“Green” vehicles have received lots of attention in the industry this year, with many companies joining groups such as the Limousine Environmental Action Partnership (LEAP) and Green Ride Global, and figuring out proposed government regulations in New York City and other markets.
Led by moderator Stephen Qua, president of Company Car & Limousine in Cleveland, a group of panelists discussed the pressing issues affecting the industry: Y Fray, owner, ECOLIMO, Los Angeles; Craig McCutcheon, president, Rosedale Livery Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario; and, Justin Raymond, president/CEO, Green Ride Global, Toronto.
Qua posted an informative slide at the start of the seminar labeled “Three Types of Green Companies,” which categorized chauffeured transportation industry companies based on their environmental practices:
• Green from scratch: A small number of companies in the industry, most notably ECOLIMO and OZOcar (based in New York City), only operate hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles. They’re not taking over their markets, but have received a good deal of attention from local media, government officials, and corporate travel planners.
• Started out traditional – moving toward green: A growing number of chauffeured transportation operators are making substantial moves toward improving their CO2 emissions and overall effects on the environment. They’ve joined groups such as LEAP and Green Ride Global, and have participated in corporate client programs. Some of this comes from client, public, and government pressure, and some of the motivation comes from valid concerns operators have about the future.
• Companies that are “greenwashed”: Qua made the point that some companies in the industry have issued press releases about taking actions to improve their “green” programs; however, the actual results of their actions are limited and may not be worthy of the industry’s attention.
Operators need to research their options and find out how certain vehicles and company practices will comply with government regulations and improve their “green” image. “Just because the vehicle says hybrid, it’s not necessarily the best choice,” Fray says. “Is the vehicle really getting 26 miles per gallon?”
Raymond brought up the terminology used in environmental practices, and how it can be confusing about what a company actually accomplishes. “’Carbon offsetting’ allows a company to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through actions taken by other companies,” he says. “`One hundred percent carbon neutral’ is another type of program that several companies are getting into. Neither of these would probably be as effective as focusing on your business and taking actions that work, such as using nitrogen-inflated tires and bringing in a few hydrogen vehicles to your fleet.”
Representing Operators’ Concerns
Green Ride Global is a third party verification and environmental sustainability consulting company that works with transportation companies and offers tailored environmental solutions, strategic marketing tools, and other services. Company Car & Limousine and Rosedale Livery Ltd. are both clients of Green Ride Global, which Qua and McCutcheon mentioned during the seminar.
“We develop environmental sustainable programs for our clients,” Raymond says. “Your company’s chain of events are measured, and we help move you along a road map to reduce emissions.”
Chauffeured transportation operators have learned much more about positive environmental practices from organizations such as Green Ride Global. Accomplishing these goals requires a broad scoped plan, and not just buying a handful of alternative-fuel vehicles. Everything a chauffeured company does uses energy and releases emissions, including office machines, paper usage, heating, and lighting.
“Our mechanics are more happy since we’ve installed new sealed doors in the garage,” which were recommended by Green Ride Global, McCutcheon says. “These doors make the garage much warmer and require us to use less heat.”
The Company Car & Limousine chauffeur staff has adopted a suggested program, says Qua — paying chauffeurs to bring back bottles used by clients, which are turned in to a recycling program. “We don’t get much cash back,” he says, “but it does teach our chauffeurs something valuable, and they become more willing to take on other positive actions.”
“We buy 100% recycled paper from Staples, and use low-energy computers,” Fray says. “You can save money through these best practices — it’s something to focus on in your business model.”
Making an Industry Difference
Fray says that she’s constantly being educated about business practices that operators can follow that reduce CO2 emissions, and regularly changes these practices to make improvements. Her perspectives have changed since starting up ECOLIMO in 2004. While considering starting up her own company, she wanted to live more closely by her beliefs and stay in the industry. “I wanted to make a difference in an industry that I love,” Fray says.
At the beginning, she focused on finding a way to adapt Town Cars to reduced CO2 emissions through aftermarket suppliers, which didn’t work out. After that, she focused on buying Toyota Priuses and marketing them to the Los Angeles area entertainment industry, which worked well. The fleet has expanded beyond the Prius and now includes bio-diesel engines such as the Mercedes E320 CDI and Ford Excursion Turbo Diesel. The company is powering these vehicles with soy fuel, which emits 30% less carbon dioxide than gasoline, Fray says. The company also operates CNG-fueled Chevrolet Suburbans, and the gas/electric Lexus 400h, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota Camry Hybrid.
When asked about surcharges for hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles, Fray says that ECOLIMO builds it all into one price per transaction and doesn’t add surcharges. “It’s about giving people a choice and not having them pay more,” Fray says. “And fuel savings means not having to assess a fuel surcharge.” ECOLIMO does charge higher rates for expensive vehicles such as bio-diesels.
Rosedale Livery levies a surcharge for “green” cars, McCutcheon says. “The hybrids that we buy are about $20,000 more than the Lincolns and Cadillacs – we need to charge more,” he says. “You shouldn’t try to sell green if you don’t want to be green.”
Qua stressed focusing on client perception when making fleet choices and marketing environmental programs. He emphasized two points to the audience: 1) Selling begins with perceived value; 2) You must sell clients the benefits.
“You can focus on offering clients on-time rides, electronic confirmations, and ‘green’ vehicles,” he says.
Walczak Leads Seminar on Future of Ford’s Fleet Vehicles
DOUG WALCZAK, Limousine/Livery Manager for Ford Motor Co., presented “Ford’s Sustainability Initiatives” during the International LCT Show. The program focused on alternative fuel vehicles that the industry can consider, such as the 2009 Mariner Hybrid, and also upon the future of Ford fleet vehicles. Audience members such as Charles Horky, president of CLS Nevada in Las Vegas, and several New York City-based operators, are concerned about having access to Ford vehicles that will meet upcoming regulations and client expectations.
New York operators are especially concerned about the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s rules on mileage that will make Town Cars unavailable to operators in the “black car” category, who must acquire vehicles that get 25 mpg or more starting Jan. 1, 2009. Walczak thanked everyone for sharing no matter how difficult the topic is, and encouraged an ongoing dialogue. He stated that while the Town Car is not going hybrid, there are upcoming Ford product plans that will be good for the industry, but he can’t yet share those details.