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Get Ready Tampa Bay: Electric Cars, Smart Energy

The Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Fisker Karma and Wheego look and drive just like every other car. Pick-up and handling are good. But these cars run on electricity, or a combination of electricity and gasoline.

The alternative fuel vehicles were lined up in a circle at the Hilton Carillon Hotel in Clearwater on Friday, March 9, to promote Get Ready Tampa Bay's mission of raising public awareness about the benefits of alternate fuel sources to power the ride.

"Tampa Bay and Orlando are one of the leaders in being ready for electric vehicles; we're well on our way to being considered green,'' says James Culp, lead alternate energy strategist for Progress Energy, which is a partner in Get Ready Tampa Bay.

Get Ready Tampa Bay launched in 2010 as an affiliate of the national Project Get Ready, an initiative of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research and development organization committed to renewable energy sources. 

Tampa Electric, Florida Power & Light and Lakeland Electric are partners with Progress Energy in the local group, as are local city governments, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and several businesses.

Why electric vehicles? According to Culp, they're cleaner with low to zero emissions and good for the environment; their use can help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil; they cost less to fuel up; and their introduction offers the potential for economic development.

So far, it's the utility companies that are pioneering the new trend to electric. Progress Energy has 12 Chevy Volts, two Nissan Leafs, two Ford Escapes, six Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Southeast's first hybrid electric bucket truck in its "green'' fleet. 

They also have eight fleet charging stations in Florida, with a station open to the public in Pinellas Park at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council headquarters.

"We're doing the research to move the technology forward,'' says Progress Energy spokesperson Rob Sumner. We have to face the new reality of growing energy demand, rising fuel costs and global climate change. The green fleet is "part of a
balanced solution to future energy needs.''

Green Fleets

Florida Power & Light, the largest electric utility in Florida, was one of the "early adopters of alternate fuel vehicles and has one of the largest green fleets with 471 vehicles,'' says spokesperson Marie Bertot. About 50 of the FPL vehicles are all-
electric.
 
According to its website, Tampa Electric has about three dozen hybrid cars and vans and several all-electric vehicles. And Peoples Gas has a several  natural gas- powered vehicles in its fleet, including the Honda Civic GX, Ford Fusion and Ford gas-powered pickups and vans.

"In 2011 our attention was on technology, production and infrastructure; this year we're focused on  the retail consumer and growing awareness to build demand,'' says Britta Gross, a General Motors engineer, who spoke at the Get Ready Tampa
Bay event on Friday. "The most difficult task we have right now is to convince the public that alternate fuel works.''

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, FL, who shares a home office with her dog Bear and two cats Milo and Nigel. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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