August 02. 2016 6:46PM
NEW BEDFORD — Electric cars now account for more than 25 percent of the city’s general-use fleet, giving New Bedford the largest electric-vehicle fleet of any municipality in Massachusetts, Mayor Jon Mitchell and other local officials announced Tuesday.
“New Bedford has a lot at stake when it comes to sea-level rise and climate change and so it is important for us to lead by example,” Mitchell said, in a press release from his office. “Whether it’s our nation-leading solar program, converting our municipal fleet to electric vehicles, or aggressively pursuing offshore wind energy opportunities, we’ve tried to demonstrate that much can be accomplished when there is a strong local consensus and sustained commitment to big renewable energy goals.”
The city now is leasing 19 Nissan LEAF electric cars, used by staff in the city’s health and school departments. The city’s passenger fleet totals about 70 cars. The green effort began a year ago, when the city added the first 10 electric cars to its fleet, after retiring aging vehicles.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has given the city $206,000 in grant funding through its Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, Mitchell said.
MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said the program has awarded nearly $1.8 million over the past three years, for electric vehicles and charging stations across the state, where more than 7,000 “EVs” are on the road.
City officials also said Tuesday that the number of charging stations in New Bedford has grown to 27, including 10 that are available to the public, free of charge, in city parking garages and at the International Marketplace public parking lot in the North End.
“Last year alone, we had more than 700 independent sessions where people came and charged their vehicles,” said Scott Durkee, director of the city’s energy office.
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