VAIL — Keep an eye out on the streets of Vail for the town’s newest addition to its vehicle fleet, an all-electric run Nissan Leaf. The new car replaces an older 2003 Toyota Prius and will be used by parking supervisors to patrol the parking garages and other town-owned lots around Vail. The Leaf is the town’s first zero-emissions vehicle and joins 15 other town vehicles, including a fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses that are aimed at energy efficiency.
According to Todd Scholl, the town’s fleet manager, the Leaf may be small, but it has plenty of juice to get the job done.
“It’s a good fit for us because electric vehicles have certain applications, and highway use is not one of them. It has about an 80-mile radius it can travel per day before it has to be charged again,” he said. “The car will mainly be use around town, so that works well. It doesn’t emit any emissions — it doesn’t even have an exhaust pipe, and it’s very quiet.”
The car is a front-wheel drive hatchback that seats up to five. While the small car might not be the ideal winter vehicle, Scholl said that once it is outfitted with snow tires, it will do well as an around-town vehicle. That concept of finding the “right size vehicle” for the right job is another focus of the town’s transportation managers — as Scholl explains, there’s no reason to send a big gas-guzzling truck to do a job that could just as easily be done by a smaller, more energy-efficient vehicle.
For now, Vail only has one electric car, which came at a price tag of $22,196, but the town might consider buying more as they replace older vehicles if the Leaf’s mountain debut works out.
At the end of each workday, the car gets recharged at designated charging stations. From a dead battery, the Nissan Leaf gets back to a full 80-mile range after about six to seven hours, but with a normal charge, often a couple hours will do the job.
The town’s parking garages currently house four public-use charging stations for electric vehicles. They’re free to use, and the town will also install a fifth charger specifically for the Leaf. Mike Rose, the town’s transit and parking manager, said the charging stations have been in increasing public demand since they were installed five or six years ago.
“They get quite a bit of use,” Rose said. “There are probably about 10 or so vehicles I see regularly at the stations. There are a few Teslas and Leafs that have been around for awhile, as well as one or two Chevy Volts and a couple Toyotas. They’re catching on.”
Three charging station spots are located in the Vail Village parking structure; one is located in the Lionshead structure, and two others owned by the Mountain Haus are located outside the hotel on Meadow Drive. The new charging station will be built on the east end of the Vail Village structure.
The station will be open for public use, but the town wanted to provide a more out-of-the-way location for the town’s vehicle to charge up, Rose said.
20 percent by 2020
The purchase of the new zero-emissions vehicle is part of a bigger plan for the town and community to cut 20 percent of its carbon emissions by the year 2020. The town adopted the goal in 2009, and so far the town government has already cut its emissions by 12 percent.
The town has already made significant strides in replacing 10 of its public buses with diesel-electric hybrids and replacing some of its bigger vehicles with lower-emission versions. Of the 150 or so town-owned vehicles (including public transportation, police vehicles, etc.), currently 16 are specifically energy-efficient. That includes the new electric car, the buses, several Toyota Priuses and Toyota Highlanders.
“Having a free bus system is already a big part of it, but we’d also like to continue working on getting the right-sized vehicles for the right kind of job. You don’t need a big truck to do a really little job, and I’d like to see that effort continue,” said Kristen Bertuglia, the town’s environmental sustainability coordinator.
While 12 percent sounds like the town is already most of the way to their goal, Bertuglia points out that the plan pertains to getting the community as a whole to cut down as well. She hopes to close that final 8 percent gap by 2015, when the World Cup Ski Championships roll into town.
“Going from 12 percent to 20 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but as we grow, we also use more energy and it’s harder to cut that energy use. We are going to need the community’s help and take some greener measures where we can.”