Viewpoint: Put your fleet ahead of the curve with alternative fuel vehicles

By Greg Thompson

It wasn't long ago that the word "alternative" was used to describe trends, music and people that didn't fit within certain norms. Today, however, the word "alternative" is embraced as being forward-thinking and technologically advanced. One way that local governments can adopt this new cultural attitude is through the use of alternative-fuel vehicles.

When looking to add alternative-fuel vehicles to their fleet, managers might first think of the full-size hybrid vehicles or those that run on biodiesel. However, when considered, compact electric vehicles have proved to be very economical as well as reliable task vehicles.

Fleet managers shouldn't let the classifications of "low-speed vehicles" or "neighborhood electric vehicles" scare them away. These vehicles are engineered to meet federal safety requirements for use on most roads with posted speed limits of up to 35 mph, depending on local laws. If looking for vehicles to aid staff in the execution of grounds and facility maintenance, public safety patrol and meter reading, managers might find that a street-legal compact electric utility vehicle is a better option than a full-size vehicle or pickup.

Not only can these vehicles access many city roads, their compact design also makes it possible to easily transition onto other surfaces full-size vehicles cannot access. For example, pickup trucks used for grounds maintenance can't safely maneuver around pedestrians on sidewalks and trails, and police sedans aren't designed to drive from the street onto beach boardwalks. Compact electric vehicles can do both, and more.

Models are available to provide transportation for two, four or six people. There are also two passenger utility vehicles that feature short and long flatbeds with customizable cargo storage options. Most models reach a maximum speed of 25 mph and can run up to 40 miles per charge depending on temperature, grade, payload and driving style.

With any product on the market, as availability grows, purchase price drops to become manageable for any budget. In the 15 years since their introduction to the market, the MSRPs for compact electric vehicles are more affordable. Discounts may also be available through manufacturers' fleet divisions and for those companies with approved GSA contracts.

Separate of the purchase price, these vehicles provide long-term savings that aren't possible with full-size, gas-operated vehicles. Costing roughly two cents per mile to operate, compact electric vehicles don't require oil changes, filter replacements, or other standard maintenance necessary for gas-powered vehicles. Standard electric vehicle maintenance includes replacement of batteries, but with proper care, this typically occurs after multiple years of operation. Like the large auto companies, many manufactures of compact electric vehicles offer multiple-year warranties and roadside assistance.

In addition to the tangible benefits these vehicles offer, they also help create a positive "buzz" within the community. Whether it's the zero-emissions operations, or the aesthetically-pleasing designs of certain vehicles, the integration of environmentally-friendly technology will grab the attention of residents and visitors alike.

There has never been a better time for local governments to integrate alternative-fuel vehicles into their fleets. With each passing day, manufacturers continue to improve the technology of vehicles powered by electric, hybrid, biodiesel and the like. As cultural and legislative signs point to a fleet of full-size, gasoline-powered vehicles being the less-practical alternative in the future, why not be ahead of the curve?

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

Greg Thompson is the small vehicles marketing manager at Polaris Industries Inc., and oversees all aspects of marketing communications for Polaris GEMcustomers and dealers. For more information visit GEMcar.comor email Thompson at

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What's Viewpoints?

It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.


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