Greening Our Fleet

PG&E’s fleet includes North America’s first all-electric powered bucket truck.

PG&E owns and operates a fleet of approximately 12,000 vehicles and ancillary equipment to provide safe, reliable and efficient gas and electric service to customers, including emergency response capabilities. In fact, each year, our employees drive more than 110 million miles in PG&E vehicles to serve our customers.

For more than two decades, we have actively incorporated more efficient and sustainable transportation technologies into the fleet. Today, we are investing in a range of electric, natural gas and hybrid vehicles and other high-efficiency technologies to reduce emissions, operating costs and dependency on petroleum-based fuels.

Meeting Federal and State Requirements

PG&E remains focused on meeting aggressive federal and state vehicle emission and alternative fuel requirements. Federal regulations require that 90 percent of all light-duty vehicles purchased for our fleet be capable of using an alternative fuel—either compressed natural gas or electricity—provided the technology is commercially available. In addition, state air quality regulations require us to replace different categories of vehicles and equipment—such as portable engines, forklifts, dump trucks and heavy-duty construction equipment such as line trucks and tractors—within specific timeframes.

We are working to meet these requirements in a way that fosters innovation and economic vitality. This includes partnering with vehicle manufacturers to design and test new types of vehicles and technologies. We are also equipping selected units with GPS systems to increase the efficiency of our dispatching system and deploying lower-emitting vehicles in locations with poor air quality.

PG&E also continues to implement a plan, approved in 2009 by the California Air Resources Board, which will reduce air emissions five years earlier than required by regulation. By 2017, all heavy-duty diesel vehicles in PG&E’s fleet will meet or exceed 2010 model year tailpipe emission standards. PG&E plans to continue its leadership in this area, delivering even better results as we continue to advance electric-based transportation technologies.

Exploring the Promise of Extended-Range Electric Pickups

“Extended range” electric vehicles occupy a middle ground between traditional hybrids and 100 percent electric vehicles. As a result, they offer many of the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle, paired with the flexibility to travel longer distances when necessary.

In 2011, PG&E reached a major milestone with VIA Motors, a vehicle manufacturer that delivered two “post-prototype” extended range pick-up trucks to PG&E. The trucks can run on electric power for the first 40 miles and then use a smaller gasoline-operated engine to generate any additional electricity needed to finish a trip, resulting in fuel savings and fewer emissions.

Based on the daily miles being driven by these types of vehicles in our operations, we expect the extended range trucks to average nearly 100 miles per gallon. The vehicles also offer exportable power, which can be used by PG&E crews to run tools and lights.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is the first utility to field-test the trucks and is sharing feedback with VIA to improve the design of the next generation of these trucks. PG&E will purchase up to six of the trucks when they go into production in 2012. If testing results are positive, additional units will be added to our fleet.

Our fleet also includes more than 25 Chevrolet Volts, another extended range vehicle. The Volt travels its first 35 miles in electric mode and then switches to a gas-powered generator when the battery is expended. For short trips, the Volt can operate entirely on electric miles but in emergencies, the car can travel across our service area without the need for recharging.

Looking ahead, PG&E is also partnering with ALTe, a company that is working on a technology to convert used pick-up trucks to extended-range electric vehicles. Last year, the Utility joined the Advisory Board of ALTe.

Adopting the Industry’s First Electrified Bucket Trucks

PG&E owns and operates approximately 600 trouble trucks, which are used to inspect, repair and maintain PG&E’s vast network of transmission and distribution power lines. PG&E also owns a fleet of larger material handler trucks used to lift large pieces of equipment at the job site.

(Watch a video about how PG&E’s partnership with Altec is fostering economic vitality.)

PG&E owns and operates approximately 600 trouble trucks, which are used to inspect, repair and maintain PG&E’s vast network of transmission and distribution power lines. PG&E also owns a fleet of larger material handler trucks used to lift large pieces of equipment at the job site.

PG&E estimated that up to 30 percent of the fuel used by these trucks was consumed while idling or using the vehicle’s hydraulic lift to operate the boom at a job site. To address this challenge, PG&E and Altec Industries, our manufacturing partner, developed a first-of-its-kind plug-in battery-powered system, called the Electric Worksite Idle Management System (eWIMS). The battery operates the auxiliary systems of these trucks—lights, hydraulic lifts, heating and air conditioning and tools—while at the job site, avoiding the need to idle the vehicle’s engine.

Less idling reduces fuel consumption, saves money, prevents air emissions and provides a safer work environment by reducing noise. In 2011, we brought our fleet of eWIMS-equipped trouble trucks to 220, and we extended the technology to about 25 material handlers. This fleet of eWIMS-equipped vehicles is the largest in the nation.

Flexibility and Mobility During Emergencies

In support of a PG&E-wide focus on safety, in 2011, PG&E deployed four mobile command vehicles that can be used to respond to emergencies and protect public and employee safety. When a gas or electric emergency happens, the van will be on-site, not only providing valuable information to the crews in the field, but also as a presence that customers can see. The vehicles serve as an extension of PG&E’s Emergency Operations Centers and incident command facilities.

The self-contained units are strategically located within PG&E’s service area, enabling them to respond quickly to any type of utility emergency. The vans are packed with the tools crews need to address emergencies from the field, including a 3,000-watt on-board generator, three workstations, laptops, satellite phones, radios and a controller that allows for other radios (such as police, fire and highway patrol) to connect with PG&E radio frequencies.

More recently, PG&E deployed two additional mobile command centers that are capable of supporting major emergencies for extended periods of time. The vehicles are built on a 40-foot bus chassis and can house a dozen people for days or weeks, if needed, to address any emergency needs. Like their van counterpart, these units are some of the most technologically advanced vehicles in production.

Innovative Fleet Vehicles

As part of our commitment to reduce our operational footprint, we continue to incorporate innovative new vehicles into our fleet. Of the nearly 7,800 on-road vehicles we own, roughly 17 percent were powered by compressed natural gas, electricity or other alternative fuels at the end of 2011.

We are introducing a number of innovative vehicles into our fleet:

Plug-in Hybrid Trouble Truck. PG&E partnered with Altec Industries to develop a battery system to quietly and efficiently power equipment on our bucket trucks while at the job site. It reduces fuel use by up to 30 percent. In 2011, PG&E had 220 of these vehicles in service, with plans to add about 50 more in 2012.

Plug-in Hybrid Material Handler. Using the same technology as the trouble trucks, PG&E can operate the aerial lift on this larger bucket truck without running the engine—providing a quiet, emissions-free job site. PG&E plans to put more than 25 of these vehicles in use in 2012.

Mobile Command Vehicles. In 2011, PG&E rolled out a fleet of four 24-foot Sprinter vehicles as a mobile extension of PG&E’s Emergency Operations Center.

Extended Range Electric Pickup Truck. This is the first-ever purpose built extended range electric pickup truck. The truck was developed by PG&E in partnership with VIA Motors Manufacturing and power train engineering company AVL.

Hybrid Mini-Excavator. We are working to develop a hybrid mini-excavator, equipment that is used by our gas operations. Smaller than backhoes, these vehicles are increasingly used by PG&E. We will be testing various advanced hybrid technologies.

Chevrolet Volt. PG&E has more than 25 Volts in our fleet. They are designed to run the first 35 miles on a battery and then another 300 miles on a gas-powered electric generator—giving our employees the flexibility they need.

All-Electric Service Truck. The E-Star is the first all-electric truck in its weight class. It was developed by the Navistar-Modec Electric Vehicle Alliance with PG&E as the utility launch partner. It is fuel-emissions-free and has a range of up to 100 miles on a battery charge—a perfect fit for travel around our power plants, as well as substation and urban locations like San Francisco.

Servicing Our Fleet

To support the growing electrification of our fleet, PG&E is installing charging infrastructure at our facilities. In 2011, we expanded our network of charging stations to include more than 80 at 19 locations across our service area.

PG&E also consumes petroleum and bio-diesel to power many of the vehicles in our fleet. The following chart shows PG&E’s fuel usage over the past three years.

Transportation Fuel Consumed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company
2009 2010 2011
Petroleum Consumed by PG&E Fleet (gallons) 10,087,653 10,471,788 10,101,009
Bio-Diesel Consumed by PG&E Fleet (gallons) 132,024 268,004 221,118

Supporting Natural Gas Vehicles

PG&E’s fleet includes approximately 885 compressed natural gas (CNG) passenger cars, pickups, vans and trucks. We also maintain a network of 32 CNG facilities and one liquefied natural gas (LNG) station, 25 of which are open to customers. PG&E uses its expertise to help customers take advantage of this relatively low-emitting, domestic alternative fuel in their own fleets.

The combined use of natural gas in PG&E’s vehicle fleet, along with the fleets of customers, avoided the use of nearly 18 million gallons of petroleum last year, which equals the avoidance of approximately 790 tons of NOX, 60 tons of particulate matter and 59,230 metric tons of CO2 on a ”well-to-wheel” basis (see the footnote below for an explanation of this term).

TIP: Click on the items in the chart legend to selectively remove or restore chart data.

1 These figures represent a full “well-to-wheel” analysis, which takes into account energy use and emissions at every stage of the process, from the moment the fuel is produced at the well to the moment the wheels are moved. Estimates compare the avoided emissions from PG&E’s CNG vehicles to petroleum usage based on the methodology outlined in Full Fuel Cycle Assessment (CEC-600-2007-003, June 2007), which uses the Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET emission model modified to California inputs.

TIP: Click on the items in the chart legend to selectively remove or restore chart data.

1 These figures represent a full “well-to-wheel” analysis, which takes into account energy use and emissions at every stage of the process, from the moment the fuel is produced at the well to the moment the wheels are moved. Estimates compare the avoided emissions from PG&E’s CNG vehicles to petroleum usage based on the methodology outlined in Full Fuel Cycle Assessment (CEC-600-2007-003, June 2007), which uses the Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET emission model modified to California inputs.