In December, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced plans to convert the entire fleet of city vehicles to electric and natural gas over the next 13 years. Other major cities have shifted some vehicles to alternative fuels, but Indianapolis, the 12th largest city in the United States, is the first to aim for a total conversion to non-oil-based fuel sources.
The city will start by replacing its 500 non-police cars with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles as needed, which would save about $12,000 per vehicle over its lifespan, Ballard said in a December 9 speech. Indianapolis also plans to replace heavy vehicles like snow plows, trash trucks and fire trucks with those that run on compressed natural gas, something many companies and organizations that have centralized fueling areas are starting to implement. The city is also working with multiple automakers to develop a plug-in hybrid police car that would enable them to replace inefficient 10-miles-per-gallon squad cars with 40-miles-per-gallon models.
Rather than tout the environmental benefits of taking 3,100 gas-powered vehicles off the streets, Ballard, a Republican and Marine Corps veteran, said in his speech that his motivation for the switch is to help reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil:
> “America’s dependence on foreign oil produces the greatest voluntary transfer of wealth in the history of the world. Our dependence, in some cases, places the fruits of our labor into the hands of dictators united against the people of these United States. Some experts even say the United States is funding both sides in the Global War on Terror. They are right.
> “The United States’ current transportation energy model, driven by oil, exacts an enormous cost financially and in terms of strategic leverage. To reduce our dependence on oil, developing and diversifying viable American energy sources is required. Given current technology, the time to begin this process is now.”
Marc Lotter, Ballard’s spokesperson, said the Mayor decided to implement the plan now because the automotive industry has reached a point where it is producing vehicles that meet the city’s needs at a cost that will benefit taxpayers. Also, some necessary infrastructure is already in place in the area. Energy Savings Network, a local nonprofit that promotes energy-efficient technology, used Department of Energy grants to set up 200 charging stations in central Indiana through its Project Plug-In. More are in the works. “The City of Indianapolis is working with a number of partners to install additional charging stations around the city,” said Lotter. “Some will be installed at city government facilities to support our fleet, but others will be public charging stations. Those exact numbers are still being determined.”
Ballard is hoping Indy can serve as a model for other organizations and companies who want to shift to alternative fuels. He even issued a 12-page white paper about energy security. “Mayor Ballard hopes other governments and organizations will see that now is the time to make this switch both in terms of basic economics and the fact this switch could produce a fundamental change in geo-political power,” said Lotter.
Ballard’s efforts are in line with the U.S. Navy’s plan to decrease its dependence on foreign oil, and we at Sustainable America applaud Mayor Ballard’s leadership in this area. In the long-term, energy independence and innovation are key to creating a more Sustainable America.