City of Tybee employees testing electric vehicle before deciding to change fleet

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 2:09 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - The City of Tybee Island is always looking at ways to be more sustainable, whether it be in restaurants or on the street.

This month, the City of Tybee Island celebrated its 135th birthday reflecting on the past. Now they’re looking ahead to the future like with electric vehicles.

“This is definitely another step in the direction of being more sustainable and valuing this very special, you know, natural environment that we live in,” Tybee Island Assistant City Manager Michelle Owens said.

For the last month, the city has been test driving a 2013 Nissan Leaf. The city is borrowing it from Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols.

“This test drive that we’re doing this month has been kind of an eyeopener for us and we’re a little closer to saying ‘yes, this might work on Tybee,’” Owens said.

In April, the city installed charging stations on the north-end for visitors and residents. Owens says now the city wants to know if electric vehicles would benefit them.

She says so far, they’re impressed with things like the smooth ride, it’s speed and the battery life.

Could electric vehicles one day take over the city’s fleet?

“We have parking enforcement and code enforcement that could easily use an electric vehicle whether they have to go off the island or on the island,” Owens said.

Code Enforcement Officer Mac McLain took it for a spin to see if it could fit his department’s needs.

“This is actually the first time I’ve driven any electric vehicle. I would not be opposed to it as far as the operations of the vehicle,” McLain said.

McLain says while he supports the city’s decision, he does have two main concerns - how much their warnings lights would drain the battery and how quiet they are.

“A lot of times with walkers or bicyclists they may not hear us, so that would be a consideration,’ McLain said.

McLain says he does think there’s an economic benefit because he will typically drive 20-30 miles a day for his job.

“I do more street-side stuff than a lot of our officers. They spend more time on the beach. I think that we could do our job more economically because of the fuel cost for the city,” McLain said.

Owens says their current fleet of gas vehicles are paid for with their capital budget, so the same would go for the electric vehicles if they decide to buy some. Although they don’t know just how much each vehicle will cost them, it would be done over a few budget cycles. Owens says, overall, the experience has been great.

The city says next week they will return this car and then they’ll regroup. Owens says there’s no timeline just yet of when the city will start incorporating electric vehicles into their fleet.