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City unveils plan to convert vehicle fleet from gas, diesel

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced Wednesday morning that the city plans to phase out gasoline and diesel from its vehicle fleet by 2025 in one of the most ambitious steps taken by a major U.S. city to convert to alternative fuels.

Under Ballard's plan, Indianapolis would shift its cars, heavy trucks and even police cruisers to a mix of electricity and natural gas. City buses aren't part of the program.

“The United States' current transportation energy model, driven by oil, exacts an enormous cost financially and in terms of strategic leverage,” Ballard said in announcing the plan.

Ballard said Indianapolis would pursue federal grants that help defray the cost of alternative-fuel infrastructure for its 3,135-vehicle fleet. The Department of Energy helps fund such investments under its Clean Cities Program.

In 2006, the Ballard administration bought 85 hybrid Toyota Camrys for police administrators and detectives.

The new plan calls for the city to replace its current sedans with electric or plug-in hybrids, spokesman Marc Lotter said. After that, the city will work with the private sector to phase in snow plows, fire trucks and other heavy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. Finally, the city will ask automakers to develop a plug-in hybrid police car, as this doesn't yet exist, Lotter said.

Lotter did not provide an estimate on the cost of the change.

"We are negotiating with the automakers and several international capital fleet firms to get the best deal possible for taxpayers," he said.

The police car switch alone has the potential to save taxpayers $10 million a year in fuel costs, while taxpayers would save $12,000 on each non-police sedan over their 10-year lifespan, Lotter said.

Ballard, a retired Marine officer, hopes that in making the switch, Indianapolis will help the country reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

"This is the mayor's idea," Lotter said. "He views this as a national security issue."

The new vehicles will be purchased on an as-needed basis as older vehicles are retired. Lotter said the city buys about 50 non-police vehicles every year.

City officials and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have researched the issue and found that no other major U.S. city has announced it will convert its entire fleet.

"From everything we know, we are the first city in the nation to take this step," Lotter said.

The city already has charging stations, and is working with private companies to develop more, he said.

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  • Yeah, Right
    Kevin, You mean the smart Republican Mayor that is constantly raising our taxes and giving away our money to every politically-connected developer who knocks on his door? The same mayor that is going to raise rental car taxes and give away $10 million this year to a billionaire owner of a sports team? The Mayor who handed away our parking meters for 50 years? He is not a Republican that this Republican is proud of. If we had Republicans like Mayor Ballard at the state level, this State would be deeply in debt and every piece of state property would have been sold off. People seem to miss the fact that the cost of the conversion and cost of the new vehicles was not provided to the media...only the savings from fuel. There is a reason why. There won't be any overall savings because the fact is the cost of these alternative vehicles and conversion will substantially exceed fuel savings. If not everyone would be doing what Ballard has ordered done here.
  • Leadership
    Positive news for Indy. It's refreshing to know we still have smart, Republican leadership in Indiana. Imagine what could be accomplished at the State level if our legislators exhibited the same traits as Mayor Ballard.
    • Thank you
      I truly appreciate the Mayor's attempts to make Indianapolis (and the nation) a better place. Thank you for this, and so much else.
    • Positive Change
      This is certainly a positive move on the part of the city. It is nice to have a leader who advocates for intelligent development. That noted, it is unfortunate that we are still pushing an entire transportation system based on the car and "limitless" development outward.

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