The City of Winston-Salem is curbing all-gas vehicles.
After catching criticism last month for a nearly $1.7 million deal to buy 45 traditional SUVs for the Winston-Salem Police Department, the city is poised to take the first step toward a larger fleet. clean with the proposed purchase of eight hybrids and scale back a plan to buy dozens of all-gas-powered pickup trucks while it explores alternatives.
On Nov. 7, the city council’s finance committee unanimously approved a request for nearly $335,000 for five Ford Interceptor hybrid police pursuit vehicles at $40,441 each and three Ford F-150 hybrid pickup trucks costing $44,226. $ each.
The request is on the agenda for Monday’s full council meeting.
The finance committee also signed off on an $844,368 purchase of 28 traditional Ram 1500 Tradesman pickup trucks for $30,156 each. That was half the number of vehicles the city had originally planned to purchase when it issued a tender to dealerships.
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“Once we received that offer, we reassessed, trying to look at future needs and to respond to council’s green initiatives,” Nicholas Geis, the city’s fleet manager, told the finance committee. “We are working to secure either … hybrid vans or electric vans with this remaining funding. The command windows are closed for these particular items for this exercise. We hope to catch up with them when they open in July or August next year.
Finance committee member Jeff McIntosh noted that the city faces the same dilemma ordinary consumers face when weighing the pros and cons of rapidly evolving technology like clean energy.
“I know that some of our decisions about when we buy things are based on the importance of what we need and when we can get it, and I know hybrids tend to be more difficult to find, although they’re easier to order than the electric ones,” McIntosh said. “So I applaud us for doing what we can to achieve that, but I also know that better vehicles for our needs and for the planet are coming. They just aren’t available yet.
The hybrid shift comes two weeks after climate-conscious residents, including a citizens’ panel that advises the city on its sustainability efforts, criticized the city for its purchase of the police vehicles.
Members of the Winston-Salem Community Sustainability Programs Committee said they were unaware of the plan to purchase the 45 SUVs and argued that the city should at least include a small number of electric vehicles or hybrids in the purchase as a first step in a transition to cleaner transportation options.
With the request for eight hybrids and the reduction in the proposed purchase of pickup trucks, that’s the approach the city is taking with its latest request, noted finance committee member Kevin Mundy.
“I’m just pointing out that we’re making progress there,” he said.
Cost, Range, Emissions
As the gap narrows, price remains a differentiator between traditional and hybrid vehicles.
The city’s low bid of $44,226 for Ford F-150 hybrid pickup trucks is more than $14,000 higher than what it plans to pay per vehicle for the traditional 28 Dodge Ram 1500s.
However, some of this cost difference would be offset by fuel savings, especially if prices remain high.
The Ram has a combined city and highway mileage of 21 miles per gallon and can go about 480 miles between fill-ups, while the F-150 gets about 25 miles per gallon and has a range of 650 miles.
The hybrid F-150 emits about 25% less carbon dioxide, the main anthropogenic cause of climate change, than the gasoline-powered Ram.
Hybrids have lower emissions because they don’t burn fuel when running on battery power.
Officials said last month that the city is also considering adding cleaner hydrogen vehicles to its fleet.
On Monday, the council will also consider approving funding for a 70-kilowatt system of solar panels on the roof of the Bryce A. Stuart Municipal Building at 100 E. First St.
The $189,314 project would be awarded to Renu Energy Solutions and should qualify for a 30% federal incentive through the Cut Inflation Act, bringing the cost of the system to $132,520, according to the city’s funding application.
John Deem covers climate change and the environment in the Triad and Northwestern North Carolina. Her work is supported by a grant from the 1Earth Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
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