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Anne Arundel starts process to convert county fleet to electronic vehicles with plans to replace all by 2037

Anne Arundel County has its sights set on a future free of cars fueled by gasoline.

A new plan set in motion by County Executive Steuart Pittman outlines the immediate replacement of old county-owned vehicles with hybrid or electric cars when financially possible and a comprehensive study preparing officials to eventually replace the entire 1,600 car fleet.

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“We want to be part of moving into the green economy, and if we aren’t ready, we will be behind,” said Environmental Policy Director Matt Johnston. “This is about getting Anne Arundel County ready to build back better after this crisis.”

But the shift isn’t going to happen overnight, and Johnston said that’s a good thing.

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“We aren’t throwing out good vehicles to buy better,” he said. “We will only replace as the vehicles need replacement, and we will only replace with more efficient vehicles when the fiscal case makes sense.”

Within 15 years, officials want to be at a point where the county would not consider buying a gasoline-fueled car. But there might still be some in the fleet because they don’t intend to replace vehicles that are still functioning.

“This new initiative is necessarily aggressive because we must combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions now,” Pittman said in a release. “It is also intentionally flexible because the county must continue to provide high-quality services to the public in a fiscally responsible way.”

By 2032, all non-emergency light and medium-duty vehicles purchased must be all-electric models. By 2037, all light and medium-duty emergency vehicles purchased must be all-electric, Pittman said.

Johnston said it’s possible police cruisers would be among the first replaced with more efficient models. Ford, which produces police cruisers, already has a hybrid model on the market. It’s particularly efficient for police because it stops using gasoline while idling and shifts to battery power.

Pittman noted in a memo to the Department of Central Services that idling, or leaving the vehicle’s engine running while parked, is against County Vehicle Policy except in extreme weather situations where the temperature in the car has to be maintained for safety reasons.

Funding for a study of long-term infrastructure, charging and maintenance needs will be included in the next fiscal year’s budget, Pittman said.

The county executive will require an annual report on the program highlighting total vehicles owned and leased by the county, total gallons of gasoline and diesel consumed by those vehicles and other details.

Johnston said the memo announcing the plans serves a secondary purpose: It will show grant programs that the county is already moving toward this goal and make them a more competitive applicant.

In the memo, Pittman directs county departments to aggressively pursue grants for jurisdictions trying to convert the fleet for any type of related infrastructure, training resources or equipment.

Any grant money the county receives for this effort would reduce taxpayer dollars being used for the project, he said.

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