Public safety department looks to go hybrid on 1,035 cars

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The Indianapolis Department of Public Safety could save $8.6 million over the next five years by replacing 1,035 non-patrol vehicles with plug-in electric hybrids, according to an internal review released Tuesday.

The review follows Mayor Greg Ballard’s executive order in December to replace the city’s entire fleet with electric or alternative-fuel vehicles by 2025. The public safety department is key to executing Ballard’s plan because its 2,070 vehicles make up the bulk of the city’s fleet.

The actual savings, however, will depend on how much of the upfront replacement costs the city can afford. It would cost an estimated $35.2 million to replace all 1,035 vehicles with plug-in hybrids at one time. As the review team points  out, the public safety fleet has fallen behind on the replacement schedule, and there’s no plan for future financing.

“It’s not out of the question the city may come up with a way to fund a large number of these this year,” said Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Brian Sanford, who led the review team. There are 700 vehicles, most of them belonging to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, due for replacement this year, he said. At this point, he’s not sure how much money will be available.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs commended the team’s effort, and he committed to coming up with a financing plan by the end of the year.

Ballard, a retired Marine officer, launched his “post-oil” initiative as much to move away from foreign sources of fuel as to save money, but he said in a prepared statement that public safety’s plan would do both.

“Indianapolis is showing the world that we can break the cycle of dependency on foreign oil and save taxpayer money at the same time,” Ballard said.  “Public Safety operates the largest fleet in the city and it is the top consumer of fuel. These recommendations mark another great step forward.”

Public safety’s vehicle-efficiency team assumed that the department would switch from mostly Crown Victorias and Dodge Chargers to Ford Fusions, which are estimated to cost $34,056 apiece, or 53 percent more than what the city has paid for Dodge Chargers in the past.

The upfront cost for the Ford plug-in hybrid would be $12.2 million more than for Dodge Chargers. The city's team concluded it would be offset by an estimated fuel savings, over five years, of $15.9 million. (The fuel savings is based on public safety's actual 2012 fuel use, nearly 2.3 million gallons at an average cost of $3.25 per gallon.)

The $3.7 million difference between upfront costs and fuel savings, plus a $4.9 million gain from resale of the hybrids, would net $8.6 million over five years, according to the review team.

Sanford said the team didn’t put a price tag on vehicle-maintenance costs, but he said it's expected to be lower, based on the city’s experience so far with hybrid Toyota Camrys that were purchased in 2009.

There is a potential pitfall in switching to plug-in hybrids, Sanford said. If the city didn’t stick with a five-year replacement cycle, it would face big bills, thousands per car, for new batteries.

For all diesel-powered vehicles, including fire apparatus, public safety this year will switch to B20, a 20-percent biodiesel blend. Sanford said the review team didn’t determine whether there was a potential savings from the switch, but it’s recommended because B20 is considered cleaner-burning and derived from domestic sources.

The department will also start using the ethanol-blended gasoline E85 on non-patrol vehicles and run a pilot study of the fuel in police pursuit cars.


  • Fuel Savings Claimed is Phony
    The City claims $15,900,000 in fuel savings over five years by buying the 1035 Ford Fusion hybrids. Break that down and the claim is that each vehicle saves $3,072 in fuel per year. That makes no sense. If each car is driven 10,000 miles per year and the hybrid gets 40 mpg and the non-hybrid gets 25 mpg, that means the hybrid uses 250 gallons of gas while the non-hybrid uses 400. The difference is 150 gallons. You multiple that by $3.25 per gallon (the figure the city is using for its calculations)and the savings are $487.50 per car, which is far, far below $3,072 claimed. Extrapolated over 5 years and 1,035 cars, that means the savings is $2,522,813 which is far less than the $15,900,000 in fuel savings claimed. The hybrids cost 53% more than the non-hybrids. There is no way there is any savings involved here. By my calculations the fuel savings of $2.5 million will cost Indianapolis taxpayers $10.6 million, a net cost of $8.1 million.
  • more math
    The national average miles driven in a year in the US (per www.ask.com) is 13,476. If non-patrol cars are allowed to be used for personal driving (not allowed for patrol officers, by the way), we could assume this usage per year. If you assume 18 miles per gallon and $3.25 per gallon, the average cost for fuel would be $2,433.00 per year. If you could increase your fuel efficiency to as much as 30 miles per gallon (combined hwy and city), you cost would go down to $1460 per year, a savings of $973 per year. This means you would have to drive the car for 12 years just to make up for the amount you spent to buy the efficient car for over $34,000.00. It does not include sales tax or insurance cost of a more expensive car. In other words, there are no savings here that I can see. This assumes that all of the non-patrol cars are used for personal driving as well. It would, however, be better for the environment. How about we spend 12 million on mass transit. Much bigger bang for our environmental buck.
    • Huh?
      I think the gasoline consumption figures must include vehicles used for patrol. If 1035 vehicles used 2.3 million gallons of fuel pr year, that would be 2,222.22 gallons of gas per car per year or 42.74 gallons of fuel per car per week. If you assume that these cars are averaging 18 miles per gallon, then each car is driven over 40,000 miles per year. So what are all of these non-patrol cars doing anyway?
    • Worst Math Ever
      It's disappointed the IBJ repeated the administration's phony math regarding savings. How do you count the resale of the hybrids as saving on the back end? If you didn't buy hybrids, you'd also be able to sell the non-hybrids too. In fact, given that the hybrid buyer would be facing expensive battery replacements, the non-hybrids would probably fetch more after five years. The bottom line is that thee are no savings from buying hybrids. You can argue that this is something the city is done, but just don't try to justify it as a way of saving money for taxpayers. It's not.
      Wow there assumptions are about as STUPID as those made when the Mayor and his CRONIES DEFRAUDED the taxpayers of Water Company Assets and stole the debt laden proceeds to pay off his buddies. HOW do you assume a GAIN on the off loading of the hybrids on the backend? Also why didn't the Mayors minions assume they were buying CORVETTES and show a bogus savings number? Most corrupt incompetent City Govt in the nation.
    • So Many
      The Department of Public Safety has 1,035 non-patrol vehicles?
    • LOL!! Well Put Tom!
      Guess those chuckholes and sidewalks will just have to wait. Too bad there are just too many bad jokes out there these days.....
    • What a Joke
      Not only will this not save taxpayers money, it will cost us millions – perhaps tens of millions. The fully loaded subsidized cost of a Chevy volt for instance has been estimated at $240,000 per vehicle sold. That includes federal, state, and local money given to GM in the form of bailouts, tax incentives, tax credits. from this alone the cost of this program could be tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. And for what? So Republicans can pat ourselves on the back and say we love the environment just as much as the Democrats do? In fact, support for this program only means Republicans love big government as much as Democrats love big government. And the only thing worse in this world than a big government Democrat is a big government Republican.

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