The city of Madison announced it will purchase 20 new electric vehicles to replace some of the city’s existing fleet vehicles by 2020 through a partnership with Madison Gas and Electric and a grant from the state, according to the Cap Times.
The grant, worth $125,000, will be used to buy Chevrolet Bolts, zero-emission cars that average about 238 miles for a fully-charged battery, according to the Cap Times.
Madison’s Fleet Superintendent Mahanth Joishy is hopeful that replacing fleet vehicles in Madison will encourage other cities to do the same, and doing so will contribute to lessening vehicle emissions.
“I personally think that climate change is a war for the future of humanity that we’re all in,” Joishy said. “Whether you agree [with climate change] or not, it doesn’t matter, because we’re all in it.”
Joishy said replacing the city’s fleet vehicles with electric cars will help to eliminate emissions such as carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide — pollutants that will not only contribute to atmospheric pollution and rising temperatures, but will also negatively impact human health.
The three main pollutants of most concern in Earth’s atmosphere are ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide, Tracey Holloway, University of Wisconsin professor and air pollution and public health specialist, said.
Carbon dioxide is a major pollutant in the atmosphere, but Holloway said it is not a major concern for human health as it is for the temperature of the planet.
“The U.S. is very active and successful in eliminating emissions that affect public health, carbon dioxide is not one that affects public health,” Holloway said.
She said the U.S. mainly focuses on eliminating emissions that could potentially be harmful to humans but not so much on the ones that are harmful to the planet, such as carbon dioxide.
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Replacing the city’s fleet vehicles with electric cars is a good way to start to eliminating the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere, Holloway said.
Further, electric cars in Wisconsin get electricity from coal-fired power plants, which are the largest source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Holloway said.
While this makes electric vehicles sound counterproductive, managing director of State Smart Transportation Initiative Eric Sundquist said electric vehicles are a better alternative to gasoline-fueled vehicles.
“[Electric cars] are still an improvement over gasoline vehicles,” Sundquist said. “They are so much more efficient [than gasoline cars] because there is a loss of electricity through heat waste from the exhaust in gasoline cars. A lot of charging stations [for electric cars] are actually run on solar and wind power, but even if that’s not the case, electric cars are still better.”
In terms of cost, someone who drives often would benefit more from an electric car compared to someone who drives infrequently, Sundquist said.
Though many electric vehicles have a higher up-front price than gasoline vehicles, he said the buyer is saving money in the long run because paying for electricity to charge a vehicle costs much less than paying for gasoline.
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While some people might be hesitant about the long charging process required for some batteries, it should not be of concern for most people, Sundquist said.
“It takes longer to charge a battery than to fill up a car with gas,” Sundquist said. “If you were using the entire battery it would be a drawback, but most people don’t have that problem because most people don’t drive that much.”
Sundquist and Joishy agreed that electric vehicles require much less attention than gasoline vehicles because their engines are overall much more efficient and reliable. Electric cars do not have a problem starting in the cold, they start quicker and they are more quiet and powerful, they said.
They also require less maintenance and have less parts to be replaced in general, Joishy said.
“There is no lubrication or oil changes required for an electric vehicle,” Joishy said. “Oil changes are the basic maintenance item needed for any gasoline car.”
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Electric cars will become more mainstream in the future, Sundquist said. Electric cars are becoming a more viable option for people due to dropping prices and longer battery life.
Though electric vehicles are still pricier than most gasoline vehicles, Sundquist said many manufacturers are starting to produce more moderate and lower-priced electric cars as well as reducing the cost of batteries for electric vehicles.
“Battery costs are coming way down,” Sundquist said. “Manufactures are starting to make bigger batteries that store more electricity and allow for less recharging.”
Joishy and Fleet Program Manager, Tyson Roessler agreed that replacing Madison’s fleet vehicles with electric vehicles is a large step in the right direction, and also mentioned the city’s efforts to incorporate 28 hybrid vehicles into the Madison police department.
Joishy said a police officer’s car also doubles as a mobile office, and the amount of wasted gas used for idling fleet cars could significantly be reduced with hybrid and electric vehicles.
Joishy, Sundquist and Holloway said electric vehicles are just one of many efforts aimed at creating a more sustainable community in Madison.
They said people in Madison can do many things to individually contribute to a more sustainable environment by simply reducing their own ecological footprint.
“Only use certain types of vehicles if you have to,” Joishy said. “Maybe you don’t need a pick-up truck, you could do the same thing in a car or a bike or hybrid vehicle. [Not only are these options] more sustainable, they can also be better for your health.”