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Sustainably Speaking

Cars, cars and more cars

From Jan. 14 – Jan. 22, thousands of people will attend the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to see the latest the automakers have to offer. Journalists are buzzing about the latest and greatest concept cars and people have a chance to check out their dream cars in person. Besides exotic cars and cool concept vehicles, the North American International Auto Show also showcases fleet vehicles.

One of the more popular fleet vehicles being showcased at the North American Auto Show is the Ford Transit Connect. This van has mixed reviews from contractors I’ve interviewed. Some contractors seems to really like the vehicle, but others tend to shy away from it, noting that it’s too small and won’t be able to carry all their tools and equipment. Of course these are all opinions, and at first I tended to side with the idea that the vehicle just wouldn’t cut it for the contractor community. However, I was swayed to believe that this van is very beneficial to contractors if they know what type of job it is most beneficial for. All a contractor needs to do is a little research to figure out how to use this vehicle to their benefit.

For example, certain technicians at Murphy & Miller Inc., Chicago, drive the Transit Connect based on criteria of the type of work they do or geographic locations to the jobsites.

“Our supervisors support the service technicians in the field and can do a lot of driving from jobsite to jobsite,” said Dan O’Halloran, vice president of service administration at Murphy & Miller Inc. “Since the supervisors were the first to have the Transit Connects we were able to see the fuel savings after a full year of operation. The supervisors’ Transit Connects are averaging about 22-mpg compared to their old E-150 vans of 12-mpg.”

O’Halloran also said that distance comes into play considering the fuel savings, so it’s necessary to look into what technicians travel the greatest miles and the type of work they perform at the jobsite.

“If it is feasible that the technician can fulfill the customer’s service needs with the smaller truck stock available in the Transit Connect, then they are a candidate for this type of vehicle.”

To read more about how contractors are utilizing the Ford Transit Connect for their businesses read Contractors take the plunge.

Now back to the North American International Show … Nissan is showcasing the e-NV200 concept, which does have a look that somewhat resembles the Ford Transit Connect. According to Motor Authority, the vehicle is already undergoing real-world testing at the Japan Post Service in Yokohama, as well as FedEx in London. Maybe one day this concept car will be put into production and it will be an alternative fuel vehicle option for contractors. If that happens I’m sure it will be a main competitor of the Ford Transit Connect.

Also, a line of extended-range electric fleet vehicles produced by Via Motors was introduced a few days ago at the show. These vehicles have a range between 40 to 50 miles before its gas engine kicks in.

“This new breed of full size utility vehicles can deliver the power and performance of a V8, with better fuel economy than many smaller cars, by driving on electricity for about $2 a day,” said Alan Perriton, chief operations officer for VIA Motors and former GM senior executive. “It actually costs less to own and operate a clean VIA electrified truck or SUV than a gas truck.”

In addition to the full size Pickup Truck, VIA will introduced two new eREV vehicles at the North American International Auto Show: a full size, four wheel drive SUV, and a three-quarter-ton, full-size Cargo Van. Like VIA’s eREV truck, all three vehicles can drive 30 to 40 miles on advanced, non-flammable, lithium ion batteries, then up to 400 miles using the onboard generator, averaging up to 100 mpg.

So, as you can see there are exciting things happening in the auto world that can benefit contractors. Contractors just need to be open minded and stay up-to-date on alternative fuel vehicles since technology continues to advance and there are always new vehicles in the pipeline.

Click here for information on the International Detroit Auto Show.

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