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Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC) supporter New Belgium Brewing Company (New Belgium) operates a fleet of more than 150 vehicles, approximately 20 of which are based at its headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado. Two highly recognizable Nissan LEAFs—one gray, one black, both wrapped in the company’s logo – are used for local sales calls. These vehicles represent the company’s latest efforts in sustainability. So strong in fact was the desire to begin deploying electric vehicles into the fleet, that Fleet Manager Christine Biegert actually sourced them from a dealership in California in November 2011, several months before the vehicle was made available in Colorado.
Drive Electric Northern Colorado recently sat down with Christine to learn more about New Belgium’s experience with the vehicles.
New Belgium’s fleet of passenger cars, typically used for sales purposes, numbers approximately 160 total vehicles. Already operating the highly-efficient conventional hybrid-electric Toyota Prius in this fleet, the all-electric Nissan LEAF was on Christine’s radar early. Consuming zero gasoline and emitting zero tailpipe emissions, the LEAF was a logical fit for a company that prides itself on sustainable practices.
The results of the deployment so far—approximately 18 months since the vehicles were added to the fleet—are largely positive. The vehicles have had better performance, been more reliable, saved more on maintenance, and been better received by drivers than initially expected. For their work use, the range has been more than sufficient with the vehicles rarely traveling more than 15 to 20 miles each day. The vehicles have also been well received by the people of Fort Collins who often stop drivers to ask about the technology. The one downside for the salespeople that use them, however, is a driving range that limits the ability to travel longer distances. This is most relevant during non-work hours.
“Almost 85% of the cars in the US are driven less than 20 miles a day,” said New Belgium Fleet Manager, Christine Biegert,” and the 2012 average MPG for US vehicles was 23.8 MPG. We want to pioneer efforts to increase the presence of these technologies and to push for improvement from auto makers and from power providers.”
Unlike other vehicles in their fleet, which are fueled at public retail stations, the Nissan LEAFs are charged either at the company’s headquarters or at the homes of New Belgium co-workers (New Belgium also provided a monthly stipend to help encourage them to charge at home when necessary). The company recently installed three level two charging stations,—donated by Schneider Electric. One of the chargers was installed prominently in front of the main building – free for visitors to New Belgium to charge their EV’s– and New Belgium co-workers also enjoy the benefit of charging for free while at work. They are also already seeing the impact of using Leafs in their fleet – their first Co-worker purchased a Leaf at the beginning of June.
In July, with the installation of a DC fast charger at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (announced during the launch of DENC where Christine spoke), yet another charging option became available just a few miles from headquarters.
The company participates regularly in sustainability-focused and community events locally, including ride-and-drives, helping to educate the public about sustainable business practices. New Belgium is a local leader in electric vehicle deployment and someone DENC is proud to be working with in this important effort to achieve widespread use of such vehicles in the Northern Colorado region.