industry in particular has been plagued by a number of challenges, including an investor community much less willing to write cheques, much more selective and demanding of transparency. Firms are also facing greater regulatory and tax pressures.

Given these challenges, it may seem an unlikely time for the buyout sector to be embracing new thinking on environmental, social and governance matters, but big changes are taking place.  Despite being a relatively young industry, this is not the first time the sector has reinvented itself. Many leading firms have already made the shift from focusing on the financial engineering of leveraged buyouts (PE 1.0) to collaborating with management to improve efficiency and operational performance (PE 2.0).

PE 3.0 is the next logical step in the industry's evolution. Adding to traditional PE financial analysis and management disciplines, this approach combines comprehensive ESG due diligence, operational efficiency and environmental innovation to help transform businesses to create cleaner, more productive enterprises. A few industry leaders have already discovered the power of environmental innovation in value creation and are putting it to work throughout the investment process. Over the past few years, Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Carlyle Group to do just that and we are already seeing impressive results, for both the bottom line and the environment.

We teamed up with KKR to develop its "green portfolio programme" to measure and improve environmental and business performance. In its first two years, the programme helped eight portfolio companies adopt innovations resulting in eliminating over $160m in operating costs, 345,000 tonnes of C02 emissions, 8,500 tonnes of paper and 1.2 million tonnes of waste. Based on these results, KKR has just expanded the programme to include 17 companies in seven different industry groups and is developing internal systems to share best practices and measure impacts.

We have launched a second PE partnership with Carlyle, focused on identifying opportunities for value creation during environmental due diligence. The initial result is a new environmental due diligence screen – EcoValuScreen – that systematically incorporates environmental opportunities to improve operations and create value in the early stages of the investment process. Carlyle deal professionals are currently applying the process to new transactions in the US.

Most recently we announced a pilot programme with Ernst & Young to help firms improve their portfolios' financial and environmental performance.

These initiatives are a great start, but are just the beginning of what can be achieved when PE 3.0 practices are adopted across the entire industry. This evolutionary approach can improve due diligence, boost portfolio company performance, uncover new growth and investment opportunities and build stronger relationships with investors and other key stakeholders.

This content was originally published by Private Equity News on January 31, 2011.

Three Challenges for CSR Executives

By Aman Singh, Corporate Responsibility Editor at Vault.com

"All my life I wanted to avoid a job title with 'social' or 'relations' in it. I've always been in finance, I enjoy it, and I'm good at it!"

That was Northern Trust's EVP for CSR Connie Lindsey talking on a panel at Financial Times' annual conference, Investing in a Sustainable Future, on how CSR executives can leverage their work internally and externally.

Accompanying her were Paula Luff, director of CSR with Hess Corporation, Michael McHale, director of corporate communications with Subaru and Corporate Responsibility Officers' Association (CROA) President Richard Crespin. Playing moderator was Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Director of Marketing Communications and Corporate Partnerships, Melanie Janin.

[These titles right at the outset are an indicator of how widespread the scope and focus remains for most executives who work in/on CSR—dependant on a number of factors, and differentiated by every company]

Lindsey spoke candidly about her love for finance, and the misinterpretation that CSR suffers from. Emphasizing that "philanthropy is great in itself but that isn't what CSR means or ends at," she said that in fact, this traditional stereotype has been the biggest objection—and challenge in her new role.

"When I took the role it wasn't to create something new. CSR isn't new," she said. What's new, however, for many like Lindsey, is the need to communicate their commitment to CSR.

And this is where the panelists found the most conflicts.

For key takeaways, please visit Vault's CSR Blog: In Good Company.


EDFix Call #15 Afterthoughts: Fuel choices for today's lower-carbon companies

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With Mike Millikin of Green Car Congress, we talked about the uses of alternative fuels to green truck fleets.

Methane and natural gas are in common use around the world and are making their way into bus and taxi fleets, but they still require taking hydrocarbons from the Earth. One of the main goals of alternative fuel researchers is to create replacement fuels that are biologically derived, yet can still run in unmodified engines. To be a perfect replacement for a current fuel, a new one must be cost competitive, compatible, abundant, scalable and require no miracles.

This is a creative time: approaches are blooming, from plant sugars to biosynthetic yeasts and bacteria. Still ahead: testing and approval by Government agencies, infrastructure rollout and more.

For Business, It's Not Necessary to Delay the Clean Air Act

By Jackie Roberts

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act are vital for our health, our children’s health, and the avoidance of the most dangerous and expensive consequences of climate change.

In spite of that urgency, some businesses are arguing for delay. They claim that new regulations will hurt jobs and the economic recovery. Extensive data refutes these claims, but perhaps the most credible counter-arguments are those made by businesses that disagree.

In a March 1 article in Politico Pro, reporter Darren Samuelsohn interviewed business leaders who "didn’t sound so thrilled" about legislation to pre-empt EPA authority:

“The leaders — from American Electric Power, NextEra Energy, Southern Co. and Dominion Resources — said to varying degrees that they support allowing the EPA to proceed on a ‘reasonable’ time frame on greenhouse gas rules for power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary sources.”

The business community is not monolithic, of course. And it’s no surprise that companies that are innovative are often rewarded with long-term growth.

Recently, the ArcelorMittal steel mill in East Chicago, Indiana, built on-site energy plants to capture heat and gases. The mill reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by about 916,000 metric tons. That’s about the same amount as 166,000 cars and all of the grid-connected solar panels in the world. At the same time, the mill cut as much as $100 million a year in energy costs — and that allowed ArcelorMittal to allocate more money to jobs and investment.

West Virginia Alloys, a silicon manufacturer, used a similar project to capture waste heat and generate enough electricity on-site to power one-third of its furnaces. The project reduced carbon dioxide emissions by almost 300,000 tons – and at the same time, enabled the plant to increase its workforce by 20 percent.

Companies that fear change typically spend their time and energy fighting change – not on finding the most strategic responses to changing business conditions.

McKinsey and Company and the Department of Energy (DOE) are among those who have collected data showing the plethora of untapped efficiency opportunities being ignored by American industry today. (See some of that data, and helpful case studies, at LessCarbonMoreInnovation.org)

Here are some highlights:

  • McKinsey found that the U.S. industrial sector can reduce annual energy consumption 18 percent by 2020 and save more than $442 billion in energy costs billion in major sectors such as refineries, chemicals, cement, iron and steel, pulp and paper, for an upfront investment of barely more than a quarter of that amount.
  • If the pulp and paper sector, alone, seized the economically attractive opportunities identified by McKinsey and Company, they could reduce energy use by 26 percent and save an estimated $2.6 billion per year.
  • Until recently, U.S. industrial plants didn't know how energy efficient they were (or weren’t) compared to their competitors So the Energy Star for Industry program created a benchmarking tool to allow companies get that information. The results show that many plants have significant room for improvement. For example, the gap between the average plant's performance and the best in class plant's performance is 198 kilowatts per hour more electricity used per assembled vehicle. (That figure takes into account the differences in product, as well as plant capacity, utilization, and location). That’s about as much as what the average U.S. household  uses in electricity each week.
  • The University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute looked at the impact on new EPA pollution control rules on the utility sector. They found that the new rules will drive an estimated 1.46 million jobs, or about 290,000 on average in each of the next five years. Other University of Massachusetts studies found that clean energy and energy efficiency are more labor intensive than spending on conventional fossil fuels.

Given over-capacity and capital on the sidelines, now is actually the perfect time to invest in making the current infrastructure cleaner, more efficient, more globally competitive, and ready for the recovery. Investing will be good for the workforce and for customers, and while shareholders may see a little less profit this year, they will see more in the long-run.

Businesses that insist they have to pollute do not represent all businesses. Lots of American businesses are already taking advantage of the opportunities in clean energy and energy efficiency.  If we support them, instead of the businesses that can only handle the status quo, we can create an economic recovery for the long-haul.

This content was originally posted on EDF's Climate 411 blog.

Work Trucks and Fuel Consumption: 2011

The Work Truck Show – an annual must-attend event for the vocational truck market – is occurring this week in Indianapolis. I attend the first two days of the event and was able to participate in the Green Truck Summit hosted by CalStart and the NTEA.

The major topic of the summit was the coming fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for medium-and heavy-duty trucks. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland kicked off the event by highlighting the need for performance standards to push the truck market and the economic opportunities available to US manufactures who develop fuel-savings technologies.

Three major truck OEMs and suppliers, Navistar, Eaton and Freightliner Trucks, gave an overview of the draft NHTSA and EPA rules and how they would impact fleets. They were broadly optimistic that they could meet the new requirements for 2014 with existing technology. Among the solutions for meeting the 2014 standards that were commonly mentioned at the conference were targeting parasitic loses – such as installing better pumps (to move fuel, oil and water), using better lubricants to further minimize friction, outfitting low-rolling resistance tires, and setting as a factory default an automatic vehicle shutdown after 5 minutes of idling.

These steps are very much in line with what leading fleets are already doing. At the show, we heard from Verizon Communications about its efforts to cut fuel consumption by targeting idling and weight reduction. Data gained via telematics, Verizon Director of Sustainability and Supply Chain Rafael Rivero noted, was a key tool for improving efficiency today.

Coca-Cola discussed its efforts to work with 10,000 of its drivers on the adoption of fuel-smart driving techniques. In addition to achieving a reduction in fuel consumption, Steve Saltzgiver, the Director – Fleet Operations for Coca-Cola North America, mentioned that accidents have been reduced too as a result of the fuel-smart driving effort. Coca-Cola has also seen a 37% reduction in emissions from its hybrid trucks. To date, the company has deployed 634 hybrids trucks. These hybrid models now make up about 50% of its Class 7 truck purchases.

ServiceMaster also gave an overview of its fleet efforts.  Much of its focus has been targeting on-site idling by its TruGreen trucks. Jim Steffen, Director of Fleet Engineering and Technical Support at ServiceMaster, walked the crowd through his process for redesigning the standard TruGreen truck to include electric sprayers. With the recent changes to this fleet, the new trucks have the potential to cut fuel consumption by 30%.

The NTEA’s Doyle Sumrall also added some context about how fleets are reducing emissions and fuel consumption today.  In a recent NTEA survey, 61% of responding fleets acknowledged making changes to reduce fuel consumption.  Of these, 60% were reducing idling, 40% were reducing tare weight and/or making power train improvements. High-efficiency truck purchases were being made by 20% of fleets and 15% were making aerodynamic improvements to its trucks.

All of these efforts were happening today with current available technology. They highlight many of the strategies that will be used to meet the 2014 standards.  Reaching the 2017 standard is likely to require more technological improvements. As Navistar noted, the hybrid power train was “the key to real vocational ghg reductions.” Here too we heard about improvements.

Eaton, which has 4300 medium-duty hybrid systems deployed globally — 2,000 of which are in Asia, discussed opportunities to reduce the incremental cost of these systems from a 6+ year payback for a bulk purchase to a 3 year ROI. To help accomplish this, the company encouraged the industry to pool resources and purchasing orders, leveling-load buying throughout the year, and standardizing component specifications. All seemingly doable tasks.

There also were many advanced and/or new trucks announced at the show. BAE Systems has a “Freightliner M2 chassis equipped with a BAE parallel hybrid propulsion system that is designed for medium- and heavy-duty truck applications” that was being piloted by Staples. Bosch Diesel Systems promoted a Ford F-450 Super-Duty truck utilizing its diesel fuel management system. Bosch Diesel Systems claims the “system meets or exceeds all current emissions standards, while also improving fuel economy by 20% over previous Power Stroke engines.” Azure Dynamics and Ford had an electric Transit Connect on site. Freightliner also had an EV walk-in van and a hydraulic hybrid walk-in at the show. There were many other vehicles too representing different duty cycles and fuel choices.

In all, the event highlighted for me the broad support in the industry from OEMs and customers alike for improving fuel economy of these large trucks. Fleets are clearly hungry for fuel-saving solutions. Most are already taking action today. A needed breakthrough remains an economy of scale for the production of the most technologically advanced solutions, such as hybrid trucks. These trucks have been on the road for nearly a decade and have a proven ability to handle many duty-cycles. A strong truck fuel economy program would go a long way to helping the industry reach this crucial level of production.

Visit edf.org/greenfleet for more tips and tools on managing fleet vehicles.