Toyota Prius at US Capitol, by Flickr user Izik

Toyota Prius at US Capitol, by Flickr user Izik

You may recall a few weeks back we reported on police forces all around the nation downsizing their vehicle fleets from big and brawny V-8 sedans to a new-generation of V-6 sedans and SUVs.

Turns out the federal government is following suit, switching its vehicle fleet from mostly full-size cars to more subcompacts and hybrids in an effort to curb its overall fuel consumption.

In charge of the federal vehicle fleet is the General Services Administration (GSA), which is responsible for some 400,000 vehicles that make up the current fleet and overlooks the purchasing of an additional 60,000 to 65,000 vehicles per year.

This is a lot of vehicles so any improvement in fuel economy across the board, no matter how marginal, will result in significant savings in fuel costs as well as emissions.

So far this year the GSA has ordered around 35,000 new cars, which combined offer a fuel economy that’s 21 percent better than the cars in the existing fleet. The average mpg is 23.4, up from last year's 19.1, and this in turn leads to a direct saving of around $9 million per annum.

Not only that but the switch to cleaner vehicles is also helping to spur the development of more fuel efficient models, especially here in the U.S. This is because the GSA is keen to buy locally built vehicles, including hybrids and eventually plug-in hybrids. In fact the GSA plans to add around 100 plug-in hybrids to the federal fleet later this year.

However, hybrids and plug-in hybrids tend to only make sense in the city, as proven by NYC taxis, but for the open road the government, along with the GSA, is touting the benefits of E85 vehicles. As mandated by a 1992 law, E85 vehicles are in fact classified as advanced technology vehicles, along with hybrids and electric vehicles, so this does still fit President Barack Obama’s promise to only buy advanced technology vehicles by 2015 for official use.

Unfortunately, only about 1 percent of gas stations actually offer E85 fuel so the chances of feds using the so-called green fuel are next to nil.

Oh, and the presidential motorcade and other specialized vehicles are exempt from Obama’s advanced technology vehicle promise. Thus, the presidential limousine will remain an 8 mpg guzzler.

[The Detroit News]


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