Grant propels eco-friendly city vehicles

Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids City Commission received a grant last week to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from city vehicles by approximately 91.5 metric tons.

The $1.441 million grant will enable the city’s facilities and fleet management department to replace 12 of its current vehicles with new ones that run on new diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) by fall 2023. Funding was awarded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s (EGLE) fuel transportation program and Volkswagen State Mitigation Trust for city fleet vehicle replacement.

The city will decommission six pre-2008 diesel dump trucks with underbody scrapers for snow removal, two diesel street sweepers and four diesel refuse trucks. Per grant guidelines, each of the vehicles must be decommissioned and destroyed to a point where they cannot be used again. All trucks and sweepers will be replaced with vehicles running on efficient diesel, CNG and/or hybrid electric technology, reducing diesel, nitrogen oxide and other particulate matter emissions.

All older vehicles were scheduled to be replaced under the city’s current asset management plan, and the upgrades further the city’s climate resiliency goals and support its core value of sustainability by improving air quality within city limits. The swap will bring the city’s eco-friendly fleet to seven electric, six hybrid/electric, 77 hybrid/gas and nine CNG vehicles.

Approximately 40% of the new vehicle cost is covered by the grant and requires a match of just under $2.3 million, paid by the city’s motor equipment fund.

“The new, more efficient diesel vehicles will reduce fuel consumption and emissions,” said Steve Prins, acting director of facilities and fleet management. “The newer diesel emission equipped dump/plow trucks will reduce diesel particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions released into the atmosphere by up to 98% over the older diesel vehicles. These along with the new CNG refuse trucks and hybrid sweeper, will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint, improve air quality and mitigate climate change. We believe that this grant will help us achieve our sustainability goals and improve the well-being of our residents.”

On Sept. 28, the city commission passed the Resolution Declaring Climate Change a Crisis setting forth an ambitious goal to power all municipal operations with 85% renewable energy by 2030 and net zero by 2040.

“Air pollution from diesel emissions has negative effects on human health and the environment,” said Annabelle Wilkinson, environmental and climate justice specialist for the city. “Diesel emissions can impact respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological systems. It also harms wildlife and the environment by contributing to the formation of smog, acid rain and ground level ozone, which can cause considerable damage to plants, agricultural crops, animals, habitat and ecosystems.”

In 2020, the city’s fleet fuel consumption was the second-largest emission source for municipal operations — behind electricity — accounting for 11% of total emissions. The use of diesel, gasoline and CNG accounted for 56%, 38% and 6% of the fleet’s total emissions, respectively.

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