The top 25 most sustainable fleets

However you look at it, 2020 is a turning point for fleets. 

Thanks to converging forces — including supportive policies, dropping battery costs, and aggressive climate goals — transportation leaders at large and small organizations are increasingly turning to new zero-emission and low-carbon options that decarbonize fleets and in some cases save money.

Fleets are often the workhorses that toil behind the scenes: the garbage trucks that pick up your trash before dawn; the long-haul semi-trucks that move goods from the port; the bucket trucks that utilities use to fix power lines and keep your lights on; the delivery vans that drop off your packages and help you stay safe inside your homes.

The definition of fleet is evolving. Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft own vehicles, but they're also working to help drivers that own their own vehicles move into EVs. The young e-scooter companies also own large "fleets," although not in the traditional sense

Fleet leaders are also facing increasing pressure. Policies such as California's Advanced Clean Truck rule are forcing organizations in the state to phase in zero-emission trucks and phase out fossil fuel-based ones. Progressive cities, many in Europe, are building zones in downtown centers that are banning fossil-fuel vehicles and incentivizing zero-emission models. A global company that wants to deliver goods to residents in cities such as London, Paris, Madrid, and soon Santa Monica, California, will need zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) fleets or it will lose business.

ZEVs are also an opportunity for fleets. Certain types of vehicles — including transit and school buses, delivery vans, and light-duty cars — can save fleet owners considerable money when they're switched to electric. Other types of fleets such as long-haul trucks will take a lot& longer to go electric. 

One of the biggest concerns for fleet leaders is how to design, plan, deploy, and manage the complicated infrastructure that sometimes can be required to charge or fuel various types of fleets. Investments in software and data, as well as building deep relationships with utilities, will be key to helping fleets navigate this daunting ecosystem.

Another chief concern is a lack of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicle models from major OEMs in the U.S. that fit fleets' needs. Time and again, fleet leaders say there just aren't enough ZEV vehicles available for them to buy, and the ones that are available are just too expensive without incentives right now.

The pandemic has created unique challenges for fleets, including safety concerns for drivers, additional vehicle cleaning costs, and the need to redesign operations around social distancing measures.

But the pandemic also has shone a spotlight on just how important many of these fleets are — in midst of the most aggressive lockdowns, trucks were running lifesaving groceries and personal protective equipment to communities and hospitals across the U.S.

So here's our list, in alphabetical order, of 25 organizations taking important steps to decarbonize their fleets, buying (or planning to buy) new zero-emission vehicles, and making the still-difficult choice to be an early adopter. The list includes public agencies, big corporations, small companies, school districts, utilities — it runs the gamut. 

To hear from some of these fleet leaders — including Seattle's Philip Saunders, Port Authority NY and NJ's Christine Weydig, Anheuser-Busch's Angie Slaughter, Walmart's Zach Freeze, Amazon's Ross Rachey, IKEA's Angela Hultberg, FedEx's Russ Musgrove, Genentech's Andy Jefferson, and Lime's Andrew Savage — tune into VERGE 20 across the next five days. The keynotes are free, but you'll need to buy a pass for the transportation deep-dive sessions

Mercedes-Benz electric delivery van
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Amazon

Amazon's domination of commerce and delivery means it's got a lot of emissions from the vehicles that deliver orders to our doorsteps every day. But in early 2019, Amazon announced an industry-first for a delivery company: It pledged that half of all of its shipments would be net-zero carbon by 2030. The entire company (including transportation) will be net-zero carbon by 2040.

In true Amazon form, the company has written its own vehicle playbook and disrupted the status quo. While many fleet managers are challenged to find vehicles available that they can buy, Amazon routed around that problem by investing in — and planning to buy — 100,000 electric trucks from startup Rivian. Will Rivian eventually be a division of Amazon? Maybe: It would make sense for Amazon to bring vehicle production in-house in its constant bid for vertical integration.

But Amazon is also buying electric versions of the Mercedes-Benz sprinter van that dominates delivery markets. For now, we're eagerly watching and waiting for more details about Amazon's growing zero-emission and low-carbon vehicle fleet.

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Anheuser-Busch

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. subsidiary of AB InBev, delivers about a million shipments of its beer per year, largely in trucks carrying beers such as Budweiser and Stella Artois to grocery stores and bars around the U.S. Of course, all that trucking delivers a big greenhouse gas footprint: 10 percent of Anheuser-Busch's carbon emissions come from transportation.

But the beverage maker has a big sustainability plan and is taking a first-mover approach to decarbonizing its dedicated fleet of around 1,600 vehicles. The company has an order to buy up to 800 of Nikola Motor's hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks and 40 Tesla Semi trucks. It could be one of the first fleets in the country to get long-haul zero-emission vehicles, and it has a plan to convert its entire long-haul dedicated fleet to ZEVs by 2025. At the same time, it's already adopting renewable natural gas to power its natural gas trucks in its short-haul fleet. 

Overall, Anheuser-Busch has a goal to slash carbon emissions by a quarter across its entire supply chain by 2025. Just a short five years away.

 

An Antelope Valley Transit Authority bus on the road.

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Antelope Valley Transit Authority

This summer, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) — a transit organization that serves the Southern California cities of Lancaster and Palmdale — hit a milestone: 3 million miles of zero-emission bus operation. The group's fleet consists of 93 buses, 61 of which are zero-emission buses, and the majority of those are BYD-made electric models.

The transit authority was one of the first in the U.S. to make a major commitment to electric buses four years ago, partly thanks to its close proximity to the American headquarters of BYD in Lancaster. A former BYD exec even joined AVTA as its CEO and has helped lead the e-bus transition.

AVTA says in addition to slashed carbon emissions and local air pollution, it's been able to save 769,231 gallons of diesel fuel, the equivalent of more than $1 million in fuel cost savings. 

Denver International Airport
 

Denver International Airport

If you've ever flown through Denver's International Airport, you know the city prides itself on its innovative design and customer-friendly amenities. But it's also been aggressively adopting zero- and low-emission vehicles. 

Our friends at 100 Best Fleets named Denver International Airport the second greenest fleet in America. It's got close to 300 alternative-fueled vehicles, including electric, hybrid, and natural gas buses, sweepers, and light-duty vehicles. The airport also incentivizes hybrid taxis and vans by reducing their access fees to the airport.

Airport shuttle buses are a key area where electric vehicles will be able to make a dent, given their dedicated and short routes. States such as California are mandating that its 13 largest airports move their shuttle buses to zero-emission operations by 2035.

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Facebook

Facebook might not be thought of as a fleet leader, but two years ago Facebook acquired 43 BYD-made electric on-campus shuttles that can carry employees across its sprawling complex. At the time, the social media giant leveraged a unique financing deal led by Generate Capital to lease the vehicles, lowering the upfront costs.

Facebook says it's investigating how it can electrify its commuter shuttle buses. Facebook started testing out a double-decker electric commuter shuttle bus last year and had planned to test more out this year. However, the pandemic and remote work has thrown a wrench into many companies' commuter ZEV bus plans.

FedEx Earthsmart
 

An Earthsmart FedEx zero-emission all-electrical truck in Lower Manhattan on July 17, 2014.
FedEx

Delivery trucks are a key type of vehicle ready for electrification. Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this year declared delivery trucks to be the "next segment to cross the tipping point" and an electric "killer app." 

FedEx, which has more than 100,000 vehicles in its Express division across the world, has been working on its zero-emission and low-carbon vehicle program for a couple of years. Two years ago, FedEx announced a partnership with startup Chanje to add 1,000 Chanje electric delivery vehicles to its fleet: 100 bought outright and 900 leased through Ryder. Chanje is also supplying FedEx with EV charging infrastructure 

FedEx recently told the New York Times that it added close to 400 electric vehicles in its fleet internationally last year, which brought its total EVs to close to 3,000, including forklifts and airport ground service equipment.  

 

One of Genentech's electric buses, made by BYD.

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Genentech

Biotech giant Genentech is a surprising fleet leader: It's got the most aggressive electric commuter bus programs around, in addition to its other EV fleet goals.

Two years ago, the company started running electric BYD-made commuter buses to move its employees across the sprawling San Francisco Bay Area — from as far north as Vacaville to as far south as San Jose — to its headquarters in South San Francisco. While many companies are hesitant to rely on EVs for such long routes, Genentech took the plunge. And the company says it is happy with the results. Today, Genentech is in the process of converting close to half of its 60 buses on batteries. 

In addition to its electric commuter buses, Genentech has committed to converting its entire light-duty sales fleet of 1,200 cars to electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030.

 

IKEA is using an electric truck fleet in Shanghai to deliver its products to customers.

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Ingka Group (IKEA)

Inkga Group, aka IKEA, has its own unique take on a ZEV fleet. The company doesn't own its own vehicles, but its products are delivered via 10,000 vehicles globally, owned by delivery companies such as DHL and UPS.

As a result, IKEA is using its large footprint to partner, push, and pull its partners into ZEVs. IKEA says by 2025 all last-mile delivery of its goods will be done in electric vehicles. And by the end of this year (yes, 2020), IKEA says it will electrify its last-mile delivery in Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam.

It's already happened in Shanghai and other cities are well underway. Los Angeles is proving a little more challenging, IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Pia Heidenmark Cook said recently during a session at Climate Week. But if companies don't push themselves, they won't make progress.

LeasePlan
 

LeasePlan

Netherlands-based LeasePlan is a large fleet management company that mostly operates in Europe but also has a solid presence in the U.S. We're including the company because it was a founding member of the Climate Group's EV100 Program and because of its first-of-its-kind ZEV fleet commitment. 

The company has pledged to zero out its emissions for all of its customers' fleets — at a whopping 1.8 million vehicles — by 2030. What's more, it also plans to electrify its own employee fleet by 2021. These kinds of commitments are still unheard of broadly in the U.S.

Europe is moving at a much faster trajectory toward electric vehicles than the U.S., despite the U.S.'s being the birthplace of EV leader Tesla. Many European countries and cities are committing to provide incentives for electric vehicles and banning fossil-fuel ones from city centers.

 

Lime's 3.0 scooter.

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Lime

Lime is our wildcard on the top fleets list. The electric scooter company operates a fleet of well over 100,000 electric scooters, as well as owned and leased trucks and vans that the company uses to move around its scooters. 

Earlier this year, Lime pledged — as part of the EV100 — to transition its entire fleet of vehicles to electric by 2030. It's already powering its scooters and operations with clean energy as well as buying carbon offsets to neutralize emissions. Recently Lime also announced a partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation, which includes programs around education, advocacy, and carbon innovation.

Next up for Lime? The scooter company is looking at a new warehouse space where it can optimize charging infrastructure for an electric fleet. It's also partnered with Ceres to help advocate for policies that will support a transition to electric fleets.

 

Electrify America and Lyft partnered to bring chargers to Lyft EV drivers in Denver.

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Lyft

Electrifying ride-hailing will be tricky, given most ride-hailing drivers own their own vehicles. But this summer, ride-hailing giant Lyft announced it plans to transition to 100 percent electric vehicles — both for the vehicles it owns and driver-owned vehicles — by 2030.

It'll take a big lift, a lot of outside-the-box thinking, and major policy support to get there. But the time is now, and Uber set a similar goal after Lyft.

Some policies are moving the ride-hailing giants in that direction. Cities, many of them in Europe, are setting incentives and mandates to ban fossil-fuel vehicles and transition to zero-emission vehicles in city centers. States such as California are setting specific rules for the ride-hailing companies to track and reduce their emissions.

City of Oakland, California
 

City of Oakland

The city of Oakland in California has a long history of setting climate and sustainability goals, and in 2003 adopted a green fleet policy. As a result of a holistic and innovative approach, the city — which uses 1,500 types of vehicles — no longer uses diesel-powered vehicles and is using a combination of low-carbon fuels, compressed natural gas, and electric vehicles.

Its circular renewable diesel fueling system is unique in the country. It takes waste grease and oils from local businesses and its partner Neste converts them to renewable diesel, which then powers many of Oakland's trucks. Richard Battersby, assistant director at Oakland Public Works, is a leader in the green fleet space for his work on Oakland's fleet.

This summer, Oakland adopted an equitable climate plan with ambitious targets for 2030, calling for a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases relative to 2005 levels. The end goal is carbon neutrality. 

PG&E electric bucket truck
 

PG&E

Northern California's Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has spent the last few years building out an electric fleet of 1,360 electric vehicles to add to the thousands of other vehicles in its low-carbon fleet that use sources such as natural gas and biodiesel. The company uses vehicles such as pickup trucks, bucket trucks, and light-duty vehicles for various operations.

PG&E's goal is to electrify 100 percent of its light-duty vehicles, 10 percent of its medium-duty vehicles, and 5 percent of its heavy-duty vehicles. There are particular challenges with battery range when it comes to electrifying heavy-duty emergency response vehicles and other work vehicles that don't have unpredictable and lengthy routes.

In addition to transforming its own fleet, PG&E is supporting the uptake of EVs for its 23,000 employees and has installed more than 1,230 charging stations at its facilities. It makes sense for utilities to be early adopters of fleet electrification, given they are helping their customers make a similar transition and need to learn their customers' experience.

 

PepsiCo

Global beverage behemoth PepsiCo has an overarching goal to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. It's got a lot of work to do across packaging, water, the sources for its products, and — its fleet. The company runs vehicles such as long-haul trucks, yard trucks, and forklifts to move its various products — from soft drinks to snacks to bottled water — across the globe.

PepsiCo is building out a pilot facility with various low-carbon and electric vehicles at its Frito Lay campus in Modesto, California. The site, leveraging state incentives, will use 15 electric Tesla Semi Trucks, six electric Peterbilt e220 straight trucks, three BYD electric yard trucks, 12 BYD electric forklifts, and 38 Volvo natural gas trucks fueled by renewable natural gas. The facility also will deploy charging and fueling infrastructure as well as solar and onsite battery storage.

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Portland General Electric

In September, Portland-based utility Portland General Electric announced that it plans to electrify large portions of its 1,167 vehicles. It already has 91 EVs in use, but the new commitment will deploy 600 electric vehicles and retire 600 fossil fuel-burning vehicles over the next 10 years.

The goal is for its fleet to be 61 percent electric within a decade. Like with Pacific Gas & Electric, the really heavy-duty trucks — bucket trucks and dump trucks — will be the hardest to electrify, and Portland General Electric plans to transition 30 percent of those.

Beyond fleet electrification, Portland General Electric has been a leader when it comes to trying to proactively find ways to enable the EVs on its network to be a net benefit. It's been building out smart grid tech and testing out a virtual power plant. The company's electric vehicles go hand-in-hand with its clean energy goals, and Portland General Electric expects to serve half of its customers with renewable-generated electricity by 2022. 

An electric bus run by Port Authority NY & NJ
 

Port Authority New York and New Jersey

Port Authority New York and New Jersey has the largest electric bus fleet on the East Coast, including 36 buses and 19 chargers, at the region's three biggest airports. The organization recently said it had reached its goal to have a 100 percent electric bus fleet by the end of this year (close to three months early).

Beyond the bus fleet, 130 of the organization's light-duty vehicles, used by employees and police officers, are electric. By 2023, Port Authority says over 600 — or 50 percent of its light-duty fleet — will be electric. 

Port Authority's fleet goals are all part of its overarching plan to reach a 35 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Two electric Fiat's charge up as Salt River Project's commercial EV customers
 

Salt River Project

Tempe, Arizona-based Salt River Project (SRP) provides electricity and power to 1 million residents in central Arizona. The company has spent the past six years investigating and piloting electric vehicle tech for its employees, its fleet, and its customers. 

Today, SRP uses close to 200 electric vehicles, both on-road and offroad, including light-duty vehicles, bucket trucks, forklifts, and utility carts. The organization also has the largest workplace EV charging program in Arizona, with close to 200 employees driving plug-in vehicles to SRP's facility. SRP says this program is expected to grow to 450 employees (or 7 percent of its workforce) over the next five years.

Down the road, SRP's goals are to electrify 100 percent of its sedan fleet by the end of 2021 and reduce 30 percent of its fleet emissions by 2035. In addition, SRP expects 500,000 customers using EVs by 2035, and it will build plans and programs to help charge 90 percent of those customers' EV loads. 

A Valley Transit Authority bus picking up passengers
 

Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority

The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, which provides buses, light rail, paratransit, and BART stations for greater Silicon Valley, has been an early transit group to codify sustainability goals, to implement clean energy technologies, and, two years ago, to deploy electric buses. 

In 2018, VTA put its first five electric buses, built by Proterra and using DC fast charging infrastructure made by Chargepoint, into service. The company has plans to procure 35 more electric buses over the next several years, on its way to meeting California's mandate that says all transit buses must be zero-emission by 2040.

VTA closely tracks its energy use for its fleet. Its goals are to reduce its fleet's energy consumption by 35 percent below 2009 levels by 2025 and 60 percent by 2040. 

Schneider Electric workers
 

Schneider Electric

Earlier this year, energy company Schneider Electric announced that it's joining the Climate Group's EV100 program and will transition its entire 14,000 vehicle fleet to electric by 2030. The company is based in France but has operations across the globe.

The company sells EV charging equipment and software, among many other energy and grid products, so it makes sense for it to use this huge commitment to learn more about what its customers are experiencing. Schneider Electric is also installing EV charging equipment at its facilities for its employees. 

City of Seattle
City of Seattle

Over the last decade, the greater Puget Sound region has been looking to reduce its carbon emissions from transportation, which accounts for 60 percent of its total emissions. Alongside that regional issue, the city of Seattle has an aggressive and multi-pronged green fleet strategy for its over 6,000 vehicles, across departments such as police, fire, and utilities. 

Seattle's future fleet goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025 and using only fossil-fuel-free vehicles by 2030. The fleet team, led by Philip Saunders, is looking to rapidly electrify, build out EV charging infrastructure, aggressively reduce fuel use, swap in low-carbon fuels for certain types of vehicles, and pilot technologies that are not yet cost-effective or widely available.

The company uses a wide range of technologies including renewable diesel, biodiesel, propane, and EVs. 

Twin Rivers school buses running on renewable diesel
 

Twin Rivers School District

Three years ago, Twin Rivers School District in California became one of the first school districts in the U.S. to deploy electric school buses. Today the organization operates 35 electric school buses, and over the next three years, it plans to convert the bulk of its fleet, or 91 school buses, to electric.

In the interim, Twin Rivers has natural gas buses, some of which run on renewable natural gas, and is running all of its diesel buses on renewable diesel from Neste. Following the switch to renewable diesel, it's entire fleet is fossil-fuel-free. 

Twin Rivers Director of Transportation Tim Shannon told GreenBiz in an interview earlier this year that the organization is already using the electric buses to pilot the vehicle-to-grid technology with Sacramento Municipal Utility District. It's not just about cool tech, though. Shannon explains: "Our green bus program is taking an area that is highly densely populated, we're transporting a lot of kids, we're a disadvantaged community and a high rate of air pollution. We're lowering all that, and we're making it an eco-friendly place to live."

 

Look how happy everyone is in this Uber!
Uber

Following Lyft's announcement, Uber revealed that it, too, plans to transition to an all zero-emission fleet. Uber says it will reach that goal by 2040. First, it will have 100 percent of its rides in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, be electric by 2030. 

Uber already has made progress in cities such as London, where it's moving to an all-electric fleet. Uber says it will commit $800 million to help drivers on its platform move to EVs by 2025. The company also operates scooters and bikes, and its app encourages riders to use public transit. 

The ride-hailing giants need to move to ZEV as cities and states pressure them with mandates. The California Air Resources Board recently found that the carbon emissions of Uber and Lyft's vehicle fleet per passenger mile are over 50 percent higher than regular cars driving on the roads. 

Unilever Rotterdam office
 

Unilever

The consumer product company, based in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, says it will commit its entire global fleet of 11,000 vehicles to electric by 2030 as part of the Climate Group's EV100 program. Its interim goals are 25 percent EV or hybrid by 2020, and 50 percent by 2025.

Unilever has broader sustainability goals beyond its fleet, which include becoming "carbon positive" in its operations by 2030; 100 percent of its energy will come from renewables. 

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The UPS Rolling Laboratory of about 9,300 alternative vehicles includes more than 1,000 electric and hybrid electric delivery trucks in cities worldwide. Source: UPS

UPS

For several years UPS has been operating its "rolling laboratory" approach to piloting and deploying low-carbon and electric vehicles. Of its fleet of 125,000 package vans, trucks, motorcycles, and tractors, UPS has 10,300 alternative-fuels vehicles, and it's done a substantial project in London with smart grid tech and EVs.

Earlier this year, UPS kicked its EV plans into overdrive. UPS announced it plans to buy 10,000 electric vehicles from partner Arrival, purpose-built for UPS. At the same time, UPS made an investment in the startup through its venture arm, UPS Ventures. 

The strategy is similar to Amazon's move with Rivian. The OEMs haven't been producing the vehicles that these large fleets want and need, so the biggest companies are diving into the supply chain to help create their own.

Walmart Fleet
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Walmart

Walmart is just starting its green fleet journey but kicked off the move with a bang by announcing in late 2020 that it would transition its entire fleet to zero emissions by 2040, including its long-haul trucks.

Up until now, much of Walmart's strategy has been around piloting the technology, adopting some zero-emission vehicles at its Canadian facility, and aggressively adopting fuel-efficiency measures. Walmart has a fleet of over 10,000 vehicles including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles.

Walmart's senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, Zach Freeze, told GreenBiz that "more needs to be done," and Walmart wants to set the ambitious goal of zero-emission across the company. "In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet," Freeze said.