June 28, 2022

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Orlando spending millions to convert vehicle fleet to green energy

ORLANDO, Fla. – The city of Orlando is taking drastic steps to lower its carbon footprint by transforming its entire fleet of vehicles to electric or natural gas.

Climate experts say air pollution is not only claiming lives by causing illness and exacerbating breathing conditions, but it is also changing weather patterns, including stronger storms, a rise in sea levels and in some cases, drought.

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“If we can reduce the emissions now, we can still make a difference,” said David Dunn, director of the city of Orlando’s Fleet Management Division.

Dunn said city vehicles burn 860,000 gallons of gasoline each year, and his department is working to bring that down to near-zero.

“Reduced emissions are good for the environment because they reduce the amount of hydrocarbons that we’re putting into the atmosphere,” Dunn said.

Right now, the city of Orlando has nearly 1,700 vehicles that either run completely on electricity of a combination of gasoline and electric.

Dunn said more are on the way.

The city also uses 72 garbage trucks that run completely on natural gas – eliminating the black smoke older trucks used to bellow.

The city’s goal is to have all 3,000 of its vehicles running on alternative fuels by 2030.

One of the City of Orlando’s fleet vehicles that runs completely on electricity generated by a solar farm on top of the fleet management building. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

“That’s pretty impressive, right?” asked Chris Castro, the city’s director of sustainability, who says his team is working against time.

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“We realize that the urgency is real, that in order for us to sustain our quality of life into the future — in the coming decades — that we need to do everything possible to reduce our emissions and what we call ‘mitigate climate change,’” he said.

Powering the new fleet of electric vehicles could be one of the city’s best kept secrets. It’s accomplished by a solar farm that sits on top of the fleet management building on South Westmoreland Drive.

Mike Omans, who manages the solar panels, said it can generate enough electricity to power two-thirds of the complex and the vehicles.

“It has weathered several hurricanes, and you can see nothing really was damaged at all with the facility,” he said.

Researchers at Climate Central say switching to electric vehicles reduces emissions and air pollution.

Courtesy: Climate Central (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

As a result, they say that could mean $16 billion in lower health care costs in Florida.

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The city of Orlando already spent $4.5 million on the conversion to alternative fuels.

Dunn said some of the vehicles may be more expensive to purchase, but the maintenance on them is far cheaper. Because of that, he said the vehicles end up saving the city money in the long run.

The city of Orlando is also part of a Climate Mayors’ Purchasing Collaborative, which helps bring down the cost to taxpayers as more cities opt to make the conversion.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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