Evansville finds multiple uses for its electric vehicle

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From an article by Gina Duwe on Jansville's GazetteXtra.com:

EVANSVILLE — Water operator Pat Hartin gets plenty of stares when he silently wheels around the neighborhood in the red electric vehicle.

"People ask about it—'That's it? That's the car,'" he said.

The Evansville Water and Light Utility last spring added the Columbia Summit electric vehicle to its fleet and has since put on about 1,000 miles around town, utility Superintendent Scott George said.

"You almost feel inconspicuous going around the street," he said. "The first thing, it looks weird. (People) see you coming, then you go by and it's not making a sound."

A neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV, runs on electricity, so it is plugged in instead of filled up. The top speed is 25 mph, and it runs for about 35 miles before it needs recharging. City ordinances limit the vehicles to streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

Energy conservation is what prompted the utility to buy the electric vehicle, George said. He recommends other municipalities consider such a purchase because they'd be surprised at how many uses the vehicles have, he said.

Evansville's vehicle cost about $15,000, but the utility received a $5,000 grant through its membership in Wisconsin Public Power Inc. Since WPPI started its electric vehicle incentive program last year, 14 neighborhood electric vehicles have been purchased for 13 WPPI member communities, said Alicia Rankin of WPPI. . . .

Evansville originally bought its electric vehicle thinking they'd use it for meter reading, George said, but they're using it for everything but meter reading because so much of their mileage is on rural roads.

From the morning drive around town to read the wells and check pumps to fire hydrant maintenance to trips to the hardware store, the vehicle is a great substitute for using a full-size pickup truck, George said.

Workers use it for cleaning and painting hydrants because they can throw a portable generator and paint sprayer on the back, which has folding side and steel rails. With a hydrant every 500 feet, workers can drive up, make the fixes and keep going.