Psst. Hey buddy. You wanna hear something nobody wants you to know? That green mobile marketing tour—you know the one with the alternative fuels and the solar panels? It may not be so green after all. Turns out some of the mobile tours being powered by clean fuels like biodiesel and hydrogen are actually being transported long distances on flatbed trailers. What’s worse they’re being followed by tanker trucks filled with barrels of the coveted “clean” fuel. As a result the tours aren’t really green the costs for transportation are triple and the public backlash is just waiting to happen (if it hasn’t already).
How can you make sure your eco-conscious mobile initiatives make good on their promises before they hit the road? Give your old buddy EM a moment and we’ll challenge some of the misconceptions behind these dirty deeds and then offer you some tips on how to really run a squeaky clean mobile tour.
Green vs. Green. It is a common belief that to be green someone’s gotta spend green and a lot more than they’re used to spending. That one is actually true. And not true. That “someone” putting out the dough can be either the agency which would make an initial investment in a vehicle and pass it along to its clients at marked up rates or the brand which can purchase it directly. The most common type of alternative fuel vehicle is biodiesel though there are several solar electric hydrogen and hybrid options out there. And they are on the road hitting cities and towns across the country.
Be that as it may many of these vehicles are not equipped for highway speeds or don’t have the range to make it from stop to stop. Therefore some of these “green” vehicles are being towed on a flatbed to save on mileage. Even worse—in many cases (namely biodiesel ethanol and hydrogen) so-called green alt-fuel tours are bringing their fuel along in a tanker truck which of course uses traditional diesel fuel by the barrel. (No wonder it costs more.) To use one green vehicle in a tour an agency or brand might use at least one additional vehicle to transport it and another to cart the fuel along so expenses can quickly double or even triple.
So the first myth we bust goes like this: green tours frequently cost more because each “green” vehicle costs more than twice as much to run than it should. If the tour used the vehicle’s own vehicular properties to transport it it would be much less expensive. And that leads us to myth number two…
You Can’t Get There From Here. Critics say that even if you were to contemplate putting your alt fuel vehicle on the road you’d never be able to keep it fueled (even solar panels need sun to charge hello Seattle!) So you’ll still need to bring your tanker defeating the purpose again. Where after all can you find a filling station in rural Indiana for your ethanol or propane-powered truck? Turns out about 153 different places (see the map at left).
There are 153 ethanol or propane stations in Indiana alone. Texas has 604. Sun-deprived Washington 141. The U.S. Department of Energy operates a database at afdc.energy.gov/afdc/locator/stations where interested parties can search for alt fuel stations by state fuel type and distance from your route. Every state is different naturally and some alt fuels are easier and more common than others (trying hydrogen will indeed be trying in most places according to the DOE site). The most common are ethanol and biodiesel followed closely by propane and compressed natural gas fuels.
Rules of the Road. So now that we know there are a few speed bumps along the way to creating a sustainable mobile tour let’s figure out how to fix it and save everybody some greenbacks and the environment too. To aid in that process we’ve compiled the following pre-launch checklist for eco-friendly mobile campaigns:
- Ask a lot of questions. Press your agencies to explain to you in detail how your alt fuel tour is going to get fueled up between stops. If there’s a flatbed or tanker truck involved your tour isn’t going as green as you think.
- Map a route that allows your vehicles to cover the fewest possible number of miles (therefore using less fuel) saving money and carbon emissions and making the vehicles last longer. Frequently tour routing is determined by schedules of fairs and festivals but with proper advance planning the schedule can be built to work around them and still be fuel optimized.
- If using a true alt fuel vehicle visit the DOE site and search for fuel stations along your route (you’ll probably find them). You can define the search by distance from your route.
- Pick a fuel that’s readily available. Use the DOE website to help you determine which fuel stations pop up most frequently nearest your target locations. Please don’t bring your fuel with you and claim to be helping the environment.
- Consider multiple alt fuel vehicles. The upfront investment may be higher but the shorter travel distances between stops will eliminate the need for backup vehicles.
Once you’re sure you’ve covered all your bases get on the road and brag about being the greenest mother trucker on the blacktop. em