San Luis Obispo is the latest city to address climate concerns by adding hybrid cars to its municipal fleet. At an Aug. 21 City Council meeting, the council approved the $75,000 purchase of three new Toyota hybrids.
The Priuses cost about 46 percent more than comparable sedans, but city staff estimated that savings will be made when the fuel costs are adjusted over the cars' 80,000-mile lifespan. The council approved a $22,000 transfer from water and sewer funds to cover the extra purchase price of the hybrid sedans. With projected fuel savings, the Priuses will ultimately cost about 3 percent more, but are viewed as more consistent with the utility department's commitment to energy conservation. San Luis Obispo will also replace 11 conventional trucks for Public Works, and seven vehicles for the police department, which earlier this year replaced its DARE SUV with a hybrid model.
"This is our first hybrid purchase," Councilmember Christine Mulholland said, "but this is the direction we will be going."
Mulholland also explained that the city has plans to replace older buses with cleaner-burning diesel models.
While many city vehicles such as police pursuit cars and work trucks are still chosen with power in mind, Dave Smith, who oversees the city fleet, is hopeful that as the technology progresses, the city will have more options.
"We are going to see more and more hybrids in the city fleet, as the technology gets better," he said. "Not just sedans, but heavier equipment, such as dump trucks."