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Reducing CFA vehicle fuel use

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CFA vehicles travel about 35 million kilometres a year, consuming around four million litres of fuel. This releases more than 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

Reducing CFA vehicle fuel use

To reduce these emissions and at the same time reduce costs, CFA fleet managers are introducing hybrid electric and full-electric vehicles into the corporate fleet. 

“With the price difference falling and a fuel saving of about 50 per cent, it makes sense to bring more hybrid vehicles into the passenger car fleet,” Executive Manager Fleet & Protective Equipment Danny Jones said.

Pool vehicle users will have noticed an increasing number of hybrid Toyota Camrys appearing over the past 12 months – 35 per cent of the East Burwood HQ pool cars are now hybrids, and more will be arriving in the regional vehicle pools. There are also full-electric and hybrid cars in the executive fleet.

This steady transition to renewable energy sources for our increasing mobility demands will mean our greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs reduce over time. Increased use of on-site solar electricity at CFA sites, which can be used to recharge electric vehicles, will further reduce energy demands, emissions and costs

Feedback from drivers has found that hybrids are easy to drive and manage, and a trip to more distant brigades is easily managed on one or two tanks of petrol given the fuel consumption is around half the usual 10 or so litres per 100 kilometres. However, some users were occasionally unsure when the engine was running because the battery mode is silent.

Energy use in CFA

CFA consumes about 21 million kWh of energy each year at a total cost of more than $13 million – mainly as electricity in buildings and as fuel for vehicles. However, although our vehicles account for only one-third of energy use, that equates to three-quarters of the total energy cost.

Under the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Act 2017, the Victorian Government is committed to increasing the proportion of renewable energy generated in Victoria to 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.

The Final Report of the Interim Targets Independent Expert Panel was tabled in Parliament on 6 June 2019 to provide advice to government about the interim targets for 2025 and 2030. It noted that emissions are projected to be reduced by 18 per cent from 2016 to 2020, with targets of 32-39 per cent reductions by 2025, and 45-60 reductions by 2030.

The proposed emissions reduction targets will be achieved by:

  • increasing energy efficiency – using less energy to achieve the same outputs
  • electrifying the economy and switching to clean fuels, ultimately transitioning to hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • moving to clean energy, solar and wind
  • increasing carbon storage in trees.

Compliance with the emission reduction, renewable energy and climate change targets means CFA needs to establish an emissions reduction program and transition to renewable energy.

Vehicle technology and savings

The development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered vehicles is moving ahead rapidly. Hybrid and electric cars are here now.

Recharging stations will be needed as CFA transitions from hybrid to fully-electric vehicles.

Electric buses, trucks and fire trucks are here now. A prototype electric fire truck has been developed in the US and is being tested. Hydrogen cars and trucks are also being tested on Victorian roads. When the hydrogen is manufactured using solar energy, the only emissions from using a hydrogen-powered vehicle is a trickle of water.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are operating in Australia, and a Melbourne council is currently converting part of its rubbish collection truck fleet to hydrogen fuel. It will use locally-generated solar energy to produce the hydrogen to power the trucks.

The slightly higher cost of replacing CFA corporate vehicles with hybrids is being met through the accumulating savings in reduced fuel costs, providing immediate positive financial returns.

Converting half the corporate fleet to hybrid vehicles is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 per cent and reduce fuel costs by around 20 per cent – a payback period of just over two years. If recharging stations draw energy generated by and stored in CFA solar systems, the cost to run electric cars would be close to zero. Solar systems with battery storage could, as a by-product, provide greater resilience and business continuity for CFA operations.

Renewable energy at CFA

Our priorities are to analyse and reduce energy use, and consider renewable energy sources and opportunities for offsets. These include:

  • energy audits to identify energy use patterns and opportunities for efficiencies
  • progressively moving to more fuel-efficient, less polluting options, starting with hybrid vehicles, then moving to fully-electric cars
  • consider upgrading to a new, efficient fridge
  • increasing efficiencies in our buildings: heating/cooling, insulation, use of timers, shade north facing windows in summer, seal gaps, choose 7-star efficient heater/aircon units
  • installing timers on hot water services and consider solar hot water or a heat pump
  • using LED lights throughout with motion switches
  • looking for renewable energy sources including solar generation and storage for onsite use
  • looking for carbon/greenhouse gas offsets through agroforestry and green energy initiatives.

CFA is developing a renewable energy program to reduce overall energy demand through energy efficiency measures, replacing energy supply with renewable energy sources, and progressively transitioning to renewable energy in accordance with Victorian Government policy targets.

Some CFA locations have installed solar electricity generating systems in the past six years resulting in significant reductions in energy demand and cost.

Next steps

CFA could transition to 100 per cent renewable energy use within three to five years given progressive action on both vehicle and building energy sources. But in the meantime, CFA will continue to monitor vehicle and building energy consumption patterns, and identify further opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create carbon offsets.

We will fully cost the installation and ongoing maintenance of solar systems, including payback periods and return on investment calculations. We will also continue to identify grant sources for solar energy and help brigades with funding applications.