DERA grant allows DC Water to expand fleet to include 31 vehicles powered by 100% biodiesel
Optimus Technologies and DC Water Authority announced an expansion to their already successful partnership. Through funds granted by the U.S. EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program, the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition and DC Water have secured funds to purchase an additional 12 trucks equipped with Optimus’ revolutionary 100 percent biodiesel (B100) advanced fuel-system technology. Using B100 allows DC Water to reduce its Scope 1 CO2 emissions in heavy-duty fleet vehicles by more than 90 percent. Following an initial pilot project of 10 Optimus equipped vehicles launched in 2020, and a previous DERA funding award for nine B100 vehicles, the 12 additional new vehicles expand the total number of vehicles running B100 in the DC Water fleet to 31.
Tim Fitzgerald, fleet director for DC Water and recent recipient of GWRCCC’s DC Visionary Award, is proud of the progress that they have made with biodiesel. “We went from B10 to B20, and now we are at B100, and we like what we’re doing,” he said. Regarding the safety that running B100 brings to his fleet operators, Fitzgerald said, “We wanted to make sure that our operators returned home a little safer. We want to ensure the well-being of the citizens and the people we work with. Biodiesel is a cleaner burning fuel, and there’s no degradation in terms of fuel or operations. It’s cleaner, and our operators are going home a little safer.”
Biodiesel reduces many of the harmful pollutants, irritants, and carcinogens associated with petroleum-based fuels. By utilizing 100 percent biodiesel in its vehicles, DC Water is improving air quality for all of the citizens and visitors to the district by reducing incidence of asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory disease caused by toxic diesel emissions.
Optimus Technologies upgraded 10 existing DC Water dump trucks in 2020 as part of a pilot program to test the viability of B100 in heavy-duty vehicles in year-round operations with the DC Water fleet. The Optimus Vector System heats and conditions B100 to be used in modern DPF- and SCR-equipped engines, regardless of how cold it gets outside. Following the successful pilot, DC Water used funds from a previous DERA award to purchase nine new vehicles that came equipped with the Vector System already installed. The option to purchase new vehicles equipped with the Optimus technology, as well as retrofitting existing fleet assets, allows for maximum flexibility and choice when deciding how to best implement Optimus’ carbon reduction technology in fleet operations. With 575 light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles in the DC Water Fleet, it’s important to attack emissions with methods that make the most sense. In light-duty vehicles, electrification and renewable natural gas work great. For heavy-duty applications, however, the power of biodiesel shines.
“If you want to manage something, you have to be able to measure it,” Fitzgerald asserted. “There’s been no (performance) drop-off, there’s been no cost overruns, and where we can use biodiesel and where it’s smart to do so, we are going to use it. We are going to use it because it helps us.”
B100 and the Vector System help DC Water reduce emissions in vehicles, like dump trucks and VACTOR trucks, that are difficult to decarbonize with current competing technologies. Washington, D.C. has established goals of 50 percent carbon reduction by 2032 and carbon neutrality by 2050 for all city operations, and the carbon reductions DC Water achieves with these heavy-duty assets places it well on the path to achieving these goals.
Biodiesel offers the most immediate and cost-effective path to reduce carbon dioxide in heavy-duty vehicles. This is especially important in environmental-justice communities, which bear a greater burden when it comes to dealing with transportation and shipping pollution. In addition to DC Water, in the greater Washington region Optimus’ technology is in use with the DC Department of Public Works and DC Department of Transportation.
Additional partners on the DC Water project include the biodiesel fuel supplier Renewable Energy Group; and public outreach partners Metropolitan Washington Council of Government, National Biodiesel Foundation, and National Biodiesel Board, as well as Equnival Partners, a community-engagement firm based in Washington, D.C.
“We will work with residents to understand local air quality concerns, provide information on biodiesel’s role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and design future collaborative efforts to address concerns to lower greenhouse gases and harmful air emissions,” said Kevin Bryan, principal of Washington, D.C.-based Equnival.
GWRCCC, the grant awardee, is a public-private partnership and nonprofit in the greater Washington region that promotes the use of clean American transportation fuels to support homeland security and improved air quality. GWRCCC pursues every effort to bring innovative and impactful climate change to the region, to make the nation’s capital cleaner, more sustainable, and ready to face whatever challenges the future may present.