County fleet to burn cleaner fuel

Plug-in electric cars could soon recharge at solar-powered stations in Snohomish County’s public garage, thanks to federal stimulus money.

The $1.1 million grant also should help the county fleet run on biodiesel, ethanol and electricity.

“We’ve been pushing the envelope on this,” county fleet manager Allen Mitchell said. “Somebody has to bite the bullet and make it happen.”

The grant plan calls for 20 recharging stalls each at the county’s public garage in downtown Everett and the McCollum Park park-and-ride in south Everett.

Other stalls would be installed at the Cathcart property outside Snohomish, the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe and another undetermined park-and-ride.

The grant also gives the county $40,000 to offset the price of 20 new gas-electric hybrid vehicle and pays for installing three 5,000-gallon alternative fuel tanks for refueling county vehicles. Biodiesel tanks would be installed at Paine Field and the fairgrounds, and an ethanol tank at Carthcart.

About 70 percent of the county’s 335-vehicle fleet already runs on biodiesel, Mitchell said. Officials hope to push that above 90 percent by 2012.

Councilman Dave Somers believes the new technology can support local farmers who grow fuel crops and cut down on foreign oil use.

“When gas goes up to $4 or $5 per gallon, we’re going to be able to implement it on a larger scale,” Somers said.

The grant money comes from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition awarded $15 million to other Washington projects: helping Sea-Tac International Airport convert to an all-electric ground-crew fleet; Whatcom County use methane from a dairy farm to power shuttle buses during the 2010 Vancouver, B.C., Winter Olympics; and colleges and universities develop clean-energy programs.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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