ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Public Service Co. of New Mexico is pumping its electricity into green transportation by converting its vehicle fleet to electric hybrids.
The company on Tuesday announced a long-term strategy to switch most, if not all, of its 450 cars, pickups and trucks to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, beginning with seven cars now, plus six pickups and 10 new bucket trucks in the next few weeks. It will continue to replace standard fleet vehicles with electric hybrids as those cars and trucks are changed out in the future, said Aubrey Johnson, PNM vice president of operations.
The company also established a new partnership with Nissan Motors to open five electric charging stations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe next year that will allow the public to charge up their vehicles for free.
Johnson said the conversion helps the environment, and it could save a lot of money. The company expects significantly lower fuel costs, plus reduced fleet maintenance, largely due to less engine run time and less wear on brakes.
Ultimately, those savings will benefit ratepayers, Johnson said.
“Over the long term, the money we aren’t spending to gas up a vehicle or perform maintenance can be used to perform other needed work to keep our customers’ lights on,” Johnson said. “As a utility, we need to take a hard look at any new technology before we make an investment, because we are mindful that the customer will have to pay for it. We’ve done our homework. We like what we see.”
PNM averages 15.1 miles per gallon with its light duty fleet, compared to an estimated 75 miles per gallon with hybrid electrics. The company expects to save about 16,200 gallons of gas per year for every 20 vehicles it replaces with plug-ins.
PNM also expects about $500 in annual maintenance savings for each electric vehicle in its fleet.
Regarding environmental benefits, each sedan plug-in is projected to lower the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by 27.85 metric tons per year, and each battery-operated boom truck by 18.52 metric tons.
As for public charging stations, Nissan and PNM are now evaluating the best locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“They’ll be connected to the grid, and people will be able to drive up and charge their cars for free,” said PNM spokeswoman Susan Sponar.
Tesla Motors also will also open a free charging station in Albuquerque, but that would be just for Tesla electric cars, whereas the PNM-Nissan stations are universal, Sponar said.
Meanwhile, a cloud-based software system that tracks all PNM vehicles will help measure performance of the electric hybrids compared with the standard fleet, said Tim Taylor, client solutions officer for Telogis, the California company that runs the system.
“It provides ‘connected intelligence’ for customers like PNM,” Taylor said. “And, as charging stations grow, it will also measure the load on individual stations and help determine where more are needed.”