Archive for Tuesday, August 17, 2010

City considers adding electric vehicles, charging stations

Steve Stewart, fleet manager for the city, shows off Lawrence's electric car in this 2008 file photo. City commissioners are being asked to apply for up to $250,000 in federal stimulus funds that would create new “fueling stations” for electric-hybrid cars, and also allow the city and county to add four new electric vehicles to their fleet.

Steve Stewart, fleet manager for the city, shows off Lawrence's electric car in this 2008 file photo. City commissioners are being asked to apply for up to $250,000 in federal stimulus funds that would create new “fueling stations” for electric-hybrid cars, and also allow the city and county to add four new electric vehicles to their fleet.

August 17, 2010


Plug the parking meter and plug in the car. It may be a concept coming to Lawrence.

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City commissioners at their meeting this evening are being asked to apply for up to $250,000 in federal stimulus funds that would create new “fueling stations” for electric-hybrid cars, and also allow the city and county to add four new electric vehicles to their fleet.

“We have an opportunity to create a lot of awareness about electric cars,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more of them.”

The grant would provide funding to build two electric-vehicle charging stations in public parking lots — likely near downtown or near Kansas University.

“We want to be a leader and show our residents that there are these new technologies that are becoming more feasible all the time,” said Eileen Horn, the city/county sustainability coordinator.

Just how feasible electric cars are, though, is something Lawrence leaders hope to find out. The grant proposal includes a plan for Kansas University researchers to study how electric vehicles perform in city and county fleets.

As part of the grant, the city and county each would purchase a Ford Escape hybrid vehicle and convert it so it runs entirely using electricity. The city also is proposing to purchase two specially equipped trash trucks that use electricity instead of diesel to run much of the trucks’ hydraulics.

Many electric vehicles have a range of 30 to 40 miles before they must be charged. That’s where publicly provided charging stations could come in handy.

Cromwell said he wants to consider placing a charging station in a new parking garage that would be part of an expanded public library, which will be considered by voters in November. Other locations under consideration include the city parking garage at Ninth and New Hampshire, a county parking lot near 11th and Massachusetts, or at Fire Station No. 5 at 19th and Iowa street near KU.

Horn said she can envision people driving electric cars downtown and using the charging station to give their batteries a boost while they go to work or take care of errands.

Cromwell, who is an environmental consultant by trade, thinks the idea eventually could even provide an extra source of revenue for the city. He said he recently visited a Canadian city where many parking meters offered motorists the chance to buy electricity from the city. In that case, the electricity was for engine block heaters that make it easier to start cars in cold weather. But Cromwell could see the concept working for electric cars, too.

“There are some interesting ideas out there,” Cromwell said.

The grant, if awarded, would require $380,000 in matching funds from the city and $30,000 in funds from the county. Horn said the city and county already have set aside those amounts in their 2011 budgets for traditional vehicle purchases. The grant would pay for the added costs of buying electric vehicles, and would provide money to build the public charging stations.

City officials expect to learn whether they’ve been awarded the grant by mid-September.


LJ Whirled 3 years, 8 months ago

Clean. Safe. Reliable. Affordable .... Nuclear.


Ken Lassman 3 years, 8 months ago

Consider this piece of the pie: using electric vehicles as part of the electric grid storage. Most folks won't be using their commuter electrics during much of the day, but if it is plugged into a bidirectional outlet, these car batteries can become defacto storage devices for renewables such as wind and solar, who may be producing excess electricity during some parts of the day. The stored electricity can then be pulled from these mobile storage devices during lower energy production, thus levelling some of the peak-and-valley issues that occur in even conventional power production.

Turns out folks are working on this already:;col1

So no need to produce electricity from nukes or coal to run these cars, guys.


independant1 3 years, 8 months ago

More feasible suggestion, greener than current city gas/deisel fleet. Convert to natural gas. A more logical next step toward green.


overplayedhistory 3 years, 8 months ago

Short term thinking will not prevail.

My brother who is a big suit at Eaton corporation explained to me the thinking behind starting the ball rolling on developing equipment to handle solar power. He said that even though they could not justify with current price points getting into the market, they could not afford not to.

In other words, there is no current market motivation to do this but if we know that there will be market motivation in five years can we afford to not start developing now?

Are most short term answers lie in updated power grids and more nuclear plants and wind fields. Consumer electricity production and electric short distance individual transportation will be part of this equation too. Get used to it, anticipate it, and develop it, or wither. Inevitability will not wait for you to like it.

In business those who anticipate and innovate before absolutely necessary prevail.

With amount of gross misuse funds to the tune of trillions of dollars is 250k really worth getting the pitch forks out for?


Machiavelli_mania 3 years, 8 months ago

So where they going to get the money for this?


JackRipper 3 years, 8 months ago

Just to ironic that a so called environmental engineer would propose "green"solutions in a yet unbuilt parking garage. As long as there is money to be made somewhere some in the "green" world are no different then any other business. When there are other solutions for transportation why would this so called consultant be doing what he can to get the garage built? Oh that's right, it comes with a library so we can feel good about it all.


Seamus 3 years, 8 months ago

Why not ride a bicycle? Or is that just too much effort for the tubbies who'd rather use glorified golf carts?


JackRipper 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm sorry but this is Lawrence at its best, how can we consume something to make the world a better place! How can we use energy from the new powerplant and at the new parking garage that all require energy to build (and in the case of the parking garage is encouraging people to drive!), same with the electric cars and batteries. If one is really an environmental consultant I'd think he would be aware of how much energy is wasted when you get rid of perfectly functioning vehicles and replace with something new. This is also in regards to the carbon issue. This is Lawrence, a feel good, bullcrap solution to a problem that from the looks of the guy in the pic could be better solved by using foot and bike power and the bus system that the city should be taking advantage of for much of the business the city does. Lawrence is a joke.


Danimal 3 years, 8 months ago

Will they be putting in public-use gas pumps too? I hate everything about this. Basically what the city is saying is "if you can afford an electric car or gas-hybrid plug-in vehicle (either of which start at at least $40K and rapidly go up from there) then you can have free fuel!" I know some egghead in city hall is thinking that this is a great idea, but if they'd think on it a little more they'd realize it's little more than the city giving the middle finger to anyone who can't afford one of these vehicles. I wish Lawrence would drop all of its hippy BS pretenses and just be honest that it's all about giving the rich a leg up whether it's in the form of tax breaks or free electricity for their fancy new electric cars no one else can afford right now.


sunny 3 years, 8 months ago

No one making decisions has any common sense! The City of Lawrence has no money. Continually talking about lay-offs etc...yet...there is money to buy frivolous toys?

Spending money that just isn't there! How irresponsible!


Clark Coan 3 years, 8 months ago

Once the new Bowersock hydroelectric plant is built on the north side of the Kaw River, all of the generators will produce enough electricity to power 6,000 homes!!! So, in a way these electric cars are partially powered by clean, hydro power.

We need to think out of the box: There is a bus system in Australia which is powered by solar panels at the recharging stations.


lawrencenerd 3 years, 8 months ago

This is really ridiculous. Spend the money on fixing the potholes around town. Lawrence can't keep its roads in good shape, how are they gonna keep an expensive electric vehicle running after it hits a few of the deeper potholes around here?


Flap Doodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Like so many greenie-weenie projects, this is more about appearing to do something than actually getting something done. Coal powered cars, indeed.


hispath1 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes electric vehicles would be nice. But has anyone thought about the upkeep cost of these vehicles. I'll admit I don't know all the facts of electric cars but I own an electric bicycle and the cost of batteries is quite expensive. I have to replace a battery at least once per year and they cost quite a bit. Why do we need to spend tax dollars on something that is going cost us more in the future than it's worth? Those in local goverment need to stop spending and start thinking of ways to save the tax payer from paying so much! The argument that it is partially funded by the feds is stupid** this will cost lawrence tax payers money that we don't have to spend.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 8 months ago

Without doubt the city will have to impose a weight limit and girth limit for most city employees, as they will not fit in the car shown.

The city buys into this nonsense and continues to give away free parking at night downtown while the daytime merchants continue their whining about 'saving downtown".

yes, the idiocy continues in lawrence, priorities the city has none!


mr_right_wing 3 years, 8 months ago

In the past I would have pointed out putting nuclear power together with electric cars....

The obama administration has proven to be too irresponsible, if they can't regulate the safety of oil rigs they definitely can't regulate nuclear. (An obama-run NRC would have probably given Chernobyl an award for safety -- like they did the Deepwater Horizon!)

Just forget it until we get a responsible President.


mbulicz 3 years, 8 months ago

Let's look at this intelligently. I want to do some math for you.

Let's consider that the government buys regular, gas-powered cars.

Let's even use a high estimate of $30k/car. Let's add $0.50 per mile operating cost. Federal mileage rate this year is $0.50 per mile, so this is what will actually get budgeted to run these things.

Four cars = $120,000 150,000 miles x 4 cars x $0.50 per mile operating cost = $300,000 Total for 4 gas powered cars, lifetime = $420,000

Not even factoring in the electric cars' operating cost and pricey repairs, they are a quarter million dollars more expensive than gas operated cars.

Lawmakers, how about you run these numbers through a calculator and a working human brain before making purchases with our tax money?


Snodgrass 3 years, 8 months ago

The electric buggys should offset the carbon credits from the smokey diesel powered busses that tool around town empty.


twobigones 3 years, 8 months ago

Just what Lawrence a giant vibrator fleet.


Liberty275 3 years, 8 months ago

electric cars in lawrence will run on good old coal. Thank goodness we actually care about the environment instead of just doing stupid things because we can't see beyond our noses.

Also, at $125,000 a pop, I wouldn't own an escape even if it was propelled by the tears of hippies.


50YearResident 3 years, 8 months ago

Add 2 charging station meters. Then the city could pay a driver/employee to take it to the meter and sit & wait for an 8 hour charge to complete while 2 more shoppers can't park to shop.


Bursting 3 years, 8 months ago

I guess I just don't understand how 250k + 30K + 380k= 660k, only buys 4 cars and 2 charging stations? How many cars will these charging stations be able to service at once? If it's any less than 50 then this idea dumbfounds me.


LJ Whirled 3 years, 8 months ago

You can borrow my toilet if you need to flush some money ... ... Oh, wait ... It won't hold enough water to actually flush. Thanks, Big Brother!


Les Blevins 3 years, 8 months ago

The project I proposed to Hallmark would have eventually been supplied energy from the solar panels on Hallmark's roof when the charging stations were in place and the federal stimulus funding was available to install the solar panels on Hallmark's roof and a few of the EVs were beginning to be purchased by Hallmark employees and were wanting to put a "PARK GREEN" sticker for their EV cars so they could park up front near the front entrance for a free recharge where everyone else passed by on their way in to work. This was in the mid 1980s so you should see I'm a more "advanced thinker" than anyone now on the City's staff.


newmedia 3 years, 8 months ago

Gotta love those coal fired electric cars...


devobrun 3 years, 8 months ago

I would like to see an energy budget for this project. How much energy is used to build, maintain and operate the vehicles and charging station. How much of this energy is capital (up front invested energy) and how much is a variable cost. All in terms of joules of energy.

My guess is that fossil fuel will be used to build the whole thing. Fossil fuel will be hidden at each stage of the operation of the system. Net saving of fossil fuel will be nill.

Monetary subsidies imply energy subsidies. Zero emission projects never are. Electric vehicles simply shift the emission out to the power plant. They shift them to the battery factory in China. They use fossil fuel, but not in our city.

If this stuff really worked, we would see budgets of carbon in, carbon out. Joules in, joules out. So long as the unit is dollars and the monetary subsidies are hidden, the public grumbles about it. But the greenies would join the grumbling if they knew how bad the energy budget really is.

Playing games with our money, sigh. Flim-flamming the greenies.


Joe Ryan 3 years, 8 months ago

It is not wasteful government spending when the dollars come to your home town ... people get the kind of government they deserve.


Les Blevins 3 years, 8 months ago

In the 1980s (while working in the maintenance department at Hallmark Cards) I formally submitted a suggestion to Hallmark management that the company create one or two auto charging stations in the Hallmark employee parking lot near the front door and then label them Electric Autos Only and assign the space to any regular employee who purchased an electric car to commute to work with and who lived 10 miles or more from work. Of course the company ignored my suggestion just as the city ignores my suggestion for converting municipal trash to electric power and biofuels today.


Les Blevins 3 years, 8 months ago

Add to this cost Ms Horn's salary for providing advice to the city any third grader could have come up with for $1 and been glad to get it.


cowboy 3 years, 8 months ago

buy a bunch of old VW's , they get 40 miles to the gallon , might cost a grand total of 12 grand.

It is quite obvious that the city has no real concept of what money is worth versus return , witness the bus system.


Healthcare_Moocher 3 years, 8 months ago

Cromwell said he wants to consider placing a charging station in a new parking garage that would be part of an expanded public library...

Looks like they have every intension of pushing a new library down our throats.


thuja 3 years, 8 months ago

Seems like a good idea but I am skeptical about our antiquated grid being able to handle electric cars becoming commonplace.

Bikes, man. Bikes.


FreshAirFanatic 3 years, 8 months ago

Did anyone else notice the caption on the photo above? "shows off Lawrence's electric car". Singular. Oh...and it's a golf cart, not a car.

If electric cars were feasible, then they would be purchased without incentives. Most people look at cost/benefit...unless they are spending other people's money that is. What a waste.


OonlyBonly 3 years, 8 months ago

Let's see. 2 charging stations and 4 "vehicles" all for only $250 thousand from the US Government (English translation - our taxes) AND $380 thousand from the city (English translation - our taxes) AND $30 thousand from the county (English translation - our taxes). Does anybody, anybody at all, look at those expenditures?!?!? Where does the idiocy end? Certainly not in Larryville........


Stuart Evans 3 years, 8 months ago

How come I've never seen any of the current (no pun in intended) fleet of electric vehicles we have? what are they used for and where can I see this in action?


Chris Ogle 3 years, 8 months ago

Federal Grants, Subsidy, and hand-outs, remind me of Thomas Jefferson:

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." -Thomas Jefferson


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