Massachusetts has awarded the first grant from a new state program to put more hybrid or electric vehicles on the state’s roads. A Springfield-based child care agency is leading the way, converting its fleet of vans to hybrid technology.
Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Maeve Vallely Bartlett announced that a fleet of vans owned by Square One will be retrofitted to run on hybrid gasoline-electric technology with the help of a $50,000 grant from the state.
"These vans will help the daycare center save a huge amount in gas and reduce the pollution created."
It is the first funding awarded from the Clean Vehicle Grant Program which has $11 million available over the next three years to provide incentives to the owners of commercial vehicle fleets in Massachusetts to reduce gasoline consumption.
"It can also be for purchasing vehicles. It would give you the difference between purchasing a new vehicle and one with environmental controls on it."
Bartlett said money for the program comes from the federal government and also from fines the state collects from the owners of trucks and buses that violate restrictions on vehicle idling time limits. The state is reviewing fifty grant applications.
This is one of several strategies the state is using to reduce the transportation sector’s 37- percent contribution to the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the state’s acting energy commissioner Meg Lusardi.
"We have several grant and incentive programs to encourage the deployment of electric and alternative-fuel vehicles throughout the Commonweath."
Square One’s fleet of 11 vans pick up more than 1,000 children daily and transport them to daycare centers throughout Springfield. The retrofits are projected to reduce gasoline use by more than 2,700 gallons annually and save nearly $9,000 at current prices.
Square One CEO Joan Kagan said the savings will help the non-profit direct more money toward staffing and services to children.
" We are also very committed to creating a healthy environment for our children, so this was a natural for us to go in this direction."
Square One’s vans are being retrofitted with a technology developed by a Massachusetts-based company XL Hybrids, which was founded six years ago and has deployed the technology to customers in 40 states
An electric motor, a lithium ion battery pack, and control software are added to the vehicle, while retaining the internal combustion engine and transmission. The hybrid system saves fuel through regenerative braking, a process by which the electric motor helps slow the vehicle when the brakes are applied, charging the battery. The electric motor then accelerates the vehicle from a stop.
Ed Lovelace, the chief technology officer for XL Hybrids said the proprietary technology delivers a 25 percent increase in miles driven per gallon.
"This has had extremely good uptake with large commercial fleets that have high fuel bills. They see a two to three times return on asset installing our system and that is without any government incentives attached to it."
Lovelace said it takes just 5 hours to retrofit a vehicle.