Rental fleets getting greener

Major vehicle rental companies, such as Enterprise and Hertz, are beefing up their alternative fuel efforts across the board

Major vehicle rental companies, such as Enterprise and Hertz, are beefing up their alternative fuel efforts across the board. They’re increasing purchases of both hybrid and flex- fuel cars and trucks and investing directly in alternative fuel research – not only to boost their “green” image among customers but also to reduce their operating costs as both gasoline and diesel rise in price.

“We know that more and more consumers expect the companies that serve them to share their concerns about the environment. For our company and our industry to be successful, we must address those concerns while also working to sustain our business over the long term,” said Andrew Taylor, chairman & CEO of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. “To that end, we’re investing in the latest technologies to minimize fuel consumption and related emissions, today and tomorrow.”

He said that more than 47% of Enterprise’s rental fleet – more than 334,000 vehicles – now average at least 28 mpg with 28% of its worldwide rental fleet – more than 199,000 vehicles – averaging at least 32 miles per gallon. Beyond that, a third of the vehicles in Enterprise’s U.S. fleet qualify for the U.S. EPA’s SmartWay certification mark, a distinction the agency grants to vehicles that emit relatively low levels of both regulated pollutants and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, said Taylor.

In 2006, Enterprise launched its flex-fuel initiative, aimed at maximizing the use of more than 41,000 flex-fuel cars and light trucks in its U.S. fleet that have the ability to burn high levels of ethanol-based fuel. These vehicles, such as the Chevy Impala flex-fuel model, employ a technology that allows them to burn the corn-based ethanol blend known as E85, a mixture of 85% ethanol with 15% gasoline. The company also operates more than 3,000 gas/electric hybrid vehicles, which are powered by a combination of gas and battery-generated electricity.

Hertz Corp. is also jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, planning to invest $68 million in 3,400 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles. Dubbed the “Green Collection,” these hybrids join Hertz’s current complement of 105,000 EPA SmartWay-certified cars.

Mark Frissora, Hertz chairman & CEO, said that more than 64% (268,000 cars) of the company’s rental fleet now achieve 28 mpg or better, with 42.4% (176,500 cars) getting 34 mpg or better fuel efficiency.

“Our commitment to environmental sustainability extends beyond our fleet to operational and corporate initiatives,” he added. “It’s part of our corporate-wide commitment to environmental sustainability.”

As part of that overarching strategy, Frissora noted that:

Almost 99% of Hertz’s fleet is equipped with vapor-recovery controls that reduce the emissions given off during the fueling process.

All car washes installed at Hertz facilities recycle and reuse at least 80% of their wastewater. Hertz also banned the use of chlorinated solvents at its maintenance facilities due to their toxicity to humans and the environment.

Hertz only contracts with part supply vendors that recycle its used oil. In 2006, more than 1.2-million gallons of used oil were collected and recycled from the company's facilities nationwide, which is re-refined and processed into clean, clear, reusable premium base oil.

Hertz disposes of electronic equipment at all of its U.S. facilities through either resale or recycling with a zero landfill policy and a zero export policy. Since its inception in 2002, 5.7-million lbs of electronic equipment and 22,200 lbs of lead; 5 lbs of arsenic; 32 lbs of cadmium and 7 lbs of mercury have been kept out of landfills.

Enterprise’s Taylor added that his company’s efforts to reduce fuel consumption and related emissions are as much about sustaining Enterprise’s business as they are about sustaining the environment.

“We have always managed our business for the long term, and we are taking that same long-term approach here,” Taylor said. “Taking care of the environment is the right thing to do. But it is also more than that; very simply, it is a business imperative if we are to continue to run our business and serve consumers successfully into the future.”

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