GREENWICH, CT – The town of Greenwich has set a goal to replace the vehicles in its municipal fleet with hybrids and other environmentally-friendly models when old models are in need of replacement, according to the Greenwich Time.

Fleet Director Elizabeth Linck said her goal is to phase-out as many of the older vehicles as possible, including some heavy-duty trucks. 

Currently, just two of about 300 Greenwich vehicles are hybrids that get their power from both battery and gas.

The town recently saved $6,900 on the purchase of those two vehicles, a pair of Ford Escape hybrids, under the state Department of Transportation’s clean fuels program. Each cost $25,484 each before the reimbursement. However, the town wants to take advantage of the state’s grant program that reimburses cities and towns for excess costs they incur from purchasing hybrid vehicles over conventional automobiles for their municipal fleets.

City officials have asked the Board of Estimate and Taxation for authorization to negotiate reimbursements from the state on future vehicle purchases.

The Escape hybrid gets about 28 miles per gallon of fuel, with city mileage slightly better than highway mileage because the SUV operates more on electricity than on gas at lower speeds. The estimated fuel cost per vehicle is $1,500 per year. A 330-volt battery pack powers the Ford up to 25 mph, minimizing environmentally harmful gasoline emissions. A gas motor kicks into operation when the vehicle’s speed exceeds 25 mph or when the battery's voltage drops below a certain level. The battery recharges every time the driver uses the brakes.

One of the new hybrids replaced another vehicle that was taken out of service and was used by public works building inspectors. The other SUV was added to a town carpool dedicated for use by employees of the three municipal Land Use Agencies, according to the Greenwich Time. The town is expected to put in an order for two more Ford Escape SUVs during the 2008-09 fiscal year if Linck receives budgetary approval. In addition to hybrids, Linck said she was looking at vehicles that run on biodiesel fuel.