Electric vehicles saving funds for Lucas County

Downtown driving cheaper, easier

11/30/2013
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Gary Rogolsky, a maintenance worker at the Lucas County Courthouse, stands next to one of the electric-powered vehicles he uses to move between the county’s 12 downtown Toledo buildings.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Gary Rogolsky, a maintenance worker at the Lucas County Courthouse, stands next to one of the electric-powered vehicles he uses to move between the county’s 12 downtown Toledo buildings.
Gary Rogolsky, a maintenance worker at the Lucas County Courthouse, stands next to one of the electric-powered vehicles he uses to move between the county’s 12 downtown Toledo buildings.

Lucas County facilities and custodial staff have been quietly going about their work the last two months in tiny, white electric cars intended to save on fuel costs and free up parking spaces at the county’s 12 downtown buildings.

Maintenance worker Gary Rogolsky said he likes the little cars just fine.

“It’s a nice vehicle and it has good visibility,” he said. “From an environmental standpoint, they’re low maintenance and there’s no carbon emissions. The only weird thing about these is you put the key in and you don’t hear anything.”

Much like golf carts, the vehicles are quiet. They’re also more mobile than a conventional vehicle, allowing workers toting tools, equipment, and supplies in the bed of the vehicle to drive up on sidewalks and lawns.

Doug Podiak, facilities director for Lucas County, said he bought the three 2006 GEM Electrics from a North Carolina dealership for $21,000 as a pilot program. They are expected to save about $7,000 a year, he said, “so these vehicles will in essence pay for themselves in a three-year period.”

“Basically, by running these three vehicles around the downtown area, we can park three F-250 pickup trucks and save on fuel,” he said.

While the electric vehicles can carry up to 800 pounds of cargo, Mr. Podiak said workers often are “just driving themselves” between buildings so the electric cars, which have small heaters inside, make sense. The county won’t be getting rid of any of its full-size trucks, though, because they are needed for snow removal.

He said nearly 20 employees who work at 12 downtown buildings — from the county courthouse to the jail to the dog warden’s office — are using the electric cars. They are street legal, although they only reach a maximum speed of 25 mph.

“Over the course of the wintertime, we’ll put solar panels on them so while they’re parked outside they’ll be charging,” Mr. Podiak said. “They are a true green vehicle.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.