INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis is aiming to become the first major U.S. city to replace its entire fleet with environmentally friendly vehicles, in a move the mayor said is aimed at reducing the nation's reliance on foreign oil.
Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order Wednesday requiring the city to replace its nearly 500 non-police sedans with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. The city also will work with the private sector to phase in snow plows, fire trucks and other heavy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, and will ask automakers to develop a plug-in hybrid police car.
New vehicles would be purchased as older ones are retired, and the city hopes to completely swap out its current 3,100-vehicle fleet by 2025.
Ballard, a Republican and a retired Marine Corps officer who served in the Persian Gulf War, said he hopes the switch helps reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, which he said "exacts an enormous cost financially and in terms of strategic leverage." Ballard, who took office in 2008, said he's been considering the switch for years and that technological advances have now made it possible.
"Our oil dependence in some cases places the fruits of our labor into the hands of dictators united against the people of the United States," he said. He said the environmental benefits of the switch are secondary.
City officials didn't specify how much the conversion would cost, but Ballard said taxpayers could save $12,000 over the 10-year lifespan of each new electric and plug-in hybrid, even though those vehicles currently cost more than the gasoline-powered sedans they'll replace.
Philip Reed, the senior consumer advice editor for auto website Edmunds.com, said that although he doesn't know how the city reached its calculation, its projected cost-savings are "certainly possible," given the lower fuel and maintenance costs of electrics and hybrids. He said it generally takes five to 10 years for those savings to offset the vehicles' roughly 20 percent higher sticker prices, but that powering an electric-only vehicle can cost up to 10 times less.
"It's going to be a pleasant surprise for the taxpayers," Reed said, adding that the city's shift will be aided financially by a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 per vehicle.
Indianapolis' fleet includes 470 non-police sedans, nearly 2,000 police vehicles, 120 fire trucks and 200 snow plows and garage trucks. The city also operates nearly 400 pick-up trucks and sport-utilities vehicles, total, as well as dozens of generators, trailers and motorcycles.
Ballard's spokesman, Marc Lotter, said that while many cities now have electric, hybrid or natural gas vehicles, city officials and the U.S. Conference of Mayors researched the issue and found that no other major U.S. city has announced plans to convert its entire fleet.
Indianapolis currently has 120 gasoline-electric hybrids, but no electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Continued...