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U.S. government buys its first electric vehicles

May 24, 2011 |  5:22 pm

DOEEVfleet The federal government handed over the keys to a handful of electric vehicles it purchased Tuesday. The 116 cars -- a mixture of Chevrolet Volts, Nissan Leafs and Think Cities -- are the first electric vehicles to be purchased by the U.S. government for the federal fleet. They will be distributed to 20 agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense, in five cities across the country.

The EV program launched Tuesday "is the next big step" in the government's adoption of advanced vehicle technologies, said Martha Johnson, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, which purchases vehicles for federal agencies. "It furthers the administration's goal of putting 1 million advanced vehicles on the road by 2015 and it represents a significant targeted investment in the next generation of automotive technology." 

The 116 electric vehicles the GSA purchased will save 29,000 gallons of gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 260 tons and save taxpayers more than $109,000 every year, Johnson added. To complement the EVs, the GSA is also installing electric vehicle charging stations at federal buildings in five cities.

The U.S. government operates the largest vehicle fleet in the country. Its EV purchase represents an embrace of President Obama's directive that federal government lead the country by example, deploying smart and sustainable management practices that save taxpayer money, said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Transportation, which makes up two-thirds of U.S. oil use, accounts for as much as one-third of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Energy.

"Instead of spending $1 billion a day to import oil, we need to invest in U.S. innovation," said Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, speaking at an event outside DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Chu said the DOE replaced 750 of its vehicles last year with more fuel-efficient hybrids. The DOE is receiving 14 of the new electric vehicles from the GSA.

"We are in a global race to capture the growing market for alternative vehicle technologies," Chu said. "Many other countries around the world recognize that in the coming years and decades, electric vehicles will become a major part of our transportation infrastructure, and we want to make sure the U.S. is poised to capture that leadership."

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-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu looks under the hood of one of 116 new electric vehicles the U.S. General Services Administration purchased for the federal vehicle fleet. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

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