WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Tuesday it is buying more than 100 Chevrolet Volts and other electric cars as it moves to improve fuel efficiency of the government's massive fleet of cars and trucks.
The plan by the General Services Administration to buy 116 plug-in electric cars marks the government's first purchase of road-ready electric vehicles, a GSA spokeswoman said.
The cars represent a tiny fraction of the 600,000 vehicles the GSA manages. But Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other officials said they were an important symbol of the administration's commitment to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The government also said it is installing 100 car-charging stations in five cities: Washington, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
President Barack Obama has called for a one-third reduction in oil imports by 2025 and wants to put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
"Diversifying our transportation fleet with hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles is a critical element in President Obama's long-term plan to break our dependence on foreign oil and invest in America's growing clean energy economy," Chu said at a news conference Tuesday at the Energy Department.
The electric car purchases are expected to cut the government's gasoline usage by almost 29,000 gallons a year, saving taxpayers an estimated $116,000 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 253 tons, GSA administrator Martha Johnson said.
In addition to the extended-range Volts, the GSA said it will buy 10 battery electric Nissan Leaf vehicles and five Think City EV models from Finish EV startup. The U.S. government is the biggest shareholder of General Motors, maker of the Chevrolet Volt.
The GSA said the charging stations will cost a total of $500,000 and be in place by early next year, when the electric cars are scheduled for delivery. Each city will have multiple charging stations. The cars are to be divided among 20 agencies, including the Energy Department, Navy and Treasury.
In a related announcement, the White House formalized a directive Obama issued in March ordering the government to purchase only fuel-efficient cars and trucks by 2015.
A memorandum issued Tuesday directs federal agencies to develop practices to move toward the 2015 goal and come up with a plan to determine the best size of their vehicle fleet.
Under a separate executive order, Obama has called on the government to reduce gasoline usage by federal vehicles 30 percent by 2020.