Originally created 09/22/05

County looks into alternative fuels for fleet's future

Clayton Galloway's goal these days is to get as familiar as possible with hybrid, electric, hydrogen and other alternative vehicle technology.

It's all part of an adjustment to higher gas prices and a goal set by county commissioners to cut back the Columbia County government's gasoline consumption by 25 percent.

"Everything is going to be scrutinized, from operations to new technology to what can we do to be more efficient,'' said Mr. Galloway, Columbia County's fleet manager.

Mr. Galloway said in coming weeks he will research new vehicle technology in search of a long-term fit for Columbia County. Such a search, though, is tricky.

"You have to be very careful when you look at new technologies,'' he said. "It's the VCR-Betamax format thing. If you invest in the wrong thing, it can really turn around to bite you.''

Mr. Galloway said he hopes being near Savannah River Site also will help; SRS is likely to become involved in fuel-cell technology for hydrogen cars.

"That would be great because they will have to have a test bid somewhere, and guess who's going to be standing over there with their hand out? We're going to be saying, 'Hey, if you want to test one, come on over,''' Mr. Galloway said.

In the past, he said, electric vehicles, which cost upward of $30,000, were cost-prohibitive.

Mr. Galloway said hybrids also have not been feasible because they typically have to operate on gasoline until the vehicle tops 50 mph, at which point electric power kicks in. He said county vehicles mostly travel at speeds below 50 mph. However, he said he needs to research new technology again to make sure there haven't been major changes.

In the meantime, Mr. Galloway said, small steps are being taken, such as reducing idling times for vehicles and placing more scrutiny on the need for trucks in the fleet.

"You've just got to be able to almost draw blood to get a full-sized pickup,'' he said. "And that's the way it should be.''

The county recently revised its mileage allowance for employees. That change followed a recent increase by the Internal Revenue Service in the amount allowed on income tax filings, which the county typically follows as a guideline. The IRS raised its figure to 48.5 cents a mile. The county's rate was 40.5 cents a mile.

County commissioners were recently told the increase would cost the county about $52,000 for the rest of the year. The commission agreed to pay the higher IRS rate through December but said it would review it at that time.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: Columbia County's fleet manager says he will explore new vehicle technology to see what might be a good fit for Columbia County's government fleet in light of high gasoline prices. More scrutiny also is being placed on the need for trucks in the county's fleet.


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