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Government Fleets Find Obstacles When Trying To Add Hybrids

November 9, 2005

Government fleet managers are finding that they must take into account a number of factors when considering the addition of hybrid vehicles to their existing fleets, according to hybridcars.com. Those factors include taking into account laws such as the federal Energy Policy Act, increasingly tighter state, county, or city budgets and balancing employee-drivers’ wants and needs. In addition, local state, county, or city laws may stipulate that a certain number of vehicles in a governmental fleet must be hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles. The federal Energy Policy Act (EPAct) requires that 70 percent of vehicles found in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) must be comprised of alternative fuel vehicles, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or flex-fuel vehicles. Hybrids are not considered alternative-fuel vehicles. New York City will soon change the wording in its fleet rules to replace the term “alt fuel” with “the cleanest vehicle in each category,” according to the hybridcars.com report.The biggest obstacle, however, appears to be the significant difference in price between hybrids and fuel-efficient cars. While hybrids boast higher miles per gallon, lower maintenance costs, and better resale value, the price can sometimes be between five and seven thousand dollars more than a regular fuel-efficient car.Hybrids have a high enough resale value to potentially offset the higher purchase price. But many government fleets drive vehicles until the maintenance costs become prohibitive—often past the 100,000-mile mark. Most hybrids have not yet been sold to benefit from the higher residuals.This price difference forces government fleet managers to decide what’s more important – fiscal or environmental responsibility.The environmental benefits of a hybrid or alt-fuel vehicle over a conventional vehicle are distinct. Yet the differences are very small when comparing a hybrid with another green vehicle, making the hybrids’ higher price tag more difficult to swallow.In comparison, the regular consumer usually looks into hybrids because of their personal views regarding such factors as global warming, air quality, and oil dependency, and must simply decide if the extra expense is warranted, the hybridcars.com report said.
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