“The city has done a great job positioning ourselves at the forefront of clean energy on the electric production side. But the real area for opportunity, economically, is going to be transportation,” says Council Member Brewster McCracken, who co-sponsored the resolution along with Danny Thomas and Mayor Will Wynn. “We could almost single-handedly create an immediate market for the plug-in hybrids, speeding up production.”
Under consideration are plans include approaching other cities with municipally owned utilities (such as New York, L.A., and Seattle) to join Austin, and placing one very large bulk order of up to 30,000 vehicles. Austin Energy, the Austin electric utility and a department of the City of Austin, is taking the lead on the project. Depending on the number purchased, Austin could use the Sprinters as city fleet vehicles or make them available for resale to Austin Energy customers.
“You’ve got this situation where you’re starting to run out of cheap oil, gas prices are getting higher and higher, and the hydrogen economy”—the Bush administration’s preferred alternative energy strategy—“is farther off than we thought,” said Roger Duncan, Austin Energy’s deputy general manager. “The response right now is hybrid vehicles.”
Austin Energy plans to report back to the City Council with recommendations this spring.
This is a very good idea, and clearly a way to build markets fast.