Novex Couriers sets example with hybrids

Two decades from now, in 2030, when British Columbians have finally elected a Green government, gasoline-powered cars and short-haul trucks will become history.

This vision is laid out in the Greens’ platform for this year’s May 12 provincial election.

Although it remains to be seen whether or not voters will be prepared by then to install a Green administration, a local delivery company isn’t waiting for government to make a change.

Since 2004, Novex Couriers has used gasoline-electric hybrids as part of its fleet. At present, according to president Ken Johnston, the firm has more than a dozen hybrids, two natural-gas-powered vans, and seven trucks running on biodiesel.

By 2012, Novex intends to have a 100-percent-clean fleet.

“Years ago, we decided that we’re a polluter, we’re hurting the environment, and we thought we could operate on a sustainable, ethical basis,” Johnston told the Georgia Straight.

In combination with its natural-gas and biodiesel vehicles, Novex’s hybrids have cut the firm’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 88 tonnes per year. Hybrids don’t emit greenhouse gases when idling in electric mode, as the gasoline engine stops running.

The company’s Web site explains that before it decided to start going green in 2004, its fleet emitted about 2,500 pounds of carbon dioxide every day.

Johnston also noted that hybrids have reduced the company’s gasoline consumption by about 40 percent.

Novex is constantly searching for technologies to meet its 2012 target. Johnston said that the company has a couple of electric three-ton trucks on order. It’s also acquiring a plug-in hybrid whose battery can be recharged from the electric grid.

With current hybrid models, the car’s battery is recharged either from the engine or from energy captured while braking, or both. They don’t need to be plugged into an electric socket.

With conventional vehicles still composing the majority of its fleet, Novex has partnered with the Vancouver-based Offsetters Clean Technology Inc. to provide local carbon offsets for its operations. It is now the only carbon-neutral courier company in Canada.

“There’s a saying that in the sustainability world: ”˜We can all do small things to start to change,’ ” Johnston said.

The B.C. Liberal government has a policy of acquiring only hybrids to replace vehicles being retired from the provincial fleet. It also offers a $2,000 tax credit for buyers of hybrids.

An NDP government will continue with these programs, according to opposition environment critic and Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson. The NDP will also put in $25 million to support delivery and courier companies in converting their light trucks to low-emission vehicles like hybrids and hydrogen-powered movers, Simpson told the Straight.

Green leader Jane Sterk considers hybrids a good interim vehicle before fully electric cars are put on the road. She has been driving a Toyota Prius hybrid since before the 2005 provincial election.

“I’m a great fan of them as a vehicle,” Sterk told the Straight. “I think within a couple of years, you’re going to see the plug-in hybrids, which again reduce the amount of fuel that’s consumed within the vehicle. And then, of course, there’s a whole suite of electric cars that are being worked on.”

Sterk added that aside from gasoline-engine cars and trucks, her party also intends to phase out in 2030 all fossil-fuel-based vehicles in favour of the electric motor.