Grounds Utility Vehicle Carbon Footprint Comparison

Green Seed Fund Project Grounds Utility Vehicle Carbon Footprint Comparison
Total Amount Awarded: $32,170

Final report poster or presentation: View the PDF

This project will compare the utility performance of two different fuel-sourced vehicles at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens’ Washington Park Arboretum (WPA): electric and biodiesel, as well as the carbon footprint of the University of Washington associated with the operation of maintenance utility vehicles. As per the University of Washington Climate Action Plan, reduction of Scope 1 or direct emissions is necessary to keep the university in compliance with Washington State law. Reduction of Scope 1 emissions by the WPA grounds crew (and other UW grounds crews informed by our research) will also help the university achieve its goal of producing zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The use of University vehicles on the Seattle campus equals 1.48% of CO2 equivalent of scope 1 emissions. These are direct emissions, or pollutants directly originating from real estate or equipment owned by the university; a category of emissions that the university has more ability to control over scopes 2 and 3 emissions. This research will help grounds departments of all three campuses, as well as the WPA, to reduce and potentially eliminate grounds vehicles’ contribution to the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the UWBG horticulture and maintenance staff relies on a mixed fleet of electric and diesel utility vehicles to care for the grounds and plant collections. Recent purchases of electric vehicles have been driven by the desire to reduce the university’s carbon footprint, but often power and usability are compromised in these vehicles causing staff to more frequently rely on diesel power vehicles that contribute to the university’s greenhouse gas emissions. This project will gather data that would inform grounds vehicle purchasing decisions regarding a vehicle that is strong enough for the daily needs of the WPA staff without contributing to the university’s production of greenhouse gas emissions.

Relevance to UW Sustainability Goals:

The specific goal of this research is to lower the carbon footprint of the WPA ground utility vehicles without compromising the associated strength, durability and user satisfaction of the vehicles. As per the University of Washington Climate Action Plan, reduction of Scope 1, or direct emissions, is necessary to keep the university in compliance with the gradual reductions of greenhouse gasses required under Washington State law. Reduction or elimination of Scope 1 emissions by the WPA grounds crew (and other UW grounds crews informed by our research) will also help the university achieve its goal of producing zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We will share the results of our work with the UW grounds crew to determine if they also should make a shift to new fuel sources for their grounds maintenance vehicles.

Currently, the use of university vehicles on the Seattle campus equals 1.48% of CO2 equivalent of scope 1 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions, or pollutants directly originating from real estate or equipment owned by the university; a category of emissions that the university has more ability to control over than scopes 2 and 3 emissions. This research will help grounds departments of all three campuses, as well as the WPA, reduce and potentially eliminate grounds vehicles’ contribution to the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Timeline:

A one-year timeline, beginning February 2014 and ending January 31st, 2015 is required for this proposal. This timeframe would allow us to test each vehicle in all four seasons and all types of weather and would allow time for potential problems with the biodiesel conversion to manifest and be resolved.

Major milestones in this proposal would be seasonal and would include evaluating each vehicle in the coldest months as well as the warmest months of the year. A quarterly report will be created to compare the fuel usage over the four quarters as well as the practicality of using both vehicles in all weather conditions.

*NOTE: Per team timeline extended by six weeks to mid-March. 

 

Primary Faculty:
Rick  
Gustafson
Primary Staff:
Kathleen  
DeMaria
Primary Student:
Christopher 
Watson

This project was funded during the 2013-2014 academic year.