The Obama administration plans to purchase 116 plug-in electric vehicles for the U.S. government, led by 101 Chevrolet Volts from General Motors Co., saying it wants to increase the number of these cars in the fleet.
Nissan Motor Co. and Think Global AS vehicles also will be acquired as part of a directive announced today, to ensure that all new government vehicles can use alternative fuels by 2015, according to the General Services Administration.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu and additional federal officials presented the plan to buy vehicles that run on low- emission fuels such as ethanol blends. The proposal may trim the size of the federal fleet, which has about 600,000 cars and trucks, according to a White House statement.
“We are in a global race to capture the growing market for alternative vehicle technologies,” Chu said at a press conference in Washington.
The directive puts into effect Obama's statement in March that the government should be buying only alternative-fuel vehicles within four years. These could include electric, natural gas, clean diesel and flex-fuel cars that use E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
The electric-vehicle purchases are intended to be a start to expanding the number of plug-in cars in the federal fleet. The U.S. government began boosting its purchases of hybrid- electric cars in 2009, including buying 3,100 with $300 million the GSA received in federal economic stimulus money.
The government, which negotiates vehicle-purchase prices, is paying $38,500 for each Volt, $33,000 for the Leaf and about $32,500 for Oslo-based Think Global's Think City cars, according to the GSA. While that's less than the Volt's $41,000 suggested retail price, federal agencies don't qualify for a $7,500 tax credit for plug-in vehicles bought by individuals.
“The GSA made the right call in choosing the Volt to help lead its electric-vehicle fleet initiative,” Greg Martin, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, said in an e-mail. “The Volt is a ‘no-excuses' car designed to meet the rigors of daily use with gas-free driving under most circumstances.”
The Think City vehicles will be manufactured at a factory in Elkhart, Indiana, according to the GSA statement.
The directive issued today excludes conventionally powered vehicles that run solely on gasoline. Obama said last month in a speech at a United Parcel Service Inc. facility in Landover, Maryland, that purchases for the federal fleet by 2015 would have to be “fuel-efficient or clean energy.” The Volt can be powered as a plug-in electric and also has a gasoline-powered engine as a backup.
1 Million Cars
Obama has promoted the purchase of plug-in and hybrid- electric vehicles, saying he wants 1 million such cars and trucks on U.S. roads by 2015. The government has mostly bought cars and trucks capable of running on E85 or gasoline.
Federal employees last year received waivers to substitute gasoline in 55 percent of fleet vehicles capable of running on E85 because the ethanol blend wasn't available, the Government Accountability Office found.
The administration, with today's announcement, is trying to help agencies match alternative-fuel vehicle technologies with fueling infrastructure.
The GSA has bought about 35,000 vehicles so far this year, with 22,000 of them being alternative-fuel capable, according to the agency, which manages vehicle purchases for about two thirds of non-military federal vehicles.