Houston’s growing alternative-fuel fleet among nation’s largest

HOUSTON — The nation’s oil capital has become a model for progress in electrically powered vehicles, boasting the nation’s third-largest municipal hybrid fleet, according to new report from advocacy group Electrification Coalition.

More than half of the vehicles in the city’s light-duty fleet are hybrids, according to the report.  Among the city’s alternative-fuel vehicles are 27 Nissan LEAF battery electric vehicles and 15 Toyota Prius plug-in electric hybrids.

The report applauds the city for reorganizing its fleet management to better support electric vehicles, including promoting their use in an employee car-sharing program and creating a network of charging stations.

The report estimates that the hybrid and electric vehicles will save the city an average of $7,000 in fuel and maintenance costs each over there years.

“By reorganizing its operations into a centrally managed vehicle pool, the city has improved operational efficiency, increased vehicle utilization rates, and built a strong financial case for vehicle electrification,” the report said.”Houston is leading the way forward in municipal fleet electrification through creative problem solving and a focus on cost savings.”

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More than 550 employees have signed up for the the car-share program, which launched in July 2012, according to the city.

Employees can reserve a battery electric vehicle for trips of less than 70 miles. Gasoline-powered pool vehicles are provided for longer trips. The city houses 98 charging stations in its central fleet garage.

Unlike plug-in hybrids, which have fuel tanks and can run on internal combustion engines, the driving range for battery electric vehicles is limited by the charge in its battery pack.

“The city has installed ample charging infrastructure for its fleet of battery electric vehicles, but it still faces challenges in ensuring that the vehicles are fully charged when reserved,” the report noted.

The city estimates that its 27 Nissan LEAF battery electric vehicles will save $110,000 annually compared to a fleet powered by crude-based fuels.

The city began growing its alternative-fuel fleet in 2002. It plans to add 10 compressed natural gas cars and six more hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet next year, according to the report.

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