Columbia University Public Safety Introduces Hybrid Cars Into its Fleet - July 18, 2007

Public Safety's newest addition, the Ford Escape Hybrid, minimizes exhaust emissions and maximizes fuel efficiency.

Columbia University Public Safety's new patrol vehicles are still white on the outside, but they will soon be green on the inside.

As part of the University's vision to develop more environmentally friendly initiatives across campus, the Department of Public Safety is introducing hybrid cars into its patrol fleet as older vehicles are retired. The hope is to eventually replace the entire fleet with hybrids.

The Department recently purchased four 2008 Ford Escape Hybrids to replace two older cars and to use for expanded patrols around campus. These new hybrids - two for the Morningside Campus and two for the Medical Center campus - will be used 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, which 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."

The four new vehicles are gas/electric hybrids, which use a small gasoline engine in conjunction with an electric motor to provide power. The electric motor is capable of powering the vehicle up to 25mph without ever using the gas engine (the gas engine kicks in above 25mph). Since the gasoline engine also turns on and off automatically, depending on driving conditions, a tank of fuel goes farther. The Ford Escape Hybrid also meets strict Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle II (SULEV II) standards.

The effect is near-zero emissions and maximized fuel efficiency. In fact, the new hybrids offer over 70% better city fuel economy than the Department's older vehicles - the Escape Hybrid sips gasoline at a rate of up to 34 miles per gallon. With gas prices today at record high levels, conserving fuel was among the long list of benefits that attracted Associate Vice President for Public Safety Jim McShane to the hybrid.

"We expect to save roughly 2,200 gallons on fuel per year as a result of the new hybrids, even as we add two new vehicles to our fleet" said McShane. "They not only use less fuel, but also help us keep the air cleaner in our community."

By saving 2,200 gallons of gas per year, the Department of Public Safety 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% decrease in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted by the Department as compared to last year, even as Public Safety adds two vehicles for expanded campus patrols.

"Public Safety's move towards 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 new 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.