Ballard's spokesman, Marc Lotter, said that while many cities now have electric, hybrid or natural gas vehicles, city officials and the U.S. Conference of Mayors researched the issue and found that no other major U.S. city has announced plans to convert its entire fleet.
Indianapolis currently has 120 gasoline-electric hybrids, but no electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.
Lotter said the city buys about 50 non-police vehicles every year. He said Indianapolis does not expect to need additional funding to pay for the upgrades in the years ahead because of the projected savings the cars will bring.
Lotter said the city buys cars through a system in which contracts are competitively bid by dealers and automakers lock in prices and models to choose from. He said Indianapolis is on good financial ground for embarking on the fleet switch-over, with its more than $1 billion 2013 budget projected to see a relatively small deficit of between $15 million and $30 million.
Energy Savings Network, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that promotes the use of clean technology, provided the city with technical and financial advice through its Project Plug-In electric vehicle initiative, said ESN chief executive Paul Mitchell.
Project Plug-In also used $6.4 million in grants from the Department of Energy to set up 200 charging stations around central Indiana, Mitchell said. The group was working with city officials to develop alternative methods of financing the new vehicles, such as leasing, to lower the initial cost, he said.
Associated Press writer Charles Wilson contributed to this report.