Two electric cars are the latest tools being used by Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) in a bid to become greener and cleaner.The service set a target of reducing its carbon footprint by 30 per cent over a five year period.

With around 18 months to go, AF&RS has made significant strides towards that target.

Adopting two electric cars into the fleet is the latest in a number of low carbon initiatives adopted by the service.

The two Citroen C Zero cars have been brought into the AF&RS fleet on a 12-month trial, and will be available to all staff to use.

This is part of a wider scheme being run in Bristol and a number of other cities by Go Low, a local Community Interest Company .

It aims to reduce the environmental impact of grey fleet at less cost than staff business mileage rates and commercial operators.

The cars have a range well in excess of 60 miles and are ideally suited to city driving. Two charging points have been installed at the front of the AF&RS Headquarters in Bristol.

In terms of both the carbon footprint of the service and costs, travel was having a huge impact on the budget.

Simon Richards, Environmental and Energy Improvement Co-ordinator for AF&RS, said: “Our first move was to start using pool cars rather than private cars, and to make better use of our existing fleet assets.

“This led to the amount of mileage claims dropping significantly.

“The trial of the electric cars is the next natural progression, which we have been able to explore because of funding that the West of England has received in the form of the local sustainable transport fund.

The use of the cars follows hot on the heels of trials of an electric bike a few months ago for short, local, journeys.

The service has also been looking at how to reduce the movement and impact of fire appliances, which are the heaviest fuel consumers.

One way is through a vehicle replacement programme to upgrade older appliances with newer vehicles and cutting edge equipment .

AF&RS recently took delivery of four combined rescue tenders, each of which effectively does the job of one traditional pump and one older-style rescue tender.

While there is no doubt that travel and fuel consumption have a big impact on the carbon footprint of the service, there are many other ways in which AF&RS has been striving to become greener and cleaner ' and hopefully save money in the process.

Many of the service's buildings date back to the 1960s and 1970s, and have proven costly to heat, particularly for a 24-hour service.

Earlier this year AF&RS became one of nine local organisations to win a 2012 West of England Carbon Champions Award.

The service was singled out for its site energy metering, boiler replacement, improved heating controls and pool car system.

Automatic meter reading was installed on gas and electricity supplies, providing half-hourly data, used for accurate billing and to identify the biggest consumers, peak use and best practice.

Many old heating systems were replaced with new, energy-efficient ones, and heating hours were rationalised and more closely controlled and monitored.

Lighting systems were replaced with low energy fittings and light-motion controls.

HQ has switched to a renewable energy supply, which cuts emissions and could save more than £6,000 on power costs.

And Solar Photovoltaic systems have been installed at premises in Nailsea and Nova Way, each with the potential to save more than £2,000 per year on energy costs.

Display Energy Certificates are now a legal requirement for some public sector buildings and are similar to the energy ratings applied to white goods and cars. For the third year running the energy ratings of buildings has improved, demonstrating that the work carried out has paid off.

Simon Richards said: “We set a very challenging target of reducing carbon emissions by 30% over five years but with 18 months to go, we are well on our way.”