By Karina Mazhukhina | Aug 13, 2015

The Washington Park Arboretum staff uses utility vehicles to maintain the park grounds, but current diesel vehicles are a source of pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions (as well as being loud).

A team of researchers used a Green Seed Fund grant to discover whether biodiesel or electric vehicles would be the better option to replace the current fleet when looking at carbon footprint, performance, cost and user satisfaction.

At the beginning of the study, surveys showed users preferred the biodiesel vehicle. However, it turned out to not only have significantly higher carbon emissions and cost more than the electric vehicle, it was also the loudest utility vehicle in the fleet of grounds vehicles – so loud that it presented a worker safety issue.

By the end of the year-long study, users rated the quieter and more cost-efficient electric vehicle ahead of the biodiesel option, despite the electric vehicle being slightly underpowered. The team is recommending that the arboretum move to a mixed fleet with mostly electric vehicles, and a few biodiesel ones for more rugged tasks.

Green Seed Projects which were funded in the 2013-2014 year recently presented their research findings to the Environmental Stewardship Committee. This is part of a series of posts detailing the projects, including posters each team created on their findings. Click the poster image below for a full-size PDF.