Joy Lian

The Yale Fleet — a group of official University vehicles that are registered in Connecticut — now boasts 77 alternative-fuel vehicles after its latest addition: an all-electric Chevy Bolt.

Part of the public safety rotation at West Campus, the Bolt aligns with the Fleet’s campaign to purchase “green” automobiles in lieu of those that run on conventional fuel, a commitment that started in the fall of 2015. Since then, the Fleet, which consists of a total of 475 vehicles, has achieved a 25 percent reduction in fuel costs and saved 107 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint and double our alternative fuel vehicles by 2020,” said George Longyear, director of Yale Fleet management and graduate housing. “The University initiatives are to consider purchasing AFV [alternative-fuel vehicles] for all new vehicle purchases.”

To increase sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Yale Fleet has piloted several different types of alternative fuel vehicles, including those that run on biodiesel, electricity and hybrid energy, among others. Yale Fleet Management has also established a new standard when ordering larger automobiles, opting for propane- or XL Hybrid-fueled vehicles. Both the former, automobiles that run on liquid auto gas, and the latter, vehicles with an additional electric motor, increase fuel economy and mitigate the Fleet’s carbon output.

The Chevy Bolt heralds the potential for Yale to incorporate another effective form of alternative fuel: electricity. According to Yale’s sustainability website, with the recent addition of its first all-electric vehicle, the Fleet is pondering the installation of two electric charging stations on West Campus, as well as adding some to central campus. At present, the Bolt is charged through an electrical outlet, and Yale has 11 charging stations throughout campus parking lots.

The integration of propane-fueled vehicles into the Yale Fleet has also proven successful for the Fleet’s sustainability mission. In 2016, Yale started using a bi-fuel system for some of its automobiles, which run on both gas and propane. The hybrid vehicles are cheaper and greener: Each vehicle saves 50 extra gallons of fuel, minimizes greenhouse gas emissions and requires lower maintenance, according to a Yale Fleet Management press release. To maintain these vehicles, the University added a propane fueling station at 344 Winchester Ave. and is considering constructing another on Dixwell Avenue.

Longyear noted that the transition to alternative fuel vehicles has been transparent to drivers. However, phasing in sustainable automobiles has not been without its challenges. Alternative fuel vehicles cannot completely replace all Yale vehicles — they cannot carry heavy tools and equipment, for example. “Green” vehicles also have higher upfront costs than traditional options, despite being more economical in the long run. To examine cost-efficiency, Yale Fleet Management has been tracking miles per gallon performance through XL Link cloud analytics systems, in which XL Hybrid vehicles automatically record data about mileage and fuel consumption.

The drive toward sustainability by the Yale Fleet is part of a broader on-campus commitment to protect the environment. According to Virginia Chapman, director of the Yale Office of Sustainability, Yale Fleet Management’s push to find new, innovative ways to reduce the Fleet’s carbon impact plays a role in larger University goals.

“These efforts contribute to the goals of the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025, which includes a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” Chapman said. “Yale Fleet emissions are included in this goal, as well as the existing commitment to achieve a 43 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from a 2005 baseline, so all of these initiatives help move the University toward meeting those goals.”

For its efforts, Yale Fleet Management was awarded the Bobit Business Media Environment Technology Expo Award and the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators Eental Leadership Award in October 2016. The Northeastern Clean Cities Coalitions also gave Yale Fleet “rising star” status for its improvements in sustainability and overall efficiency in integrating new technology.

“Transitioning to sustainable transportation is definitely an important component of Yale’s broader commitment to sustainability,” said Kenneth Xu ’21, a fellow for the International Alliance of Research Universities and a member of the Campaigns Team at the Sustainability Office. “[Yale] is influential both as a large physical institution and as a model for other organizations around the world.”

The Yale Fleet encompasses 475 vehicles.

Ruiyan Wang | ruiyan.wang@yale.edu