Georgetown County added the first two electric vehicles to its fleet last month. It’s a long-awaited move expected to generate savings for the county in coming years.
“We started trying to find battery-operated vehicles to buy about three years ago,” said Donny Cummings, manager of the county’s Facilities Services division. “We were on a wait list and didn’t know how long it was going to take to get to the top.”
With increasing demand for electric vehicles, battery suppliers have been unable to keep up, making new electric vehicles hard to come by. Facilities Services, had planned to buy two high top vans. It ended up instead with one high top van (a Ford Transit-350) and a Volkswagen ID.4. The Division was able to get the van only because they happened to see it sitting on a car lot in Conway. It had been ordered by a plumbing contractor, but by the time the vehicle was ready, the contractor had unfortunately gone out of business. Cummings snapped it up.
Cummings said the division hopes to purchase more electric vehicles in the future, eventually replacing all of the Facility Services fleet.
“This is a test right now, but so far it’s going great,” he added.
The van was assigned to Pat Sanders, an HVAC technician with the division, who said it has helped him work faster. He was previously assigned a Ford F-250.
“In the van, I can actually see where all my stuff is. The parts are more accessible,” he said. The county installed shelves in the van to make it a mobile shop for Sanders. He said he’s also achieving significant savings on fuel and maintenance. He used to spend at least $100 every time he had to fuel up the truck. Additionally, he said the van needs very little maintenance. The electric vehicle batteries are warrantied for eight to 10 years, depending on the vehicle. The biggest maintenance expenses will be tires and brakes.
The county paid $43,000 for the Volkswagen and about $60,000 for the van. It also had three Level 2 chargers installed, which allows a vehicle to be completely charged in just 6-8 hours.
“He drives it all day, comes in and charges it overnight, then it’s ready to go when he comes in the next morning,” Cummings said.
Each charger cost $260. The standard chargers that come with the vehicles for home use can take up to 72 hours to fully charge a vehicle. Cummings is working with the County’s Purchasing Office to look into installing Level 3 chargers, which can fully charge an electric vehicle in 30 minutes to an hour.
Cummings will be evaluating the costs of operating the electric vehicles this year to see how much savings could be achieved by replacing more vehicles in the fleet with electric models.