The Village of Enosburg Falls’ curiously quiet green Ford Ranger popped up all over the community in 1999. It showed up at Little League games, picnics, and in lots of different driveways—all without using a drop of gasoline.
Since early August, the 536 taxpayers of Enosburg Falls, through their village government, have essentially shared an electric truck made available by the EVermont Municipal Lease Project. With the enthusiastic backing of his board of trustees, Village Manager Steve McNeil has been sending the truck home with village employees so more people in the community can see and enjoy it.“We tell people to take it home and to use it—go to the Little League game, go to the soccer game, take the neighbors out,” says McNeil. “We tell drivers that if someone on the streets asks you about the truck, offer them a ride.”

While the truck’s range is relatively limited, it fits the bill for this village quite well. Enosburg Falls is the only village or town in Vermont in which all municipal functions—street maintenance, the sewer system, electric service—are governed by a single legislative body (the village board of trustees) and managed by one individual (the village manager). The electric truck is just right for a meter reader making his rounds, a quick trip to the pumping station for someone in the sewer department, or the village manager’s visit to the bank.

“We have 11.6 miles of road in the village. The range of the truck is 50 miles. Whoa, this is a perfect fit,” says McNeil. EVermont is a public-private partnership of 30 Vermont state agencies, companies and non-profits testing and demonstrating advanced vehicle technology. Founded by Gov. Howard Dean in 1993, EVermont has a fleet of 15 electric vehicles (EVs) and has received about $3 million in funding from the Department of Defense for cold-weather testing and vehicle development. The project is dedicated to the belief that our society needs to move away from a petroleum-based transportation system for environmental and economic reasons and to provide security against possible disruptions in the availability of oil. EVermont promotes the use of electric vehicles by supporting research and sponsoring demonstration projects. The project’s mission has been expanded recently to include other advanced technologies, such as hybrid electric cars and vehicles powered by natural gas.

The most obvious benefit of electric vehicles is the elimination of tailpipe emissions. Fueling our automobiles with power generated at electric generating facilities instead of internal combustion engines would tremendously reduce he amount of pollution in the air we breathe. The use of EVs produces air pollution only at the electric power generating source and the amount depends on the fuel or method used to generate electricity (nuclear, wood-fired, hydro) and the degree of control applied to the power plant stack emissions. Research conducted by EVermont indicates that electric vehicles produce 90 percent less air pollution than the standard internal combustion automobile. The 10 percent of emissions not eliminated are emitted at the location of the power plant. With respect to greenhouse gas emissions, EVs produce an estimated two-thirds less than comparable gasoline powered vehicles.

In addition to reducing local tailpipe emissions to zero, EVs also eliminate other air pollution associated with the use of gasoline powered vehicles. Hot engines fueled by gasoline release evaporative fumes containing some of these same harmful contaminants. These build up in the local atmosphere, particularly on hot summer days. And hot engine evaporation is not the only source of gasoline fumes; gasoline vehicles need to be refueled by pumping gasoline from service station tanks into the vehicle. As refueling takes place, evaporative emissions escaping from the station pump hoses and vehicle gas tanks are often easily detectable to us in the familiar gasoline fumes we smell. Drivers of electric vehicles are not exposed to the hazardous compounds in gasoline fumes because an EV does not involve any need to pump gasoline.

Electric vehicles reduce both surface and groundwater pollution by eliminating the leakage and spillage of motor oil and antifreeze onto roadways and parking lots. The need to use these products in motor vehicles is eliminated or at least drastically reduced with electric powered vehicles. Furthermore, electric vehicles produce less solid waste. EVs do not require frequent oil changes and thus eliminate the need for disposal of used crankcase and lubricating oils. Nor do EVs generate other waste products such as spent oil filters, air filters, mufflers, and exhaust systems. Because traditional tune-ups are not needed, EVs don’t generate waste products such as spark plugs and gasoline fuel filters, along with numerous hoses and belts required for gasoline powered engines.

As for economic benefits, EVs contribute more to local economies in many ways. EVs require new technologies, and with new technologies come new business opportunities. The technologies required for EVs will be the so-called high-tech technologies which have multiple spin-offs for other sectors of the economy. Diverse start-up companies located throughout the country, including some in Vermont, are developing and supplying these technologies. With electrical energy being more domestic in origin, money spent to operate EVs contributes more to the local economy. This can happen on many different levels. Examples of large-scale operations that could be enhanced in Vermont include the McNeil Generating Plant in Burlington and the Ryegate Power Plant in Ryegate. These facilities generate electric power from wood energy. If EVs were to become a large part of our transportation mix, these plants, with well- controlled generating and distribution facilities, would be able to provide the energy to operate electric cars. While providing increased numbers of jobs in Vermont forests and in Vermont communities, our existing technologies could also provide renewable energy for transportation.

The benefits of EVs extend further, even including national security. First, EVs provide choice. The batteries that store energy onboard the vehicle can be charged from a variety of prime energy sources—fossil fuels, nuclear, hydroelectric, wood, wind, and solar. While there are issues associated with each one of these energy sources and some are more attractive than others, they are all technologies in use today. Using them with EVs to provide transportation would introduce choice into the transportation sector—where there currently is none—and choice is good. Beyond choice, some of these forms of energy are renewable, while petroleum is not. And these renewable segments of the energy generation industry are growing.

Finally, electrical energy is more domestic in origin than petroleum, the primary raw product needed for gasoline. Petroleum is a highly imported commodity in the entire United States and especially so in the Northeast. This has national security implications. Much of the global supply of oil is located in politically volatile regions. Costs associated with safeguarding the flow of oil from these regions are not included in the price of petroleum. As a consequence, gasoline to power our vehicles stays artificially cheap in consumer dollars while its larger costs to society remain unaccounted.

Those are global issues of great importance. And while those issues are often on the minds of Enosburg Falls residents, there are times when driving an electric vehicle is simply a pleasure.

“This truck has as much, if not more pep than any of our other vehicles,” says McNeil. “This is a fun vehicle to drive.”

For more information about the EVermont Program, visit the program’s web site at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/air/evermont/index.htm or call the Air Pollution Control Division at 1 (888)-520-4879.

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