Plug-in hybrid or all-electric? Eugene tests motor pool of the future

Plug-in hybrid or all-electric? Eugene tests motor pool of the future »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - Remember when 14 miles per gallon of gas wasn't bad for most cars? 

How about 14 miles on a plug-in charge - gas free?
The distance is enough for Eugene city employees making local trips.

"That's correct; right now we're running on all electric," said Tony Jobanek, fleet manager for the city's motor pool program, as he cruises down Willamette Street with hardly a sound.

This is a test run for the next generation Toyota Prius. Eugene has free use of the car through Thanksgiving under a state program.

Mayor Kitty Piercy kicked the tires and got behind the wheel Tuesday for a test spin. She told a news conference near the Amtrak train depot that the state "rightfully assessed that we are the right community to test out green vehicles; to try to make a difference in the future of our city."

The car has a gas-hybrid engine, but also the plug-in feature. You get 14 miles in electric mode before the hybrid motor kicks in.

"That would fulfill most of the daily trip needs of city vehicles," said Jobanek, who said the city already has almost 100 hybrid cars and small SUVs in the fleet.

The city has had hybrid cars and SUVs for nine years.

The city wants to take this project a step further by testing an all-electric vehicle. That's supposed to happen later this month, giving the city's fuel pumps even less use.

Do these efforts save money in the long run?

Jobanek couldn't give KVAL News an exact number, but said "had we not had them, you can pretty much make the assumption we would have used twice the amount of fuel."

And with hybrid maintenance costs half of the gas-only rigs, Jobanek said chances are that the city will be plugging into this advanced technology.

Fleet officials said that largely through the use of hybrid cars, the city used 12,000 fewer gallons of gas last year compared to 2008.

The all-electric vehicle being tested later this month is a model from Mitsubishi, which Jobanek says has a range of 100 miles between charges.