Going After Some Green

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Since my arrival, I've been pushing for all of us to do our part and find ways to execute our mission more efficiently, and energy consumption is a big factor in the cost or our operations.

"Energy" isn't limited to our electric bill (nearly $30 million last year!). Here at AEDC, we have to look at every aspect of our operation and look for ways to conserve.

It's tempting to go after the "biggies" and try to get that new plant equipment or radically alter a process knowing "it will pay for itself" in energy savings. Those are important efforts, but they do not relieve us of the obligation to identify and correct the thousands of "little things" that add up to big savings year after year.

So I'm "all in" on this as well, and we've been looking for options that not only reinforce the message, but return dollars at the same time. We found a good one.
For those used to seeing the "Command Vehicle" (aka the big red Expedition), I'm camouflaged now. The motor pool asked me to try out a new hybrid car that we've acquired through our GSA lease program, and I was all over it.

For techies like me, it's cool to learn about this somewhat new technology, and help dispel the mythology that often accompanies challenges to the old way of doing business.

For those charged with helping find ways to be good shepherds of our environment, hybrid vehicles offer some real potential. You don't have to cling to a particular political persuasion to agree that using less fuel is a good thing; and with gas prices constantly on the rise, less consumption will keep our dollars where they need to be: focused on the mission.

So I'm excited to be part of this "experiment," and we're tracking this one very closely to help us understand how a technology insertion along these lines will benefit our conservation campaign. In this case, it's not just a matter of increased fuel economy. So far, the numbers are very encouraging, and we are optimistic that we can cut the fuel cost by about two thirds, but we're taking into account a "total cost of ownership" on this to make sure we haven't grabbed the wrong tool for the job.

This is where our test acumen will come in very handy. The task of collecting the right kind of data and actually understanding what it means as part of a "system" is right in our wheel house. I have no doubt we'll make very well-informed decisions on how or if to expand the use of these kinds of vehicles.

How's it going so far? Very interesting. The car generates a wealth of information, including detailed reports on every trip, including time, distance, fuel used and average fuel economy for the trip, the tank and the life of the vehicle.

Like all vehicles, use is a huge factor, and "your mileage may vary" is an understatement to say the least. Driving habits play a big part as well, and this car will punish leadfoots. But with a little tweaking, I've been able to get the average just above 35 mpg, and I know "Big Red" never saw the north side of 17 mpg.

On a recent trip across the base, (combined time in the industrial area and a run out to UTSI) the car reported only 0.19 gallons of fuel used. I've had the car three weeks now, and haven't put a drop in the tank. Granted, I don't really rack up the miles, but I'm thinking we can go three or four months before we hit the pumps, and that's pretty cool.
In the end, I hope this will go beyond the short term intended purpose and help anyone interested better understand how this solution might fit in their own decision matrix, particularly if your daily commute exceeds 15 or 20 miles each way.

So, keep on the lookout for our "Hybrid Report Card." We'll keep you posted every step of the way, and if we've done this right, the "Green" will be ours.