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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Should the city of Lawrence pursue a plan to add more electric vehicles to its fleet?

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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.


Chris Ogle 7 years, 10 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

Stuart Evans 7 years, 10 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?

John Hamm 7 years, 10 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........

FreshAirFanatic 7 years, 10 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.

imastinker 7 years, 10 months ago

Why would you think our grid is antiquated? At least in this area our grid is great, and being improved at a very fast pace. It's a lack of power generation that we have.

whynaut 7 years, 10 months ago

Hear hear! We all know how to ride them. They are good for your personal health. They are good for the environment and public health. They reduce traffic. It's much harder to rack up parking tickets with bikes. And you can take them off of sweet jumps. Wins all around.

cowboy 7 years, 10 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.

puddleglum 7 years, 10 months ago

this is a damn good idea. VW's have already been made...its like recycling, kind of. that's what always comes to my mind when people ask me about the old cars I choose to maintain and drive.... yeah, its a 63 dodge, and yeah-it has already outlasted your stupid honda. ask yourself this: "what's the carbon footprint for each toyota (stupid junk) prius that you will buy and rebuy every 6 years?" go get an old american car and get a life. You will feel better, even if it is a ford. you are better off with a mopar though.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 months ago

63 Dodge--had they started using slant 6 engines by then? Those were indestructible....well almost: drove one forever until some lady pulled out in front of me and couldn't stop in time. Dang it!

puddleglum 7 years, 10 months ago

god, I love you-not_holroyd. always crackin' me up

Joe Ryan 7 years, 10 months ago

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

John Hamm 7 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, I disagree. Did you see how much Lawrence and Douglas Co. have to put up to the the $250k? So taxpayers here, benefited or not, get the double whammy.

devobrun 7 years, 10 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

It appears to me that the whole point of this is to provide many of the answers you say you want.

And yes, fossil fuels will be involved. We are addicted to fossil fuels, and they will be used in any transition to other forms of energy and different ways of running our society and economy.

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

Says the junkie, as he exhorts us to continue firing up the same old junk.

jayhaitch 7 years, 10 months ago

I guess they could get the power for this project from Bowersocks.

newmedia 7 years, 10 months ago

Gotta love those coal fired electric cars...

Moderateguy 7 years, 10 months ago

Dang man; you beat me to it! All you coal power plant haters better not have been running your AC the last couple of weeks.

Bursting 7 years, 10 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.

Chad Lawhorn 7 years, 10 months ago

Just to clarify, the article says the grant could be up to $250,000. It likely will be much less than that. The amount of grant money the city and county will apply for hasn't been determined yet. It will be determined once the city and county determine the prices for the vehicles they want to purchase. The grant will cover the difference in cost between an electric vehicle and a traditional vehicle. In other words, I don't think $660,000 is a good estimate of how much the program would cost. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

50YearResident 7 years, 10 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.

Liberty275 7 years, 10 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.

huskerpower 7 years, 10 months ago

You can say what you want about tracing the energy to the source, but unless you do a full study comparing the two how can you make such rash statement about an electric vehicle being worse?

Unless you consider every single step of the equation you can't. What about gasoline refineries? What about the manufacturing process to produce the equipment to harvest the resource? You could go on and on and on.

Electric cars are not a lie. Just misconceived. Don't mind the fact that they contain thousands less moving parts. Far less maintenance. A fourth the operating cost of diesel/gasoline. Are they for everyone? No. But how far did you drive to work today? Is your round trip less than 200 miles? That's what I thought. I'm not necessarily saying they are an immediate solution, but how the hell do you know unless you try?

Props to the city for trying something new. If electric cars do take off, the city will be leaps and bounds ahead of other in terms of maintenance, repair, and general knowledge.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 months ago

I think it's safe to say that increasing the CAFE standards for internal combustion vehicles will initially have a much bigger environmental impact than electric vehicles, but fortunately it's not an either/or situation. With 13 million cars/year projected to be purchased, and only 100,000 electric vehicles planned, I think it's pretty clear that in the short run, boosting CAFE standards while getting the bugs out of electric vehicles makes the most sense, with a gradual transition from gas to electric vehicles making the most sense in the long run as we wean ourselves from excessive carbon emissions.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 months ago

Since you asked, and perhaps because you didn't expect this answer: plug in electrics can become part of the electrical grid storage and actually store excess wind-and-solar generated electricity, getting it back when it needs it. Sounds crazy? Actually folks are working on it and have gone quite a way down this path--check it out:;col1

The bottom line is that the source for electric powered vehicles can easily be carbonless.

Moderateguy 7 years, 10 months ago

Best post EVER! Holy cow; that was some nice single malt that's now on my screen.

mbulicz 7 years, 10 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?

independant1 7 years, 10 months ago

30 to 40 miles range, acid core batteries, it's a golf cart

jayhaitch 7 years, 10 months ago

They've been around for years. I used one in the Frankfurt airport. Can you imagine calling a plumber and having him ask you if you're sure it's plugged in?

mr_right_wing 7 years, 10 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.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 10 months ago all fairness defender; I don't think mr. obama realized what was going to happen as he puffed on that Virginia Slim while on the rig. His advisers should have warned him of the dangers of smoking on an oil rig.

hispath1 7 years, 10 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.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 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.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 10 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?

lawrencenerd 7 years, 10 months ago

Sure, because all you need to do to fix your suspension and alignment is zap it with some electricity.

Clark Coan 7 years, 10 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.

FreshAirFanatic 7 years, 10 months ago

Bet those would have worked great today. How much sun does Australia get vs. Lawrence KS?

Sunny Parker 7 years, 10 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!

Danimal 7 years, 10 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.

independant1 7 years, 10 months ago

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

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 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.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 months ago

Actually, for the past couple of years, the nation's energy growth has been more than covered by the installation of renewables, without a single coal or nuclear plant coming online during that time. With aggressive energy efficiency programs, renewables can be the bridge that you're talking about, not nuclear. And considering the Georgia nukes that congress voted us taxpayers to guarantee the loans on will cost around 8 BILLION dollars each, I'd say that renewables are definitely the way to go.

That's especially true if you are concerned about the negative implications of centralized power. Add decomissioning costs, transport of nuclear waste to repositories, the Price-Anderson Act that socializes the costs of any accident to all of us, and it's a no-brainer: forget nukes.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh, really? Westinghouse Nukes built by the French and Japanese for only 2 million dollars apiece in the 80's? Tha's funny: Wolf Creek was built right here in our back yard back in the 70's--it's a Westinghouse design that was projected to be built for a mere 1.03 BILLION dollars, but the 1200 MW reactor ended up inching up to 2.93 BILLION dollars. I'd be very interested in seeing your source--here's mine:

The cost for nukes has gone up to around 8 BILLION dollars for those on the planning table, and don't expect the "next generation" nukes to be any cheaper. You and I agree on the need to shut down new coal fired plants, but nukes are basically the biggest corporate socialism project going, and we if we stabilized the renewables industry with the kind of consistent subsidies we've given nukes and coal, we'd never look back.

No way will 55-60 new nukes make it to operating stage. They also projected 100 new coal fired plants a few years back, and almost all of them have been scrapped. Same will happen with most if not all of the nukes when folks start reading the fine print and see things like ratepayers having to pay construction costs in their bills for years before the first electron gets generated from that plant. That's why the Calloway plant in Missouri was abandoned: the legislature didn't let them change the laws to allow that kind of craziness, so they walked away.

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