With all of the choices available in alternative fuels and clean power technologies, choosing the right green vehicle for your needs can be a tough decision, especially for fleet buyers looking to make multiple purchases. Being able to demo a variety of green vehicles under actual working conditions would be the ideal solution, and the Midwest Drives Initiative is doing just that for fleets looking to make the clean driving switch.

JOHN DAVIS: With corporate giants like UPS, Coca-Cola and Waste Management leading the way, America’s commercial vehicle fleets are putting thousands of clean fuel vehicles on the road every year, and reaping the benefits in fuel savings, reduced tailpipe emissions and lower maintenance costs.

But for smaller businesses and municipalities, even a single vehicle purchase can have a huge impact on the bottom line, so buying the right cars and trucks is crucial.

Midwest Drives is a collaboration between Clean Cities Coalitions in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, that is working with vehicle and technology suppliers to place alt-fuel demo vehicles, ranging from light duty EV’s all the way to CNG fueled big rigs, for short-term loans in fleets throughout the Midwest.

Indiana University, for instance has just taken delivery of this Nissan Leaf, to be used around campus and for local trips.

KEVIN WHITED: “Our campus fleet consists of regular automobiles, small passenger vans, a couple small buses…obviously the police vehicles are in that fleet as well. So, it really runs the gamut. Say, a professor or faculty staff check it out and go to a meeting in Indianapolis or another town in Indiana. There’s not many cars in our motor pool that travel more than, you know, 30 to 50 miles a day. Depending on how this works for us, we’d like to turn over at least 20 to 30% of our fleet to electric vehicles”

JOHN DAVIS: The city of Dublin, Ohio is no stranger to alternative fuels, with 61 natural gas trucks already in their fleet. The city’s public access CNG station has pumped more than 500,000 gallon equivalents since 2012.

Now they are trying out a Nissan Leaf along with a CNG-powered Chevy Trax to see if these clean compacts are the right size for their light-duty applications.

JOHN HYATT: The inspector that’s driving the Chevy Trax is very happy with it. It’s easier to get in and out than the larger F-250 he was currently driving. The efficiency is a lot better. I think we’ve only filled it up twice, where normally he’s filling up every day with the F-250. We want to find the best fit for the city, on the alternative fuels. We’re a very green city and we look forward to different alternative vehicles in our fleet.”

JOHN DAVIS: TAG landscaping is a small Ohio business looking to grow green. They recently switched all of their lawn care equipment to propane power.

TRENT GROVE: Maintenance is a huge thing for us. It’s very easy to use. We can fill our tanks and run them for almost a week for what we do. We don’t have the spillage of gas that you have on a typical machine. It burns a lot cleaner, so you don’t have the same fumes and stuff just running the machine, and again, we are going green, so we want all our machines to be environmentally friendly as well.“

JOHN DAVIS: Through the Midwest Drives Initiative, TAG was able to try out a propane-powered Ford F-250, to see if this alt-fuel pickup could meet their transport needs, before plunking down big bucks to buy one.

TRENT GROVE:  We did not find any difference. We hauled our equipment around, we used it in the same manner we use all our other trucks, and we actually like the propane unit better.

JOHN DAVIS: The city of Indianapolis has a number of AFV’s in their fleet already, including a number of Chevy Volts, but their demo through the Midwest Drives program is this derive data logger system, which captures duty-cycle data from police interceptors and allows for the car’s engine control units to be optimized for the most fuel efficient operating parameters.

JENNIFER HASHEM: “Police fleet vehicles have a tendency to use a lot of fuel. And due to their heavy idling, we want to make sure that we’re able to strengthen fuel economy while at the same time not interfering with their performance.”

JOHN DAVIS: By allowing decision makers to test these vehicles under actual duty conditions before they buy, the Midwest drives initiative, and similar programs around the country, are making it easier than ever for fleets to drive clean into the future.