Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development
Since the end of the Great Recession, automakers have been offering an increasing number of fuel-efficient vehicles in an effort to meet consumer demand and comply with Federal mandates. A key market segment in this push is expected to be alternative fuel vehicles (e.g. plug-in electric, compressed natural gas, propane, and hydrogen fuel cell). However, the industry faces huge challenges in making these products attractive for the average consumer primarily due to higher upfront costs and the lack of fueling infrastructure. Most realists will tell you that mainstream adoption will be decades away.
So, until alternative fuel vehicles come down in price and places to refuel are more convenient, the automakers need leaders like the City of Auburn Hills to step up and demonstrate these prototypes in the real world so that future consumers can see their value.
The City’s Emergency Services Department uses a 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe that was retrofitted to run on both propane and gasoline. More bi-fuel vehicles will be delivered to the City this year.
Experts at the Clean Energy Coalition have shown us that these vehicles typically cost less to operate during their life-cycle, than conventional vehicles. Thus, after significant study, the City has elected to pay a little more upfront on the new technology in order to save a lot in the long run on fuel and maintenance costs. Understanding that change takes time and these vehicles are in their infancy … Auburn Hills is forging ahead.
Why us? Why not us? We’re home to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.A. Headquarters and hundreds of high-tech auto suppliers. The success of the auto industry has direct financial implications for Auburn Hills as it provides much of the tax revenue we use to build parks, put police officers on the street, and provide services for our seniors.
The desire to be a leader in this realm has been a part of the City Council’s plans for years. In 2013, Auburn Hills became the first municipality in Michigan to adopt a resolution supporting the diversification of its fleet with alternative fuel vehicles in an effort to make a strong statement that it’s willing to “put its money where its mouth is” in terms of fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, and energy independence.
Wasting no time, the City has already begun to incorporate liquefied propane bi-fuel police pursuit vehicles and pick-up trucks, along with alternatively fueled lawn equipment, into its fleet in an effort to experience long-term cost savings and reduce emissions. These new vehicles are expected to save Auburn Hills taxpayers over $100,000 in fuel and maintenance costs combined over the life cycle of these vehicles. Next steps include adding compressed natural gas and plug-in electric vehicles in appropriate applications.
Being cutting edge is nothing new for Auburn Hills. It’s not about being “green,” but about doing the right thing. If we continue to demonstrate value, others will follow.