SAN JOSE -- San Jose and three other Bay Area cities received 50 battery-powered cars in a deal announced Thursday that was hailed as the largest single all-electric municipal fleet vehicle deployment in the country.
San Jose received 38 of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV hatchbacks, putting it closer to the city's lofty "Green Vision" goal of powering its entire fleet with alternative fuels. Several of them were on display outside City Hall where Mayor Chuck Reed joined other officials announcing the deal.
"By replacing older, less efficient vehicles with clean EVs, we reduce emissions but more importantly, save on fuel costs," Reed said.
Los Gatos received five of the cars, Campbell three and the remainder went to Mill Valley.
Campbell Mayor Evan Low said the battery-powered cars are "ideally suited" to the routine trips taken by most of the city's fleet vehicles and can take advantage of a network of 24 charging stations in the city.
"The EV proposition makes a lot of sense for our fleet," Low said.
The cities will lease the cars at little or no cost through a collaboration between Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, New York corporate trading and marketing company Active International, and Mike Albert Fleet Solutions of Cincinnati. The Bay Area Climate Collaborative, a public-private initiative of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group that was established by San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland to promote alternative energy, brokered the deal.
The cities were able to lease the cars free or at a deep discount. Active President Arthur Wagner said the terms of the trade were confidential between his company and clients.
For the cities, the deal allowed them two leasing options. They could lease the cars at no cost up to 5,000 miles for a year, after which they could buy them for $15,875 each, said Claire Barton, program manager for the Bay Area Climate Collaborative. Alternatively, she said the cities could lease the cars for three years with no payments in the first year and $250 a month for the remaining two. That would be offset by a $2,000 state rebate for an effective monthly cost of $111, or $4,000 total over the final two years. The cities could then buy the cars after the three years for $12,375.
"Any time we can get a new vehicle for free is a pretty good day," Reed said.
The 2012 i-MiEVs the cities are acquiring carry a sticker price of $29,000 and are considered affordable offerings in the electric car market. Online auto rating company Edmunds.com credited the i-MiEV for "crisp acceleration, responsive handling and a smooth ride" but noted drawbacks of the shortest battery range in its class -- just 62 miles -- and "longish" seven-hour full recharge time.
City officials said that for the short trips typical for municipal fleet cars, the range wasn't a big concern.
"Many of our fleet vehicle routes are predictable and take place within the city itself," explained Low.
And for what it's worth, Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector, calling herself a car nut, proclaimed the i-MiEV both "cute" and "cool."
For San Jose, the deal is a step closer toward one of Reed's more achievable Green Vision goals, which the City Council unanimously adopted in 2007. Among the goals to be achieved by 2022 was having the entire city fleet powered by alternatives to gasoline, including electric battery power. Reed said currently about 40 percent of the city fleet uses alternative fuels, up from 36 percent in 2007. Other goals include creating 25,000 clean technology jobs (the city claims a little more than 10,000 so far, from 6,000 in 2007) and diverting 100 percent of municipal waste from landfills (the city claims to have raised waste diversion from 63 to 73 percent since 2007).
Tight budgets have crimped San Jose's ability to deliver on the green goals, and Reed said he's asked city officials to look for ways to achieve them at little or no city cost.
"In these tough budgetary times this is a chance to do something good for very little money," Reed said, admiring one of the purple cars. "They'll be put to great use."
Staff writer Paul Rogers contributed to this report. Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.