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Public Safety Introduces Hybrid Cars Into its Fleet
Greener patrol cars will reduce emissions

Columbia University’s new patrol vehicles are still white on the outside, but some are now green on the inside.

Public Safety’s newest addition, the Ford Escape Hybrid
Public Safety’s newest addition, the Ford Escape Hybrid

As part of the University’s efforts to develop more environmentally friendly initiatives across campus, the Public Safety is introducing hybrid cars into its patrol fleet as older vehicles are retired. The plan is to eventually replace the entire fleet.

The department recently purchased four 2008 Ford Escape Hybrids, two for the Morningside Campus and two for patrol, escort and other public safety-related services.

“Using cleaner vehicles is an important step toward ensuring that our campus is run in an efficient and environmentally conscious manner,” said Joe Ienuso, executive vice president of Columbia University Facilities, who oversees Public Safety. “We look forward to adding more hybrid vehicles to our fleet as we continue to explore ways to make the University’s carbon footprint lighter.”

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The new vehicles are gas/electric hybrids, which use a small gasoline engine in conjunction with an electric motor. The electric motor is capable of powering the vehicle up to 25 mph without ever using the gas engine (the gas engine kicks in above 25 mph). Since the gasoline engine turns on and off automatically, depending on driving conditions, a tank of fuel goes farther.

The effect is near-zero emissions. The hybrids offer more than 70% better city fuel economy than the department’s older vehicles - the Escape Hybrid burns gasoline at 34 miles per gallon.

By saving an estimated 2,200 gallons of gas per year, the department will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, based on information from the Department of Energy. This is a 10 percent decrease in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted last year, even as Public Safety adds two vehicles for expanded campus patrols.

"Public Safety's move toward hybrid vehicles is especially important in our area, with its high rates of asthma, particularly amongst young children,” said Nilda Mesa, director of environmental stewardship at Columbia. “Reducing emissions brings down our carbon footprint while taking asthma-inducing pollutants out of our neighborhood."

The purchase of the hybrids comes on the heels of other recent Columbia University sustainability announcements, including the selection of the proposed Manhattanville expansion plan for a new U.S. Green Building Council “smart growth” pilot program and the news that the University has joined New York City’s goal in pledging to reduce greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2017.

Published: July 20, 2007
Last modified: Jul 20, 2007