Satellite Beach creates eco buzz with purchase of electric car

Satellite Beach is looking down the road to future energy expenses by purchasing a pre-owned Electric Vehicle (EV), likely a Chevy Volt, and creating a two-vehicle City Hall charging station rather than spending $30,000 budgeted for a regular gas burning vehicle for the Community Development Department.

The purchase approved by the City Council supports the city’s Sustainability Action Plan and two of its specific Green Achievement Targets (GATs), namely that the city install at least one EV charging station at a municipal building and ultimately replace all its fossil fuel city administrative vehicles.

The city currently has a similar but single EV charging station at Pelican Beach Park.

The change to a Volt, expected to be on the road in January, will result in cost savings of electricity over gas, and the operation of the vehicle will be cleaner.

Also, there will be maintenance savings by not having to change oil very often in the small gas-powered engine, said software engineer Josh Pritt, founder of the nearly 100 member Space Coast EV Drivers and himself a Volt driver. Also being considered for the purchase by the end of the year is a previously-owned Nissan Leaf.

The use of EV vehicles in Brevard County started around 2011, with Melbourne leading the way by installing a charger – the most expensive and fastest of three types of charges – at City Hall. The Satellite Beach chargers at City Hall, like the one at Pelican Beach Park, are the middle range of the three types, taking hours rather than minutes for a full charge.

It may come as a surprise to some that the least expensive charger type plugs right into a wall outlet, but takes several hours to use.

“People need to realize that 99 percent of the time the EV driver starts from home with a full charge by plugging in overnight, and that doesn’t require anything more than a regular outlet,’’ Pritt said.

The city vehicle for Satellite Beach will mostly stay within city limits but may travel to Orlando or Tallahassee.

Pritt earlier appeared before the Satellite Beach Sustainability Board to give advice on the purchase of a used EV as a city vehicle. “We drive the things every day so we are the ones to ask,’’ he said.

Satellite Beach is the first barrier island community in Brevard to make the move, following up on its larger efforts toward sustainability, including soon adding electricity-generating photovoltaic solar panels for the roof of City Hall.

Other Brevard chargers listed on not located in local car dealerships include one at Florida Tech in Melbourne, one at the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa and one at Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cape Canaveral. Some of the chargers are free, while others require using credit cards for payment, usually less than $2 to fill up with a charge, Pritt said.

The Volt is perhaps preferable to a Leaf because, as a hybrid, it cannot become stranded from running out of a charge away from a charger.

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