Sustainablog has kept tabs through the years on traditional companies making serious efforts toward sustainability. Enterprise Holdings, encompassing Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Alamo, and National Car Rental, is one of those companies. From expansion of their hybrid rental fleet, to urban van pool programs, voluntary carbon offset programs for their customers, award-winning fleet management, or active support for biofuel research, Enterprise Holdings has consistently shown both the vision of creating a sustainable business, and the practical application to make the vision a reality.
Today we’ll look at biofuels, highlighted by Enterprise’s recent announcement of their plans to convert its entire North American fleet of airport shuttle buses across all three rental car brands to biofuel.
Last week I spoke with Lee Broughton, Enterprise Holding’s directory of sustainability, about their plans. First let’s look at the bullet points:
- The entire North American fleet of 600 busses are slated for conversion to biofuel
- The principal feedstock for the biofuel is soybean oil, but will also utilize other alternative fuels, such a algae, as the fuels become available. No corn ethanol will be used
- In 9 markets, where the infrastructure is already in place, Shuttle buses will immediately convert to B20 (20 percent biofuel blend). Those markets include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio and San Diego
- The remaining fleet will convert to B5 by the spring of this year. By the end of 2011, half of the company’s fleet will convert to B20
- Within 5 years, the entire fleet in 50 North American markets will run on B20 fuel.
- In the first year alone, the conversion will reduce petroleum consumption by approximately 420,000 gallons and curb CO2 emissions equivalent to retiring 40 buses from the Enterprise fleet
“This investment in biodiesel follows our commitment to our customers and our business to use our fleet to help grow the clean fuel market,” says Broughton. “By embracing alternative fuels and engine technologies, they have a greater opportunity to become commercially viable. Biodiesel’s benefits to the environment support our commitment to environmental stewardship, as well as our sustainable approach to managing our business for long-term success.”
A commitment to research and renewable fuels
The conversion of shuttle buses to biofuel blends is only the latest step in Enterprise’s evolving commitment to cleaner renewable fuels. In 2007 Enterprise created the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels with a 25 million dollar gift from the Taylor family, founders of Enterprise Holdings. The Institute works in conjunction with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a premier research lab based in St. Louis, the Taylor’s and Enterprise’s home town.
Dr. Richard Sayre was named director of the Institute in 2008. Dr. Sayre, whom I interviewed shortly after his appointment, is one of the premier scientists in the U.S. studying cellulosic biofuels. “The combination of energy independence and our need to identify alternative sources for our fuels is the future,” says Sayre. “I believe biofuels are bringing us a step closer to achieving these critical goals and Enterprise is enabling science to become a reality.“
Easy access to a practical marketplace is key to his work. Sayre’s research has a ready and willing “petrie dish,” as Broughton characterizes the Enterprise fleet, eager to test new fuels and methods of production and distribution.
Walking the talk
I’ve talked with Broughton three times over the past couple of years about various aspects of their sustainability efforts. The overarching message each time is the commitment Enterprise Holdings has to sustainability. It is a commitment that has evolved over the years, not come from the latest “buzz”or fad – or simply a greenwash. It is a core fundamental value laid down when Jack Taylor offered his first rental car to the public. To be sure, back in 1957 Taylor wasn’t thinking about sustainability in today’s terms. Few people were. But Taylor’s core values have grown along with the family-run business and have continually embraced the challenges of an ever-changing world and marketplace. And for a company like Enterprise, those challenges revolve around creating viable markets for a transition to new fuels, lower emissions, and sensible transportation options. The very essence of sustainability, for a company and a community.
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