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Pittsburgh to buy first batch of electric vehicles

Bob Bauder
| Monday, June 19, 2017, 5:36 p.m.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has a driving range of about 200 miles per charge.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has a driving range of about 200 miles per charge.

Pittsburgh employees will be driving electric cars on city streets in about a month, an official told the Trib on Monday.

The city has ordered its first electric cars — two Ford Focuses and two Chevrolet Bolts — as part of Mayor Bill Peduto's directive to replace gas guzzlers with a fossil fuel-free fleet by 2030. It installed four charging stations at the city motor pool lot on Second Avenue.

“This is like the first baby steps of our electric vehicle conversion,” said Slim Forsythe, Pittsburgh's fixed asset manager. “These are going to be used by city employees who are not going to be traveling 100 miles a day.”

He said the city intends to add six or seven electric vehicles to the fleet by year's end and is considering the purchase of several police cruisers. Pittsburgh's fleet has hovered around 1,000 vehicles between 2008 and 2014, according to an audit the City Controller's Office released last year.

Ford in April introduced the first “pursuit-rated” hybrid cruiser. The Ford Police Responder operates on gasoline and batteries.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in April awarded Pittsburgh two Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants totaling $255,000 to help cover costs. DEP is paying half of the cost of the charging stations and half of the difference between the price of a gasoline powered auto and an electric vehicle.

Forsythe said the difference runs from $5,000 to $7,000.

The cars total $121,556 — $25,400 apiece for the Fords and $35,378 each for the Chevys — and the city is spending about $30,000 on the charging stations. It's also looking to buy several portable charging stations.

The Fords have a range of 80 to 100 miles per charge, and the Chevy's range is about 200 miles.

Forsythe said the Fords should arrive within a month and the Chevys by fall.

He test drove an electric Nissan while shopping for cars and said it wasn't fazed by Pittsburgh's hills, including Rialto Street in Troy Hill, one of Pittsburgh's steepest.

“It went right up Rialto without a problem,” he said. “It feels like you're in a regular car.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or @bobbauder.

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