Look of the future
June 18, 2008
By Ed Farrell
City looks into purchasing all-electric cars
The present glided into the future Friday at the city of Snoqualmie’s public works garage as various city officials and town folk were given the opportunity to test drive a pair of all-electric vehicles.The city is already looking at its current budget to find a way to purchase a couple of the battery-operated cars, said Mayor Matt Larson, with plans to add more to the municipal fleet in the future.
At $18,400 each, Larson said, such vehicles would represent a sound and environmentally secure investment for the city.
“This is not just another tree-hugger, feel-good issue,” Larson said Friday. “This is something I’m taking very seriously.”
At its last meeting, the council adopted Larson’s “Green Initiative,” which includes studying where the city can and should convert to alternative and hybrid-fuel vehicles.
The two models on hand Friday, produced in California by Miles Electric Vehicles, are fairly limited in both range and speed to suit all the uses common to a municipality, said Mac MacDonald, a sales representative for MC Electric Vehicles of Seattle.
Both the passenger-only model and a truck model capable of hauling up to 1,300 pounds of material, feature a top end speed of only 35 miles per hour.
And both have a top range of about 40 miles, meaning their batteries must be recharged – a six- to eight-hour process – after a little more than an hour at top speed.
Still, MacDonald said the cars are huge hits with governmental agencies, citing Olympia, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Bellingham as just some of the Puget Sound communities that have purchased the all-electric vehicles.
“Right now, we can’t keep them in stock,” he said.
MacDonald’s biggest sales pitch is the one-penny-per-mile operational cost of the vehicles.
“There’s no gas and no maintenance,” he said. “You don’t have to change oil, no radiator, no fuel filter, no pistons, no spark plugs and no grease. And best of all, no pollution.”
And, MacDonald said, the electric car industry is on the verge of huge technological breakthroughs, particularly in the batteries which power the electric motors.
Within a couple years, he said, almost all electric vehicles will be capable of highway speeds, with many featuring a range of several hundred miles between charges.
Larson said the all-electric vehicles are just one of the options the city is exploring; another would be a hybrid-electric powerful enough to accomplish any needs in the city, including for police vehicles.
“It just makes perfect sense for us to do this,” Larson said, “particularly here in the Pacific Northwest, where we have so much hydro-electric power.”
Larson acknowledged that some criticism has been leveled at such vehicles because, while they do not burn fossil fuels, they still require electricity, which is often provided by a fossil-fuel-powered generating plant.
“It might not make such sense in places like Texas, where they have coal-fired plants, but up here, it makes perfect sense,” Larson said.
And Larson said he was confident that the future of alternative-powered vehicles is solid.
“This is not like the 1970s oil crisis, when everybody knew the price of oil was going to go back down,” he said. “There’s not an economist, or a politician, out there who is predicting oil prices are going to go down at any time soon.”
Snoqualmie, Larson said, has forged a reputation as being as environmentally friendly as possible, and as mayor, Larson was one of 850 top city officials to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.
“If you’re doing something all by yourself, you sometimes don’t see the big picture of it all,” he said. “But when you’re part of something like this – these 850 mayors represent about one-quarter of the population of the United States – you start to understand how important it is.”
Larson added he was certain that Snoqualmie taxpayers would welcome the new vehicles to town as well.
“From our perspective, it would be foolish to not do this now,” he said, “and I think it’s what our residents would want us to do.”
Reach reporter Ed Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 392-6434.