Garco looks to expand hybrid vehicle fleet |

Garco looks to expand hybrid vehicle fleet

Garfield County’s experiment with hybrid vehicles is so successful, the entire fleet may look completely different in the near future.

“If they hold up, 50 percent of the fleet could be hybrid in five years,” said Jess Smith, director of administrative services for the county government.

For 2003, the county commissioners authorized Smith to buy another hybrid vehicle and an alternative energy pickup or sport utility vehicle that can operate with gasoline, propane or ethylene.

Smith said Garfield County bought its first hybrid vehicle this year. The performance is comparable to or better than its internal combustion engine counterparts, but with far better gas mileage.

“We’ve had good luck with it,” Smith said.

The car is a Toyota Prius, which is advertised as getting 50 to 60 miles per gallon depending on driving conditions.

Smith said the Prius is powered by an electric motor and a gasoline engine. “The electric motor runs it, and the gasoline engine kicks in when it’s needed,” he said.

Smith drove the car to Denver and back and it averaged 56 miles per gallon. “I thought it performed exceptionally well,” he said.

The car lagged a little bit as Smith headed west out of Denver and topped out at 50 miles per hour on Kenosha Pass, but other than that, he was able to at least maintain the speed limit.

In town, the four seater’s performance is “phenomenal.”

“Everyone loves it,” Smith said. “The only weird thing about it is it’s so quiet you can’t tell the engine is running.”

As for the occupants’ comfort, Smith said it will carry three other people like himself just fine. “I’m a good-sized guy,” he noted.

Garfield County bought the Prius for its gas mileage. Smith said the vehicle’s battery is the big question over the next couple of years, because it costs $4,000 to replace.

“But there’s an 80,000 mile warranty on it,” he said.

The first Prius cost the county $19,000, which did not include a federal rebate that encourages alternative energy vehicles.

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