Premium chauffeured car services are meeting sustainability challenges head-on with new vehicles and new initiatives
Executive car service has a rich history. Since its inception in 1921, when J.P. Carey founded the world's first limousine company in the heart of Grand Central Station in New York City, the iconic black limousine has played a luxurious role in transporting its clientele safely and securely. Whether in transit to the airport or office suite, a special meeting or event, limousine service has withstood the test of time.
Today, there’s a new kind of black car on the block. Advancements in digital technologies are aimed at streamlining the passenger experience. Furthermore, black car companies are striving to be responsible ground transportation providers by embracing green initiatives to fight climate change. “Limousine sustainability” refers to efforts and practices that promise to make the limousine industry more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Initiatives can include using electric or hybrid limousines, improving fuel efficiency and implementing eco-friendly practices to minimize the environmental impact of limousine transportation. These efforts contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving natural resources in the luxury transportation sector.
In response, the National Limousine Association, which represents the interests of the chauffeured transportation industry at the federal, state and local levels, announced in mid-August the launch of its “GreenRides” initiative to “promote and implement environmentally responsible practices across the industry.” GreenRides seeks to “reduce emissions, enhance energy efficiency and foster a culture of sustainability among NLA members and the industry at large.” Putting words to action, the NLA formed a GreenRides Committee, co-chaired by Rick Versace, chief executive officer of A1A Airport and Limousine Service and Tiffany Hinton, chief operating officer of Motev.
“The numbers are staggering,” says Hinton. “Ninety-two percent of respondents in a recent Global Business Travel Association climate survey say sustainability is a priority for their organization. As an industry we can’t afford to ignore the clear demand for greener business travel. So, we’re taking a stand as an association through the new GreenRides initiative to drive meaningful solutions for sustainable ground transportation.”
Hinton notes there are six major components of the GreenRides initiative: Emissions Reduction Program, Sustainable Fleet Management, Data Collection and Reporting, Education and Awareness, and Collaboration and Partnerships.
To accomplish the objectives of the Emissions Reduction Program, NLA will provide members information on incentives, grants and tax credits available for EV and clean fuel adoption to encourage transition to low-emission and electric vehicles. Further, NLA leadership will collaborate with government agencies and stakeholders to “develop charging infrastructure and promote the use of renewable energy sources for charging EVs.” They will also advocate for the use of other forms of sustainable fuels including biofuels and synthetic fuels like ammonia and methanol, as well as hydrogen.
In the area of Sustainable Fleet Management, NLA proposes the establishment of guidelines to implement practices that “prioritize energy efficiency, regular vehicle maintenance, and eco-friendly technologies.” Moreover, the association recommends advanced vehicle telematics and route optimization systems to minimize fuel consumption and improve operational efficiency, as well as the adoption of eco-friendly materials and practices in vehicle maintenance and cleaning, such as waterless car wash techniques and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
“Establishing Data Collection and Reporting will require interfacing with industry partners and regulatory bodies to develop standardized sustainability metrics and reporting frameworks for the ground transportation sector,” according to NLA. Actions such as building a data-sharing platform to collect and analyze sustainability data will enable NLA members to “track their progress, identify areas for improvement and benchmark against industry standards is recommended.” All this would be followed up by regular sustainability assessments, providing guidance to NLA’s more than 1,000 members on setting and achieving sustainability goals.
Increasing Education and Awareness will involve organizing “educational workshops, webinars and conferences in efforts to raise awareness about sustainable practices and technologies in the ground transportation industry.
Developing training programs and certification courses focused on sustainable driving techniques, eco-friendly vehicle maintenance, and customer education on sustainable transportation choices to help NLA members reach sustainable goals is crucial.” The association also plans to engage with educational institutions to integrate sustainability principles into transportation-related curricula.
The Collaboration and Partnerships component of the GreenRides Initiative is designed to “forge partnerships with industry associations, government agencies and automakers to collectively address sustainability challenges and promote best practices.” Moreover, NLA will “advocate for supportive policies and regulations that incentivize sustainable practices, such as tax incentives for low-emission vehicles, funding for charging infrastructure, and research and development grants for sustainable technologies.” Participating in industry conferences, forums and working groups on sustainable mobility is key to accomplishing the NLA mission.
“Through the GreenRides initiative,” says Hinton, “the NLA and its members will actively contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the ground transportation industry while demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices.”EVs & More Trees
Eric Okron, COO of BLS luxury limousine service says sustainability isn't limited to electric cars. “It's a comprehensive commitment to the planet,” Okron says, explaining that BLS has a four-pronged strategy to achieve these goals and an online tracker to monitor progress. The first is Global Reforestation Sponsorship. “We've partnered with EcoMatcher to sponsor reforestation projects worldwide, going beyond reducing carbon emissions,” he says.
Secondly is Carbon Offset Initiatives. To shrink the company’s carbon footprint, “BLS pledges to plant over 1,000 trees each year. This not only offsets our CO2 emissions but also contributes to a greener future.” The third initiative is Community and Environmental Impact. As Okron notes, “Your ride with BLS isn't just about convenience; it's also about contributing to the fight against climate change, supporting local farmers, and benefiting the communities we serve. Moreover, we're proud to share our sustainability report, which reflects our dedication to the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.”
In 2023 to date, BLS, in partnership with tree planting nonprofits in Nepal and India, has planted 2,050 trees, carbon sequestered 76.1 tons of CO2 having an expected lifetime CO2 sequestering equal to 512.5 tons. Notably, these non-profits have engaged 13 local families in this effort.
Fourthly, Transparent Reporting is key, he says. “Clients can find out their trips’ impact on the environment. BLS can provide detailed GHG carbon emission reporting for individual passengers or corporations.” The company’s website reveals a summary of their Sustainability Commitment and includes a live map of their current sponsored forests.
BLS is also committed to continual innovation: “As the electric vehicle market evolves, BLS remains committed to testing and integrating these vehicles into our global fleet, driving us toward an all-electric future.” BLS currently features an array of luxury electric vehicles available internationally, with a goal of having an 80 percent EV fleet by 2028. “As more electric vehicles are introduced in the marketplace, BLS will continue to test and deploy them into the worldwide fleet,” Okron adds.Whole Earth Solutions
At A1A, the work to align with NLA GreenRides initiative is “well underway,” Versace says, adding, “Most of the RFPs that we’ve been looking at lately have required an overview of what our sustainability program looks like. While electric vehicles are part of the equation, it’s not just about EVs. There are several other things we’re doing. We’ve changed all the lighting on premises to LED and operate a completely paperless office and have implemented a recycling program in our offices and in garages. Additionally, we capture and recycle our refrigerant from the air conditioning systems in our vehicles and recycle all the metal components from our shop.”
As A1A looks to develop greener ground transportation solutions, Versace says they are also evaluating the best way to use carbon offsets and are working with a company called Climate Partner to reduce their company’s carbon footprint. “One model,” he says, “would have us do a real-time emissions calculation per ride and give customers the option to offset their ride. This option is more complex operationally. The simpler and bolder option is to offset every ride, especially since we can do this affordably. We could add a small fee on a per ride basis and pass that cost along to every customer.”
Moreover, he says Climate Partner will do annual audits and provide them with third-party verification indicating they are Climate Partner Certified. “With this approach, we will be able to transparently disclose our holistic climate action strategy to our clients, in the form of a third-party verification for RFPs, etc.”
Versace explains there are five steps to become certified:
• Measure the carbon footprint (based primarily on the number of miles their vehicles travel).
• Set reduction targets.
• Implement those reductions.
• Finance verified climate projects such as wind, solar and hydro or regional reforestation.
• Communicate transparently.
Of the five steps, he notes that two have a cost component: Step One, completing a carbon footprint, and Step Four, financing climate projects.
Versace says technology is also a huge piece of what they are doing to operate more sustainably. For example, he notes, “We use the SantaCruz Dispatch module by software provider GroundWidgets, which allows us to do the most efficient dispatching. It helps us to determine how to dispatch the closest vehicle to a pickup point, thereby reducing the amount of gasoline burned. We use Samsara on our larger vehicles, which send alerts on engine idling. The technology also collects and compiles information regarding the carbon footprint for each vehicle, generating green metrics.”
Kyle Fackler, head of market management Americas for Blacklane, says the German-based company is taking significant steps towards a sustainable future. “We recently launched a premium, electric-only Mercedes-Benz EQS fleet in Dubai, setting the course for a broader transition to electric vehicles. With a commitment to deliver 15 percent of rides via EVs by the end of 2023 and an ambitious goal of reaching 50 percent by 2025, Blacklane is at the forefront of eco-friendly premium transportation.”
Blacklane's focus on sustainability traces its roots back to its founding in 2011, Fackler notes, with a mission to reduce the waste of resources and optimize capacity in the premium transportation industry. In addition to transitioning to EVs, he says Blacklane continually evolves its technology to maximize the efficient usage of vehicles. “This approach not only benefits the environment but also improves the overall efficiency of the chauffeur service.”
To ensure precise calculations and offset of emissions, Blacklane collects ride data that factors variables such as the car's year of manufacture, model, journey length and speed. “The company's team meticulously reviews this data, and the accuracy and effectiveness of their offsetting methods have been verified by a third party.”
Blacklane’s environmental responsibility is not limited to vehicle choices, Fackler says. “It permeates Blacklane's offices,” he says, adding that the company actively educates its team on the importance of sustainability and has implemented various eco-friendly measures. “In Dubai, we have established a learning hub to develop and pilot new sustainable concepts, including a fully electric fleet, offering water in non-plastic packaging to guests, and implementing a chauffeur academy that provides training in best practices,” Fackler says. “The academy is currently being piloted in London as well.”
Blacklane is not alone in its pursuit of sustainability. It has collaborative partnerships with a number of environmental initiatives, including “The Climate Pledge,” which commits Blacklane to becoming “net zero” by 2030, and “Leaders for Climate Action” in Germany. Moreover, Fackler notes that Blacklane is a founding member of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, a network of companies offering economically and environmentally sustainable solutions.Luxury Meets Sustainability
Luxury car service EmpireCLS states it envisions a future where “luxury meets sustainability, and every journey is a step toward a greener planet,” according to their website. The company believes that “indulging in opulence” and contributing to a “cleaner, healthier Earth” are not mutually exclusive. Embracing EVs, EmpireCLS touts a fleet of luxury vehicles that are capable of a 300-mile range on a single charge. Moreover, they offer comprehensive sustainability reporting upon request in the spirit of “carbon emission transparency.” To offset their carbon footprint, they have partnered with One Tree Planted to plant over 4,000 trees across the globe.
Carey International also has a well-established environmental sustainability policy on its website. “Carey is committed to continual improvement in environmental performance and waste reduction, and the integration of environmental aspects into our business activities. We actively seek ways to reduce our environmental impact on air, soil, and water from our in-house operations. As a company whose operations necessarily involve extensive use of fossil fuel, our primary focus is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Carey’s guiding document states the company seeks to ensure the efficient implementation of its environmental policy via an environmental management system that includes sound objectives, programs and monitoring. This policy, it says, addresses all aspects of Carey’s operations that can potentially impact the environment.
Today’s chauffeured premium car services have a lot more under the hood than the black cars of yesteryear. “We are looking at everything we can do to provide sustainable transportation,” Versace says. “We believe that you can travel the world while still protecting it.”
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