The Greening of Government: GSA changing the face of its fleet

Monday - 10/4/2010, 6:10am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller with with GSA chief of staff Michael Robertson.

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

In 2010 alone, the General Services Administration estimates the purchase of 5,600 hybrid electric vehicles will save 1 million gallons of fuel and stop 9 million pounds of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.

And this doesn't count the more than 200 alternative fuel cars ordered over the past month for GSA's own fleet. Michael Robertson, GSA's chief of staff, said the hybrid electric fleet the agency owns and manages is almost 9,000 strong and will only grow in the coming years.

"This is the beginnings and early stages of the government moving toward acquiring more hybrid electric vehicles in larger quantities," Robertson said. "We are hopeful in that the next steps in the plug-in electric market which are coming out in near future it appears there will be a variety of choices. There will be a number of companies and manufacture that will be offering those vehicles. We are excited to see what it looks like and move them into the federal fleet."

He said GSA doesn't have any specific numbers for 2011 and beyond, but plans on making purchases in the future.

"Our main goal is to increase the fuel efficiency of the federal fleet," he said. "The other goal is to drive the market toward newer, cleaner technology. We will have to work closely with other government agencies to ensure the vehicles meet their needs and provide the services they require. At the end of the day there is a huge spectrum of agencies with different missions and each require a specific type of vehicle to satisfy that mission. In the end, we will have to look at what vehicles are needed by the agencies."

Robertson said agencies such as the Interior and Agriculture departments need trucks and sport utility vehicles and hybrids may not meet their needs. But GSA does plan on moving most of its sedans into the hybrid class.

Overall, the federal government has about 650,000 vehicles, which includes 220,000 at the Postal Services, 215,000 owned by other agencies besides GSA and 215,000 owned and managed by GSA.

Robertson said GSA bought between 60,000 and 70,000 automobiles in 2010 with a strong focus on hybrid vehicles.

GSA also purchased 17,000 vehicles with Recovery Act funding, of which about 3,200 were hybrid electric cars.

"Over a seven-year period, the purchase of these hybrid-electric cars will prevent 334 million pounds of greenhouse gases and save $40 million dollars in fuel costs," he said.

Tony Hudson, a GSA fleet service representative, said he manages more than 50 customers who lease about 1,400 vehicles.

"All agencies are trying to acquire these type of vehicles," said Hudson earlier this year during the annual Earth Day celebration. "From a maintenance perspective, they have really come up to speed in that area. They drive and handle like a normal car."

Hudson said compressed natural gas vehicles and plug-in golf cart type of vehicles are part of the future of the fleet. He said GSA already is buying these types of vehicles. He added the one difference in using these types of cars is that to achieve savings, GSA must be kept the vehicles for a longer time.

"The fuel savings are dramatic," he added.

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