Oklahoma City officials hope taking short trips in town in electric cars will help put a dent in the city's massive fuel budget.
The city is experimenting with the use of electric cars, starting with two Nissan Leaf sedans bought with the help of a grant secured by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
“It costs about $2.30 for this car to travel 100 miles,” said Paula Falkenstein, director of the city's General Services Department. “Our fuel budget is about $4.5 million a year. Two dollars and thirty cents for about 100 miles sounds pretty good to us.”
The cars, decorated with distinctive artwork highlighting their use of electric power, can be used for any one of a number of short trips around Oklahoma City that employees have to make.
For now, the cars are charged overnight at a city garage. But when power is connected to a new charging station outside of Civic Center Music Hall downtown, the cars can be charged there.
At least two other electric car charging stations, which unlike the city's will be available for use by the general public, are planned for the downtown area in other projects.
The use of electric cars is not the city's first foray into using fleet vehicles powered by alternative sources.
Oklahoma City has nearly 400 vehicles across city departments that are hybrids or powered by alternative energy sources like compressed natural gas and biodiesel, and it has a fast-fill CNG station at its fleet headquarters paid for by federal grant money.
The ACOG grant paid for the price difference between the city's new electric cars and what a similar, conventionally powered sedan would have cost. The city's cost was about $40,000 for the two cars, with an additional $36,000 provided through ACOG for the price difference and charging station.