Mahanth Joishy, superintendent of fleet services for Madison, Wis., knows that the clock is ticking. The time to cut carbon from his fleet is now. In April 2021, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway unveiled the Climate Forward agenda to guide all municipal operations in the city. Climate Forward has mandated that all Madison infrastructure and vehicles run on 100% renewable sources and be carbon neutral by 2030. It’s an aggressive and ambitious goal, but it’s also the level of commitment that is necessary to make a significant impact on climate change. The city of Madison strives to be an example to the region in every aspect, especially when it comes to leading the charge toward sustainability.
While electrification presents a sustainable solution for light applications, every municipality across the country relies on heavy-duty vehicles for emergency response, refuse collection and snow removal. For these heavy applications, where routes can be long and duty cycles relentless, electrification just isn’t ready, and it certainly isn’t affordable. With the clock ticking and the need to act now, both for the environment and to meet municipal commitments, waiting for heavy-duty electric vehicles isn’t an option. Many cities aren’t sure what else they can do, but luckily, for the city of Madison, Joishy knows the solution: locally made, 100% renewable biodiesel. Pairing that biodiesel with Optimus Technologies’ Vector System allows Madison to achieve net-zero with their heavy equipment while supporting the local economy.
From Lake Mendota, right in the heart of Madison, travel north along the Yahara River to Deforest, where you will find REG Madison. Renewable Energy Group, North America’s largest biodiesel producer, has a biorefinery strategically located to utilize the abundant local feedstock for biodiesel. Made from used cooking oil, animal tallow, as well as Wisconsin soybean oil, REG produces an advanced biofuel from materials once regarded as garbage. Biodiesel offers an immediate, low-carbon solution to the energy demands of heavy-duty vehicles and construction equipment. 100% biodiesel (B100) can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by as much as 100%. During warmer months, Madison municipal vehicles already run on a 20% blend (B20) of biodiesel, but to achieve the mandate of 100% renewable, carbon neutral operations by 2030, Madison needed a way to go further and embrace the steep carbon reductions available by running B100 year-round. However, running B100 in frosty winter months presents operational challenges. Biodiesel gels at colder temperatures, and it can cause trouble with advanced emissions treatment equipment. But REG introduced Joishy and the Madison team to another company that has overcome both the cold-weather properties and the after-treatment difficulties associated with running B100.
Across the country, in another city known for its waterways, Optimus Technologies has created The Vector System, a patented technology that enables diesel engines to operate on B100 regardless of how cold it gets outside. With integrated, automated controls that overcome problems associated with emissions systems, The Vector System offers municipalities like Madison the ability to leverage existing assets within their fleet and turn them into near-zero emissions vehicles.
Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., nestled within the arms of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, Optimus is showing the world that there is no need to wait for electrification when it comes to reducing carbon emissions in heavy-duty operations. With B100 and the Vector System, carbon reductions essential for mitigating environmental disasters are available immediately. Available as a retrofit, or on new vehicle builds with some OEMs, The Vector System enables fleets to reduce crush carbon on both current and future fleet vehicles.
In January 2022, a team of Optimus engineers equipped 15 city of Madison vehicles with The Vector System. These vehicles ranged in function from refuse vehicles to snowplows to dump trucks. Later in the spring, Optimus will return to equip The Vector System on the city’s enormous wood chipper, an off-road piece of equipment that runs eight to 12 hours per day and can churn through sixty gallons of diesel an hour.
When speaking about the confluence of benefits, Joishy sees B100 as a synergistic solution: “Biodiesel gives us the ability to immediately reduce the carbon emissions in our fleet. We love and promote electrification of smaller vehicles here in Madison, but the truth is, for these bigger vehicles that carry huge loads and run long hours, electrification just isn’t ready or widely available yet. Waiting isn’t an option. We must act now if we want to preserve our lakes and rivers for future generations. The Optimus Vector System offers a path forward that is available today. Climate Forward is about serving the environment, yes, but it’s also about serving the communities and people that we see every day. What could be better than reducing soot and carbon emissions from our garbage and dump trucks by using Wisconsin made REG biodiesel, made from Wisconsin soybeans, grown by Wisconsin farmers? The goal is a renewable, sustainable circular economy that benefits our communities. That’s about as circular as you can get.”
The clock is ticking. Each of us must act to preserve our climate. Optimus and REG have partnered with fleets from coast-to-coast, reducing millions of pounds of CO2 along the way. The shining example being set by Madison is one that every town can follow. Vital reductions in carbon are available today. The way to get there is easy, it’s affordable, and it may only be a river or stream away. For more information on how you can cut carbon today, visit optimustec.com/madison.