Following an endorsement from Director of Public Works Raymond A. Jack, the Falmouth Finance Committee recommended spending $76,000 to purchase two electric cars and a charging station.
“If my own car was coming up for acquisition this year, that is what I would want it to be,” Mr. Jack said. “I believe in them.”
If purchased, the two Chevrolet Volts will be used by the conservation and building departments. Although grants are available to offset the purchase cost, the $76,000 requested would enable the town to purchase all three items without grant funding.
Mr. Jack said electric cars have come a long way since their introduction, and his three main concerns have been addressed. Electric cars used to have a lower driving range, higher cost and shorter battery life. The Chevrolet Volt has a 260-mile driving range, a $35,731 price tag and an extended battery life with an eight-year warranty.
“With an eight-year life, my assumption is we would cycle through these vehicles at that time, before we get into any battery issues,” Mr. Jack said, acknowledging that replacing an electric car’s battery can be costly.
He said the cars have a “major environmental benefit,” and can get the equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon.
Finance Committee member Peter J. Hargraves said while this information is helpful, the committee’s decision was not a referendum on energy savings.
“Our concerns were on two things you have not covered: anecdotal information that these cars are not as reliable from [Barnstable] and that our fleet is mostly Ford-based, while this is a Chevy,” Mr. Hargraves said.
Mr. Jack said he supported the purchase, regardless of the energy savings.
“Overall, whether this is a smart acquisition regardless of the environment, I would say yes, and I do believe that,” Mr. Jack said. “Now, a couple of years ago, that would have been a different story, because there were too many unknowns and too many side effects that would be intolerable for a municipal fleet.”
While Ford is introducing an electric vehicle next year, Mr. Jack said he would not support purchasing it at that time.
“I’m not inclined to buy the first-year model of anything,” he said, noting the Volt is in its third production year.
Committee member Joseph Lemay questioned the energy savings, noting fuel costs for a hybrid Ford Fusion at 6 cents per mile. The town can purchase two hybrid Ford Fusions for $29,000 each. Mr. Jack estimated the cars will be driven between 3,000 and 10,000 miles annually. Using that 6-cents-per-mile figure, Mr. Lemay said the town would save approximately $600 on fuel costs annually.
“I’m not seeing that we’ll save enough to pay for the cars,” Mr. Lemay said, noting there is still a per-mile cost for driving an electric car.
Committee member Susan P. Smith said the town is applying for grants to offset the purchase price.
“If we get the grants, I think we are at a break-even point going electric,” Ms. Smith said. “If we don’t get the grants, we’re not going to recoup the extra money. We are buying a more expensive vehicle, so we can feel good, which might be fine, but we need to consider that.”
The committee voted 13-1-1 to recommend the purchase, with Ronald C. Dyer opposed.
Although she did not specifically mention electric cars, Barbara P. Schneider of Sandcastle Drive, East Falmouth, addressed the committee during the public comment period.
“I did read something about how one of you said your job is to watch over the taxpayers’ dollars,” Ms. Schneider said. “I appreciate that, but I would also add, even more importantly, our generation, my generation, has made a mess of this planet, and we need other generations to step up and try to repair the damage we’ve done. It’s not a small thing. Every chance that you get where a little extra money buys a little bit better place that we’re leaving behind as a better footprint, I feel it is worth every penny.”