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City Debates Switching Pickups for Hybrids

September 04, 2008

Galveston, Texas city department heads will have some explaining to do if they want city council's permission to buy any more gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles, the Galveston Daily News reports.

Several weeks ago, the council asked the planning department to re-examine a request for two Ford F-150 trucks, which get about 14 miles to the gallon in city driving.

The fuel economy consciousness is part of the city's efforts to be more efficient and environmentally friendly, a move that has garage manager David Smith looking for ways to get more hybrids in the city's fleet.

Unfortunately, administrators are about the only staffers who can be forced out of their bigger vehicles without compromising their job performance, Smith said.

Most city departments need trucks for their hauling capacity, he told the council last week. But when the city can opt for the smallest, most fuel-efficient truck available, it will, he said.

The planning department got Ford Ranger trucks instead of the F-150s.

The smaller vehicles gain only one mile per gallon in fuel economy, but with maintenance included, they save the city as much as 3 cents a gallon to operate, Smith said.

For at least one council member, that wasn't enough.

The city should be buying Toyota Priuses, said Councilwoman Karen Mahoney, who voted against buying the Ford Rangers because she wanted to find out whether the planning department could replace some of its trucks with the hatchback vehicles. The pioneering hybrid car gets about 46 mpg, which would make a big difference to the city's budget, Mahoney said.

The city of Houston has a fleet of hybrids as big as Galveston's entire fleet, with about 334 Priuses and about 164 Ford Escape SUVs. Smith said he plans to visit with Houston's fleet manager to talk about how that city began its fleet conversion process.

According to the Galveston Daily News, last year, Galveston bought a hybrid Escape for Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Sanderson. The fleet also includes three hybrid buses, several propane buses and one propane pickup.

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