The city of Chicago takes its fleet in a green direction with 20 new Toyota Priuses. Thirty more are in the works for delivery during calendar year 2005. These days, when a company or a government unit wants to be considered “green,” or environmentally conscious, one of the first things officials do is add hybrid vehicles to their fleets. Hybrid cars have established themselves as the symbol of “going green.” From movie stars to corporate tycoons, being seen with a hybrid vehicle confers the stamp of political correctness. The city of Chicago is no different in that respect, and when the time came to order some new vehicles for the city fleet, competitive bids went out for hybrid sedans in December 2003. The contract was opened January 11. According to Kevin Campbell, automotive engineer for the Chicago Fleet Department, although bid requirements allowed the specifications of competing products, bids were only returned from Toyota. Spread Over Nine Departments
“The cars are going to be distributed among nine departments,” Campbell said. “The two biggest will be the fire department and the department of building, which will have four units each. Those eight units will be used by inspectors for building or site inspections.” He added that inspectors do a lot of stop-and-go city driving, which he said was the best possible use for the hybrids. The remaining units will be assigned on a one unit per department basis over several departments. A few will be used as citywide pool vehicles. Campbell noted that this is just the first order. “We’re waiting for additional funding,” he said, “so that we can purchase another 30 units.” The Green Push
“There is a very strong push here for green initiatives,” Campbell pointed out. “Chicago Mayor Daley brought in a deputy mayor for green initiatives, whose sole responsibility is to initiate green programs throughout the city to promote the green agenda.” Ray Sarbiewski, fleet sales director at Grossinger Autoplex in Lincolnwood, handled the buy on the dealership side. “It’s the first time that the city’s ever used any import or non-domestic vehicle.” He noted that the easiest part of the contract was Toyota’s assurance that the first 20 vehicles would be available, even with the shortages in the pipeline. Before delivery, the Priuses were hidden from public view, said Sarbiewski. “Customers would have lined up to purchase the hard-to-get vehicles.” The cars are identical, base-model units with Package A, which offers a rear window wiper and keyless entry system.