PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla— The city of Palm Beach Gardens hopes to lead the way when it comes to going “green." The city even envisions one-day having city cars that can drive themselves. While that switch is still a few years away, the city recently traded in eight of its gas vehicles for electric ones.
“Car runs just like your regular automobile but without the gas or the gas-burning motor,” said the director of public service Joseph Corrao.
Through a leasing company, the city can lease the Nissan Leafs, which are completely electric and have a range of 151 miles. They have assigned 5 to fire inspectors within the fire department and 3 to code enforcement. In October, the city will add five cars to its fleet.
“So they don’t need long range they are just driving in local streets and doing inspections,” said Corrao.
While the transition currently doesn’t include changing out any police vehicles or fire trucks, the city isn’t ruling out the possibility.
“We’ve already experimented with hybrid vehicles in the past so this is our first time going fully electric, but as the technology changes and they offer trucks, pickup trucks we will pursue things like that,” said Corrao.
The electric cars aren’t costing taxpayers extra money because they are only making the changes to cars that need to be phased out. Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Maria Marino said it’s saving the city $3,750 per year for eight cars. “Well you never want to spend more taxpayer dollars than you have to so this is our way of saving money for our taxpayers, but it’s also our way of keeping the city green,” said Marino.
Part of the change includes five new charging stations installed in the Palm Beach Gardens City Hall parking lot. The plan is to add more within the next year. The charging stations are open to the public and are one way they hope to encourage residents to also make the switch to electric.
The city is launching several other green initiatives including a partnership with FPL to convert all city streets to LED. The transition will start in September of 2018. 968 street lights will be replaced with an estimated power consumption reduction of 417,600 kWh per year. According to FPL, the number is equivalent to removing 62 cars from the roadway.
The change is estimated to save the city $23,699 a year. The city also recently installed energy management systems in city facilities. The change saved $10,000 in 2017.
As for the future of city vehicles in Palm Beach Gardens, Mayor Marino said they are looking into cars that can drive themselves and communicate with other city vehicles, as well as city traffic lights.
“We are not there yet. I don’t know when we will be there, but we are investigating so when the time comes we will be the first doing it,” said Marino.