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IS&T gets eco-friendly with hybrid van

In cooperation with the Ford-MIT Alliance, MIT Information Services and Technology (IS&T) has acquired a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid as the first step in replacing all IS&T vehicles with more fuel-efficient and "environmentally friendly" cars and vans over the next several years. The Escape Hybrid replaces a 1997 Ford Econoline cargo van. The Escape Hybrid has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) city mileage rating of 36 miles per gallon versus 14 mpg for a new Econoline van.

In keeping with President Susan Hockfield's vision of MIT's leadership in the energy research and conservation fields, IS&T has been evaluating alternatives to standard cars and vans as it goes through the normal cycle of vehicle maintenance and replacement. IS&T examined several options for "green" vehicles including biodiesel, electric, compressed natural gas, hydrogen and hybrid technology. Hybrid technology has the advantage of being available commercially and offering both increased gas mileage and reduced pollution.

One of the challenges in purchasing an alternative-energy vehicle is the high cost of the technology. After reviewing the driving profile for IS&T use (vehicles are used by network, telephone and customer support staff to deliver computers, respond to service calls and perform other related activities), IS&T determined the savings in per mile costs from the hybrid technology would not offset the added cost of acquiring the hybrid vehicle for several years. While there were significant environmental advantages associated with the hybrid, there also would be increased costs.

IS&T's commitment to being at the forefront of energy conservation led it to work in partnership with MIT's Industrial Liaison Program to find a corporate partner to assist in the purchase of a hybrid vehicle. Kyle Pope, manager of the IS&T Departmental Information Technology Resource Team (DITR), worked to gain the sponsorship of Chancellor Philip Clay, and Simon Pitts and Joe Saleh, co-executive directors of the Ford-MIT Alliance, to assist in the purchase of the Ford Escape Hybrid. The Ford-MIT Alliance contributed funds to cover the difference in purchase price between a hybrid and nonhybrid vehicle. This contribution allowed IS&T to pass the initial cost hurdle of hybrid ownership and focus on the fuel savings and benefits to the environment.

If the Econoline van had been replaced with a new van of similar type, IS&T could expect EPA gas mileage ratings of around 14 mpg in the city, where the majority of the department's driving is done. The Escape Hybrid's gas mileage rating is 36 mpg in the city. This means with an expected driving profile of 5,000 miles per year, the Escape Hybrid will emit only 28 percent as much carbon dioxide as the Econoline van, with a similar reduction when compared to a new cargo van.

The Ford Escape Hybrid has been designated a U.S. EPA-certified SmartWay vehicle. The SmartWay label is given to those vehicles that score six or better on both the Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Scores, and have a total score of 13 or better when adding the two together. Vehicles that receive this designation are very good environmental performers relative to other vehicles, according to the Green Vehicle Guide,

The Ford Escape Hybrid vehicle is a shared vehicle between IS&T DITR and PC Services. Further purchases of hybrid or other new technology vehicles will be reviewed as each vehicle comes up for replacement.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 4, 2006 (download PDF).

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