Across the nation, municipal fleet managers struggle with the challenge of making their fleets sustainable while balancing priorities: namely, not breaking budgets, finding solutions that are available today, meeting demanding equipment and operating specifications, while avoiding deep investments in all-new infrastructure.
In the heart of the Midwest, Rich Iverson prepares his snowplow fleet for the coming winter. Five hours Northeast, engineers prepare the city of Madison fleet for a remarkable transformation. Along the shores of Lake Michigan, the Chicago Parks Department assesses damage from the latest windstorm. In the nation’s capital, Ryan Frasier of the District of Columbia Department of Public Works deploys the country’s largest fleet of sustainable garbage trucks and snowplows. In each of these cities, fleet personnel confronted the questions of how to make their trucks more sustainable; how could they address climate change now? In each case, they came to the same conclusion, and in each case, they are running 100% biodiesel in their heavy-duty vehicles. Yes, 100% biodiesel.
Biodiesel is a sustainable, domestically sourced, advanced biofuel with a near-zero carbon. Made from waste fats and oils — like used cooking oil and animal tallow — its biogenic nature reduces Scope 1 carbon emissions by 100%. It’s an immediate solution that can have major impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiesel’s biggest challenge has been its cold-weather properties. When the mercury falls, biodiesel congeals. In its gel form, biodiesel gums up fuel filters and injectors, causing headaches and downtime. It has lead fleet managers to reduce biodiesel blends for the colder months.
However, Optimus Technologies has developed a fuel system upgrade for existing engines to use B100 that solves the gelling problem — no matter the temperature — and all other challenges that are typically associated with blends above 20%, including exhaust system aftertreatment compatibility and crankcase oil dilution. Using diesel for startup and shutdown, Optimus’ system uses waste heat from a vehicle’s engine to condition the B100, allowing diesel engines to operate without any loss in performance in any weather.
Reliability in extreme weather is essential when it comes to emergency response. Rich Iverson’s quest to reduce carbon in the Ames, Iowa, fleet without sacrificing performance led him to Optimus and The Vector System. Emergency snow removal happens under the harshest conditions, and it’s essential that vehicles have the ability to run nonstop, sometimes for days on end. With the Optimus Vector System, Rich found a way to leverage the vehicles already in his fleet while reducing his carbon emissions to near-zero.
After weathering two winters with Optimus-equipped snowplows, Iverson asserted, “We depend on the Optimus System every day. It performs with outstanding reliability, even during the harshest conditions we face. When it comes to cutting carbon, the Optimus Vector System using B100 is the fastest, simplest and most affordable way to significantly reduce our diesel emissions.”
Being at the forefront of sustainable cities is paramount to Mahanth Joishy, fleet superintendent at the city of Madison.
Joishy said, “We have an opportunity to make impactful, lasting change that will shape our cities economically and environmentally. At the city of Madison, we’ve set the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030. For us, that means electrification of our fleet everywhere we can and targeting 100% biodiesel for everything else. We have years of experience with biodiesel. It’s clean, biodegradable, renewable, and processed here in Madison with Wisconsin-sourced materials, which also means that we’re supporting local jobs.”
The versatility of Optimus’ system also allows Madison to reduce carbon in its off-road assets as well, including its 1,100-horsepower wood chipper, the city’s single largest fuel consumer.
Whether it’s collecting trash or clearing downed trees, the Chicago Parks Department takes pride in maintaining the shores of Lake Michigan. Using B100 to get the job done provides the added benefit of drastically reducing soot from combustion. For environmental justice communities, like Chicago, it’s important to be stewards of both land and air. Optimus’ system works in tandem with, and can improve the operations of, modern SCR and DPF systems to ensure engines not only achieve near-zero carbon emissions but also near-zero tailpipe emissions.
In the nation’s capital, Ryan Frasier knows the importance of leading by example. When establishing its aggressive climate plan, DCDPW evaluated every available technology in terms of effectiveness and affordability.
Frasier explained, “Cutting carbon isn’t an option. It’s something we must do, both as a nation and as the city of Washington, D.C. Heavy-duty electric options are extremely expensive and aren’t ready for wide deployment yet. Optimus has given us the ability to cut our carbon beyond our reduction goals. We currently have The Vector System on 70 of our trucks, with another 63 on order. In addition to upgrading existing trucks, the system can be integrated on new trucks, so we include the B100 system onto every new heavy-duty vehicle bid specification we release.”
Sustainability. Climate Action. Carbon Neutrality. These are the buzzwords of the day, and for good reason. When we see the devastation of floodwaters filling the streets and subways of New York City, power outages in New Orleans that last weeks and fires that consume entire towns in the West, it’s clear that climate change is here, and it’s staring us right in the face. While policy makers in Washington and in state governments are debating the rules and regulations, in truth, the work toward sustainability is and will be done by local governments, cities and municipalities. Let’s get to work.