Roanoke adds electric cars to city’s fleet to replace gas guzzling sedans and SUVs

January 5, 2018

Roanoke officials are charged up about adding a dozen electric cars to the city’s municipal fleet, a move that the city says will reduce emissions and save money.

As the first phase of a pilot program, the city bought low-mileage used Nissan Leafs and made most of them part of a pool of vehicles that will be shared by city employees who in the past each had an assigned vehicle.

“It’s a different way to think about our vehicles and our fleet and how we use it and how we can manage it more efficiently,” said Nell Boyle, the city’s sustainability coordinator.

Most of the electric cars are assigned to the public works department, with one going to the Department of Social Services.

The switch is expected to save the city $150,000 in vehicle replacement costs and reduce energy and maintenance spending by 80 percent compared to the gas guzzling large sedans and sport utility vehicles the Nissans replaced, Boyle said.

Ten of the vehicles in the shared pool cost $92,325 total, according to Boyle. Two other cars, dedicated to individual staffers, cost the city $14,300 each. Both were almost new demonstration cars with less than 300 miles.

Roanoke has long been on a mission to save money and reduce its carbon footprint. Many bulbs in municipal buildings and even traffic signals have been replaced by LED lights.

Two years ago, 15 city police cars were converted by city staff to run on propane, in addition to gasoline. Other city equipment, such as lawn mowers, has been powered by propane for several years.

The city’s parking enforcement vehicles are electric, and gas/electric hybrid cars already are part of the city fleet.

While the new electric cars represent a small slice of the city’s 630-vehicle fleet, Boyle said, it’s a significant step toward using alternative energy practically and economically.

Boyle said the pilot originated when city staff began studying its fleet for its next round of replacements. They found a number of vehicles were low-efficiency and weren’t being driven much. Allowing staff who use city cars in their job to share them made sense, and going with electric cars turned out to be cost-effective, too, Boyle said.

The city chose the Nissan Leaf, she said, because it’s an electric car that’s been on the market for several years and has a record of reliability and they were also available with low mileage on the used car market at good prices.

The city also spent $1,000 on charging stations that will be used in the second phase of the pilot, Boyle said. She expects the city will have 15 to 20 of the cars as the program progresses.

Source: Roanoke Times