Propane autogas-powered vehicles roll off the assembly line headed directly for ThyssenKrupp's North American headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga. The company's 3,150 U.S.-based vehicles consist of light-duty vans, pickup trucks, medium-duty vehicles, and conventional automobiles.
At a Glance
ThyssenKrupp Elevator is committed to sustainability. Some examples include:
- Devoting a portion of its research & development budget to green innovations.
- Active member of the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Operating smaller, more efficient vehicles.
- Creating the "Five Cs of Analyzing Alternative-Fuel Vehicles."
- Partnering with Clean Cities.
Sustainability is the underlying philosophy that guides ThyssenKrupp Elevator's operations, including its fleet. The company's 2009-2012 Sustainability Report states: "Sustainability is progress. It's about stepping up and laying a secure path for future generations to follow. With transparency, conviction, and momentum, ThyssenKrupp Elevator is proud to share its sustainability story."
The elevator company, which has its Americas headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., has a fleet that consists of 3,150 vehicles, including light-duty vans (53 percent), pickup trucks (33 percent), medium-duty vehicles (11 percent), and conventional automobiles (3 percent).
Guiding ThyssenKrupp's fleet and sustainability initiatives are Tom Armstrong, director of fleet, and Brad Nemeth, director of sustainability.
Brad Nemeth, ThyssenKrupp's director of sustainability helps fill a propane autogas pickup truck during a recent company drop off. Nemeth was hired in 2009 to implement the U.S. operation's sustainability objectives.
Armstrong has been the company's director of fleet for the past 11 years with 20 years total fleet experience. His prior experience includes the operation and ownership of a freight company headquartered in Florida. Prior to this, he spent six years in the United States Air Force.
Nemeth was hired by ThyssenKrupp in October 2009 to act as the director of sustainability for the Americas business unit. Nemeth brought a quarter-century of sustainability knowledge to the organization. He holds degrees in business management and mining engineering.
Committing to Sustainability
ThyssenKrupp has committed to greening more than just its fleet. From creating the position of director of sustainability to its green building plan, the company has a published goal, devoting 15 percent of its research & development (R&D) budget to green innovation by 2012 and 30 percent by 2015. The company features two LEED APs (accredited professionals) on staff, both with BD+C (building design and construction) specialization as well as a LEED GA (green associate) training program, which currently includes 30 employees (including all regional VPs) preparing for their exam by the end of 2011.
The company is also an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council, and its products include the industry's only Underwriters Laboratories (UL) validated elevator cab for low emissions and indoor air quality. It has also moved to a powdercoat process for elevator cab interiors as well as the exclusive use of no added urea-formaldehyde wood products.
Most recently, ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG introduced its global commitment to sustainability through the "Sustainable Efficiency" program.
"This initiative further supports the company in its efforts to integrate sustainable practices throughout all of our processes worldwide," said Nemeth in the recent sustainability report. "To build upon this momentum, we recognize sustainable efficiency as the key driver to enhancing our performance."
To successfully carry out its vision and sustainability action plans, the company "strives to foster a sustainable culture that puts people first, valuing safety, integrity, innovation, and a commitment to healthy communities," Nemeth said.
ThyssenKrupp's sustainability goal is to optimize the efficient utilization of all resources by using each to its fullest potential and by wasting nothing.
The Transit Connect(ion)
In addition to utilizing alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet, ThyssenKrupp has greatly reduced its fuel consumption by operating smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"By changing our core service vehicle to the four-cylinder Ford Transit Connect, we have improved our fuel economy by 8 mpg per vehicle," Armstrong said. "We currently operate 350 Transit Connects and have an additional 150 on order."
According to Armstrong, the company expects to be operating roughly 1,300 Transit Connect (or similar) models within five years, further reducing the company's fuel consumption by 1 million gallons per year, saving approximately $3.5 million annually.
"We have also installed GPS on all field vehicles to reduce wasteful driving. For example, it allows us to use less fuel by identifying the closest driver for a service call, which also reduces and improves our response time for our customers," Armstrong said. "In addition, we utilize a route optimization software to ensure our service routes are structured efficiently."
Cutting Through the Hype
Beyond downsizing to four-cylinder models, ThyssenKrupp also utilizes propane autogas-fueled vehicles in its fleet.
"With all the 'buzz' about alternative fuels and vehicles (marketing, politics, and suppliers pushing products), we needed a tool or process to cut through the hype and identify what truly makes sense for us as a company," Armstrong noted.
To help analyze all the different AFVs, Tom Armstrong, director of fleet, created the "Five Cs of Analyzing Alternative-Fuel Vehicles."
To accomplish this, Armstrong created "The Five Cs for Analyzing Alternative-Fuel Vehicles." This process asks five simple questions:
- Is it Clean?
- Is it Cost-effective?
- Does it Conserve?
- Does it make Common sense?
- Can you Commit?
"From our perspective, if it's clean, if it conserves, and is cost-effective, then it makes common sense; however, the final C, 'can you commit,' is very important," Armstrong said. "Can you commit to using it in your fleet? Everything could line up, but there might not be a product or vehicle that works for your fleet."
This approach allowed the company to effectively and objectively analyze each fuel/vehicle type for its fleet. "The Five Cs approach can work for any fleet. However, the end results would vary depending on a company's operation, available infrastructure, vehicle types, etc. For ThyssenKrupp, propane autogas was the only source that qualified in each of the five categories. Once we identified propane autogas, we were questioning if we could act on the fifth 'C' - can we commit?" Armstrong noted.
Since the company's vehicles are driven home by drivers each night, they were not returning to the office for refueling each evening. The company required a local autogas fueling infrastructure.
"Fueling a vehicle is different than fueling a barbecue tank: the vehicle requires an upgraded pump with a modified pump handle to fuel the vehicle in the same time frame as a normal gasoline pump," Armstrong said.
ThyssenKrupp recently took delivery of an all-electric Transit Connect. Armstrong is enthusiastic about its potential.
Working closely with ROUSH CleanTech, ThyssenKrupp found Ferrellgas and other autogas suppliers were aggressively targeting certain cities to improve the autogas fueling infrastructure.
"We quickly realized this was our pathway to deploying propane autogas-powered vehicles - follow the infrastructure. Now that we had a plan, we needed to identify the first branch to deploy propane vehicles," Armstrong explained.
After about six months of research, Phoenix surfaced as the best office for its beta site.
"Our Phoenix branch was excited to participate as they saw the potential savings in fuel costs, lower vehicle registration costs, and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access for alternative-fuel vehicles," Armstrong said.
One aspect of fleet sustainability that Armstrong pointed out was that the return isn't always just monetary. "The HOV lane access was a tremendous bonus for our drivers' time," he said.