Through AAA Greenlight®, we are taking an active role to increase awareness and encourage the development of alternative vehicles and fuels.
AAA Fleet and Service Vehicles Go Greener
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In 2008, AAA completed the conversion of its 300 vehicle insurance fleet to hybrids. AAA fleet drivers travel an estimated 4.8 million miles per year. AAA selected the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape hybrid as their fleet vehicles. The conversion saves AAA 115,000 gallons of gasoline and reduces its emissions by 1,314 tons on an annual basis.
Another exciting highlight of AAA's all-hybrid corporate fleet was the conversion of a Toyota Prius to a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) capable of getting more than 100 mpg—doubling its current mileage. The PHEV conversion was completed by technicians at Pat's Garage, a San Francisco automotive shop specializing in hybrid vehicle maintenance and conversions. Watch video »
AAA has made a further environmental commitment by annually offsetting the fleet's carbon emissions. AAA's carbon offsets are purchased through San Francisco-based TerraPass. The purchase of carbon offsets is a means of funding projects that combat climate change through emission reductions. TerraPass funds three types of leading-edge projects: wind power, farm power such as dairy farm methane digesters, and landfill methane capture.
AAA Emergency Roadside Service has added 8 Toyota Priuses to join its legendary fleet of tow trucks. The Priuses are sent out when stranded motorists just need a jump start or other service that does not require a tow. By more efficiently servicing our members, each ERS Prius is saving up to 140 gallons of fuel per month compared to a traditional service vehicle while still delivering the same level of service. In addition, AAA began operating a portion of its Auto Guardian tow truck fleet on biodiesel in 2008.
Partnership with UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies
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AAA has a long-standing partnership with the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, a world leader in alternative fuel and vehicle research. We sponsored one of the first studies on the environmental impact of hybrid vehicles and regularly collaborate with ITS-Davis researchers by providing valuable insight into consumer behavior. In addition, we feature the Institute’s research at a multitude of public events.
To help build awareness of plug-in hybrid vehicles, AAA expanded its relationship with UC Davis' world-leading Institute of Transportation Studies. AAA provides emergency roadside service and insurance assistance for the Institute’s study of plug-in hybrid vehicles. In addition, by serving as research participants, AAA Members are among the first people in the country to experience “real world” usage of PHEV’s.
Dozens of AAA Member and employee volunteers and are among 60 households who will be driving 12 Toyota Priuses converted into PHEVs. To date, volunteers have clocked 24,000 miles using 450 gallons of gasoline and 600 electrical charges.
AAA launched AAA Greenlight® Fellowship at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) in 2006. The fellowship is for minority students interested in the study of clean vehicles and fuels at the renowned transportation center. Matched with funding from ITS-Davis, the program will cover all expenses and provide a research stipend for the awardees.
|2009 – 2010 - Adina Boyce is a ITS-Davis Ph.D. student who has a bachelor's and master’s degree in civil and transportation engineering from the City College of New York. Adina’s research interests and experience include transportation planning, operations and infrastructure, pavement design, and clean-fuel technology.|
|2008 – 2009 - Doug Saucedo has a BS from Humboldt State University in Environmental Resources Engineering and is pursuing a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on the use of waste heat from a vehicle to increase the vehicle's fuel economy.|
|2007-2008 - Brenda Chang is a first-year graduate student in the Transportation Technology and Policy masters program at UC Davis with an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA. She has a particular interest in pursuing biofuels as a sustainable transportation solution.|
They've been on the road for nearly a decade, but the overall environmental impact of hybrid vehicles has remained largely a mystery until now. A study from AAA of Northern California finds that, while the immediate changes are relatively small, the potential oil savings and greenhouse gas reductions due to hybrids could have dramatic consequences.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, analyzes the current impact of hybrids on oil consumption and toxic emissions and projects their overall impact on the environment in real-world terms like tankers of oil saved and number of trees planted. On an individual basis, the impact of driving a hybrid car is significant.
"We recognize that hybrids are only a small percentage of the 17 million cars and trucks sold in the U.S. each year," said AAA of Northern California spokeswoman Jenny Mack. "But sales are increasing, and AAA felt it was important to examine the impact of this growing trend."
On average, the study found that:
|•||A hybrid vehicle reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases by about 30 percent compared to a conventional vehicle. Fuel consumption drops by an average of 35 percent over the vehicle’s lifetime.|
|•||By 2010, hybrids will make up about 1.2 percent of the total miles driven in the U.S. each year. This means hybrids will reduce 0.4 percent of total oil consumed and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. While that may not sound like much, it's the equivalent of 498 million gallons of gasoline per year, or about ten fewer tanker shipments from foreign oil suppliers.|
The 0.4 percent reduction in greenhouse gases equates to an annual reduction of about 5.1 million metric tons. Since each conventional car emits about eight tons of carbon dioxide per year, reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by 5.1 million metric tons is like removing 637,500 cars from the roads.
As more automakers and consumers embrace hybrid technology, there is reason to believe the market might expand even more rapidly. If hybrids were to make up 10 percent of the total miles driven in the U.S., the environmental impact would be much more significant.
Hybrids would save over five billion gallons of gasoline each year, or the equivalent of 119 large tanker ships. Greenhouse gas emissions would drop by 42.4 million metric tons. You would need to plant and grow to maturity 42 million trees to offset that amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
"Think of hybrid cars as a gateway to other vehicle advancements," said Rusty Heffner, author of the UC Davis study. "By introducing a new kind of technology into the marketplace, HEVs have encouraged innovation in the market and have sparked interest in other developing technologies like plug-in hybrids, electric cars, and fuel cell vehicles."
Grant Program Advances Research and Development
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Alternative fuels are the next chapter in the history of the automobile, and AAA is leading the way by funding cutting-edge research as part of its ongoing commitment to promoting the development and awareness of alternative fuels and vehicle technologies.
The 2010 AAA Greenlight Grant Program is now accepting applications. Please download the pre-proposal application guidelines here [pdf]. Pre-proposals are due on Monday, June 14.
The AAA Greenlight Grant Program is open to organizations pursuing projects in three key areas:
|•||Awareness: Applicant will be able to demonstrate how grant funds will be used for a campaign to increase awareness and promote use of alternative fuels among a defined population of residents in Northern California, Nevada and Utah.|
|•||Vehicle Conversion(s): Applicant will be able to demonstrate how grant funds will be used for the conversion of conventionally fueled vehicles to run on alternative fuels. Organizations or individuals seeking to convert a vehicle should demonstrate how the vehicle will be used to increase awareness and promote use of alternative fuels among a defined population of residents in Northern California, Nevada and Utah.|
|•||Dedicated Research: Applicant will be able to demonstrate how grant funds will be used to further existing or planned research, which directly focuses on the development and understanding of new automotive fuels and fuel related technologies.|
Qualified applicants include three distinct groups:
|•||Higher Education, including graduate and undergraduate students and programs focusing on the field of alternative fuels and vehicle technology related to efficiency.|
|•||Government Organizations, including municipalities, townships, and counties.|
|•||Not-for-profits, including qualified 501(c)(3) organizations specifically working in the areas of alternative fuels and vehicle efficiency technology.|
Each winner demonstrated how their program will advance the AAA Greenlight goal of promoting alternative fuels through an awareness program, vehicle conversion or dedicated research.
|•||The Institute for Local Government will develop a resource guide for local governments seeking information about using alternative fuels in their municipal fleets. Using information gathered from cities and counties, ILG will develop case studies, web based workshops and an online discussion forum so that local governments can share best practices and increase their fleets’ fuel efficiency.|
|•||The Alameda County Motor Vehicle Division will convert one of the Dodge Dakota trucks used by the Sheriff’s Office to run on electric power. Alameda County’s project, the conversion of a large truck to electric power, will test the viability of the technology for fleet deployment. The demonstration will serve to educate public and private fleet managers and residents about electric vehicles as a clean, lower cost alternative to standard gasoline vehicles.|
|•||Utah Clean Cities Coalition and Salt Lake City Government will take a traditional gasoline-powered police vehicle and convert it to run on electric power, reducing emissions and significantly reducing fueling and maintenance costs for the City. If the economic and social benefits prove to be as outstanding as anticipated, this vehicle will provide an example of forward thinking to other police departments throughout the state of Utah.|
|•||Santa Rosa Junior College and the North Bay Auto Association developed a state-of-the-art electric vehicle (EV) conversion curriculum by designing, fabricating, assembling, testing and documenting an EV conversion. The resulting documentation, book and video has been made available to the public and all 107 other California junior colleges.|
|•||The Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering Department at the University of Nevada, Reno conducted a graduate research project focused on developing discarded coffee grounds as a renewable automotive energy source. Their preliminary investigation shows that spent coffee grounds can produce biodiesel, hydrocarbon fuels and pellet stoves as three energy sources.|
|•||Utah Clean Cities Coalition converted a traditional gasoline-powered school bus from Sevier School District to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). This will help reduce emissions and fuel cost, especially considering Utah's low natural gas prices, and serve as a guide for other Utah school districts.|
|•||The City of San Francisco's Department of the Environment used their funding to create a multilingual brochure about clean vehicle and alternative fuel technologies in an effort to raise awareness about the linkages between vehicle emissions, climate change and public health.|
|•||The City of San Jose launched a city-wide alternative fuels contest for high school students in connection with its "Go Green" schools program and provide materials at the San Jose International Auto Show.|
|•||Grant funding for CalCars.org, a leading proponent of plug-in hybrid technology, helped support the organization's outreach activities as well as the conversion of a 'regular' hybrid vehicle into a plug-in hybrid with advanced batteries capable of getting up to 100 miles per gallon of gasoline (plus electricity).|
Alternatives Fuels Awareness Month
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For the first time, all three governors of California, Nevada and Utah have declared November 2010 to be Alternative Fuels Awareness Month in their states. AAA has been celebrating November as a month to focus on educating consumers about alternative fuels since 2005.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert is joined by several Utah city and county mayors to show their support for alternative fuels by signing a state resolution to raise awareness around using alternative fueled vehicles as a source of transportation in the state of Utah. The signing took place at the AAA Salt Lake City office which celebrates the month with alternative fuel-related posters and brochures.
In California, Assemblyman Dave Jones and Senator Mark DeSaulnier join Governor Schwarzenegger in sponsoring resolutions declaring November as Alternative Fuels Awareness Month.
Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons shows his support to for alternative fuels awareness by signing the state’s first Alternative Fuels Awareness Month resolution.
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Inspired by AAA Greenlight, the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter of Homestead High School in Cupertino, CA sought a partnership with AAA seeking to learn about business partnerships, project management as well as facts about new, cleaner automotive technology. AAA’s Greenlight initiative benefited from collaborating with the teens who helped to educate their peers and build awareness in their own community about this emerging technology.
Students produced short videos and organized a Greenlight Fair, a community event to help educate locals about alternative fuels and vehicles. Afterwards, they created a template (371 KB, PDF) that documented their experience to help other schools plan their own green event.
The partnership project resulted in top honors at the FBLA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim for chapter members Anh Cao, Benjamin Low and Alissa Song who completed the winning project, which was designed to educate teens about alternative fuels and vehicles and create excitement about the growing array of more sustainable transportation options.
FBLA, a nation-wide organization with the goal of helping students prepare for careers in business and business-related fields, hosts the annual conference as an opportunity for top high school business students to compete in projects related to a broad range of business and career-related areas.