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White House Plugging In

Obama orders feds to buy battery cars, compacts.

by on May.25, 2011

Pres. Obama during a visit to the Chevy Volt plant.

The White House is going green.  President Obama is ordering his administration to make a high-mileage shift by replacing its current vehicle fleet with more fuel-efficient battery cars and compacts – and ruling out full-sized sedans unless absolutely necessary.

The list of new models includes 101 Detroit-made Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids, as well as 15 Nissan Leaf and Think City battery-electric vehicles.  Charging stations will be installed at government buildings in at least five cities.

The new directive supports the president’s goal of getting 1 million battery vehicles on the road by 2015 – while reducing oil import levels in 2025 by a third compared to 2008.

There are some exceptions in the new White House directive.  It will permit “optional equipment to what is essential to meet agency mission,” such as “vehicles used for law enforcement, protective, emergency response, or military tactical operations.”  That will include the truck-based, heavily-armored limousine used by the president and his Secret Service detail.

And full-sized sedans and SUVs can be maintained by government agencies as long as they can run on E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.  Actually, a large percentage of today’s new vehicles can run on E85, though the number actually using the mostly renewable fuel is a small fraction.

But the Administration plans to continue pushing to adopt more high-mileage vehicles moving forward, with most of the cars in the 600,000-vehicle government fleet using advanced powertrain technologies by 2015.

The White House estimates it can save as much as 385,000 barrels of oil, or 7.7 million gallons of gas.

The battery car pilot program will see charging stations installed at federal buildings in Washington, D.C., California and Michigan, and the project, if successful, could then be expanded to other parts of the country.