How to Reduce Emissions for Vehicles to Power Sustainable Fleet Operations

April 14, 2023

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Key Takeaways

Sustainability is at the forefront of many organizations’ plans, but knowing where to start or how to make the most impact is complex. No matter where your company is in your sustainability journey, Samsara equips you with the insights and solutions to help your fleet make the sustainable switch. In this guide, learn how sustainable fleet management helps you reach your environmental goals so you can confidently report on progress.

Sustainability is a term that’s used a lot today and it can have many definitions, but what does sustainability mean for organizations? For physical operations companies, sustainability encompasses a range of practices to monitor and report on carbon emissions, carbon offset efforts, participation in renewable energy initiatives, and more. Specifically for commercial fleets, sustainability most often refers to topics such as vehicle emissions, efficient fuel and energy use, and the transition to alternative fuel vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs).

As global economic uncertainty persists, many organizations are prioritizing the switch to sustainable fleet operations. In fact, 96% of EV owners feel prepared to weather an economic downturn compared to 72% of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle owners. Understandably, rising fuel costs are another driving factor in EV adoption, with 49% of fleets ​​accelerating their transition to EVs as a result. 

Using data to inform their strategy, fleets can implement sustainable practices to reduce emissions, cut costs, and reinvest those savings in the future by making smarter investments in electrification today. Once these practices are in place, companies are responsible for reporting on their impact to stakeholders and customers, but tracking sustainability progress against goals can be a substantial undertaking. By leveraging sustainable fleet management solutions, fleets can not only implement the practices to drive sustainability but also report on progression towards their goals in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports and other sustainability reports. 

Vehicle emissions today and what the future holds

Today, one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are from the transportation sector, with motor vehicles accounting for 75%. Passenger vehicles—cars and buses—contribute the majority of vehicle emissions at roughly 45%, while heavy-duty trucks produce the remaining 30%. These staggering vehicle emissions stats make sense when we examine fuel sources—95% of the world’s transportation fuel is from fossil fuels with carbon dioxide (CO2) making up 99% of all vehicle tailpipe emissions. The average gas-powered vehicle emits 12,500 pounds of equivalent CO2 per year compared to zero-emission vehicles that do not emit CO2. 

Global emissions infographic

The United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement has set ambitious goals to reduce CO2 emissions and slow global warming—in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, we must achieve net zero emissions by 2050. With that fast-approaching milestone, current emissions will need to be cut by 45% by 2030 to remain on track for net zero by 2050. 

Transitioning global fleets to EVs is a key strategy for emissions reduction efforts and ultimately reaching net zero. In alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement, the Biden administration released the Executive Order, “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks,” calling for net zero emissions by 2050 in the United States. To accomplish this goal, aggressive EV adoption needs to occur—under the Executive Order, half of all new vehicle sales are targeted to be zero emissions by 2030. Some states, such as California and New York, have pledged that 100% of all new car sales will be zero emissions by 2035.

To further help combat climate change in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently tightened fuel economy and GHG emissions standards for new cars and light trucks produced for model years 2023-2026. The EPA.gov expects the updated standards will prevent more than 3 billion tons of GHG emissions through 2050. More restrictive standards for new heavy-duty vehicles will come into effect for model year 2027 and beyond. Both phases of the EPA’s plan are aligned with President Biden’s Executive Order.  

What is driving the switch to sustainable operations?

Global leaders are focused on cleaning up air pollution through the transition to EVs, but there are additional factors influencing the switch to sustainable fleets. A few of the top drivers include: 

  • EV prevalence: EV adoption is booming with light-duty vehicles, and OEMs are racing to roll out medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles. As EV prevalence grows, renewable energy and charging infrastructure remain critical focus areas for both investors and government programs. Now, the conversation is shifting to focus on how the transportation sector can transition their fleets to EVs.

  • Government regulations and green initiatives: As additional regulations, local policies, and green initiatives are introduced, fleets and automakers are accelerating their electrification plans. To meet EPA standards ahead of the 2027 requirements for heavy-duty vehicles, automakers are beginning production of new EV models for SUVs and heavy-duty trucks.

  • Investor and customer expectations: Organizations are being held to higher standards for their environmental and societal impact—investors and customers expect the businesses they engage with to both improve the sustainability of their operations and report on their impact.

  • ESG reporting: In 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed additional reporting rules that would require organizations to disclose their direct and indirect GHG emissions. In preparation for the pending reporting changes, companies are leveraging their current data in ESG reports to accurately report on environmental and social impact as well as build brand awareness and recruit talent. 

  • Macroeconomic pressures: Inflation and economic volatility are driving fleets to reexamine their operating costs and find areas for process optimization. In response to continuously rising fuel costs, fleets are seeking fuel and vehicle alternatives. Similarly, fleets are looking for solutions that put them in control of their operations in light of sustained supply chain disruptions.

  • Technology innovations: New technologies give way to sustainable solutions by enabling remote work, increasing operational visibility, and providing greater data insights. These solutions work together to give organizations the full picture into the sustainability of their business as well as opportunities for improvement.  

The benefits of building a sustainable fleet 

Beyond government regulations and mounting external pressures to make the switch to sustainable operations, there are many benefits organizations experience when they transition to an EV fleet. The top four benefits include:  

  • Cost reduction: The impact on the bottom line appears in a few ways for EV or mixed fuel fleets—the first, and most obvious, is fuel costs. The cost of electricity is considered more steady and economical than fossil fuels with the cost to charge an EV averaging 37-63% less than the cost to fill a tank of gas. The total cost of ownership of EVs is also lower than conventional vehicles. Despite a higher initial cost, the lifetime savings of a light-duty EV can be up to 17% less than a gas-powered vehicle. Additionally, EVs require less frequent and less costly maintenance throughout their lifetime, saving owners 50% on maintenance and repair costs, compared to ICE vehicles. 

  • Environmental impact: The current state of the environment can be overwhelming, and at the end of the day, we all want to do our part to preserve and improve the world we live in. Leaders, fleet managers, and drivers alike care about the environmental impact of their work with 61% of trucking professionals greatly concerned about climate change. Simple operational changes, such as drivers following fuel efficiency best practices, or leadership transitioning low fuel economy vehicles to EVs, help organizations immediately improve their environmental impact. 

  • Customer and investor relationships: Simply put, sustainable operations are good for business, and trust and transparency are top of mind for buyers today—68% of consumers want access to accurate sustainability data from the organizations they work with. Showcasing your company’s commitment to sustainability is not only profitable, but also builds trust with your customers and investors by demonstrating dedication to doing the right thing, advancing technology and sustainability-focused mindsets, and staying at the forefront of the climate battle. 

  • Employee retention: Today, millennials make up 35% of the global workforce and by 2025, that number jumps 75%. Sustainability matters to the largest working generation—70% of millennials report they would stay with a company with a strong sustainability plan. Additionally, 90% of millennials believe defining company success extends beyond profits to include sustainability effort and impact. With the average cost to hire and train a single driver at more than $8,000, aligning with employees’ sustainability values boosts retention and protects your bottom line.  

3 steps to overcoming barriers to sustainability

The complexities of implementing sustainable operations can be daunting, causing leaders to feel like there are more blockers than points of entry when starting the sustainability journey. These three steps help break down common barriers facing fleets, so organizations can act on sustainability and electrification goals:

1. Maximize fuel efficiency: The first step to overcoming barriers to sustainability is optimizing fuel efficiency. To maximize fuel efficiency and begin making progress toward sustainability goals, fleet managers need a holistic view across their fleet to identify gaps and elevate driving behavior. Tools that provide consistent and accurate reporting on fuel efficiency data help you understand trends to quickly reduce costs. Four ways to improve fuel efficiency include: 

  • Streamline fuel and energy management: By tracking how much fuel and energy your fleet is using, you can quickly identify areas to save, optimize processes, and coach driving behavior.  

  • Improve driving behavior: Measure the efficiency of your drivers and coach on fuel-efficient driving, such as limiting idling and harsh driving events. 

  • Fleet maintenance: Small changes to your current maintenance plan add up to make substantial improvement in the health and fuel efficiency of your fleet. Regularly checking tire pressure, fixing issues promptly, upgrading your motor oil, routinely changing out air filters, and more can improve your fleet’s fuel efficiency by 45%

  • Optimize routes: Cut down on fuel waste by optimizing routes to eliminate backtracking, unnecessary stops, and driving downtime.

2. Electrification planning and implementation: EVs have the potential to dramatically reduce your fleet’s carbon footprint and reduce overhead costs, but electrification doesn’t happen overnight. To reach zero-emission operations, you need to develop your fleet-specific transition plan in order to execute with minimal disruption to ongoing operations and maximize the return on investment. 

  • First, track fleet performance to identify key addressable gaps that are your biggest roadblocks to reaching sustainability goals to determine the most suitable vehicles for EV replacement. 

  • Once your fleet is ready to start the electrification process, accelerate EV adoption by onboarding each function of your operations, from drivers to the back office, with out-of-the-box solutions to empower your organization and minimize disrupting ongoing operations. 

  • Finally, streamlining mixed fuel fleet management by monitoring performance and measuring impact from one centralized platform as you continue to expand your EV fleet.

3. Report on impact through ESG compliance: Stay compliant with environmental regulations and strengthen stakeholder relationships by tracking and reporting on factors contributing to your carbon footprint with an enterprise-grade platform. Set goals, track progress, and measure results critical for your ESG report using accurate data from a consolidated system. 

  • Reporting on sustainable practices has benefits beyond environmental impact—improved profitability, employee retention, and business resilience are just some of the ways ESG reporting positively impacts your business. In fact, implementing sustainable operations, primarily through reducing resource costs, has the potential to increase profitability by 60%.

Jumpstart your sustainability journey with Samsara’s Sustainable Fleet Management solution

No matter where your fleet is at with electrification, our Sustainable Fleet Management solution is designed to support fleets along every step of their journey toward more sustainable operations. In our annual ESG Report, we disclose our own carbon footprint for fiscal year 2023, as well as new features that fleets can leverage throughout their sustainability journey. New and enhanced features include:

  • Fuel & Energy Hub: The one-stop shop for operation leaders to manage their mixed fleet of ICE, EV, and hybrid electric vehicles and monitor performance to surface actionable insights into fuel economy, cost, and consumption to direct change with confidence and precision. 

  • Sustainability Report: This report delivers data on current fleet emissions and monitors output across both sites and vehicles to uncover areas for improvement. You can gain additional insights into predicted fleet emissions over time to set more accurate targets and track progress against sustainability goals. 

  • Charge Control: Combat driver range anxiety by managing real-time EV charging at scale and easily identify charging issues. Additionally, this unlocks the ability to create custom charging profiles on a per-tag or per-vehicle basis and be alerted to when problems or irregularities arise.  

  • EV Suitability Report: Simplify your transition with a smart EV assessment tool that ranks every gas-powered vehicle in your fleet suitable for EV replacement—an evolution of Samsara’s existing Fleet Electrification Report, this new report allows configuration of key electrification criteria for tailored recommendations to align EV investments to your sustainability goals. 

Learn more about how the Samsara Connected Operation Cloud™ consolidates vehicle emissions data to help you reach your environmental and electrification goals.

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