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Roanoke’s New Electric Parking Enforcement Vehicle Debuts

by Valerie Garner

Roanoke’s New “Firefly”

This week Roanoke City began using an all-electric parking enforcement vehicle called the “Firefly,” a three-wheeled parking enforcement vehicle built by Good Earth Electric Vehicles. This vehicle will replace one of the city’s aged, gasoline-powered “Go-4 Interceptor” units. The company that made the gasoline units went out of business and one is being used for parts for the remaining three.The Firefly weighs slightly less than the old units coming in at 1750 pounds and has a two-year warranty said Demond Hammond Roanoke City Fleet Administration Supervisor.

The Firefly utilizes the newest battery technology (Lithium Iron Phosphate) for improved energy-efficiency, reliability, and an expected battery lifespan of more than four years. Hammond said that five years is a conservative estimate for the 12-volt system. The vehicle’s cost is $33,490 – which is comparable to the cost of $30,000 the gasoline-powered Go-4 vehicle it replaced.

Hammond said they were lucky to link up with the largest user of the Go-4 in New York City to be able to get parts from Korea for the “Go-4” but some parts are not being made at all.

People have asked Hammond why can’t parking enforcers walk to mark tires. The answer to that he said, “is most of their routes are at least 40 to 60 miles each so for one person – that’s like going from here to Martinsville. That couldn’t be done in a day and be efficient in enforcement of parking – we’d have to have more people. It is far cheaper to buy this vehicle then to hire more people.”

The gasoline units cost the city $2700 to maintain and $1100 in fuel every year. They only get 15 miles to the gallon said Hammond. Over five years the cost to maintain one old “Go-4” is $19,000. Other than unforeseen electrical problems the cost to maintain the Firefly might equals three tires at $171 and $32 for breaks. The Firefly has six cells or batteries that would not need replacing all at the same time. The cost of one cell is no more then $400 and each averages 5000 charges before needing replacement. “The return on investment is really great,” said Hammond. Even if all six cells needed replacing in five years that comes to $3000 in maintenance versus $19,000 for the “Go-4.”

It has onboard diagnostics, electronic stability control that protects the driver from turning it over. “It automatically decelerates and won’t over speed into a curve,” said Hammond.

The three-wheelers are a niche market. With Roanoke having most of its parking on the street. “We’re not like colleges and institutions … they can use other things like golf carts and vehicles that are not required to be tagged.,” said Hammond.

“We are very excited to be implementing one of the first all-electric, municipal parking enforcement vehicles in the State of Virginia,” says Dana Long, Manager of the city’s Billings & Collections office. “This vehicle offers an economical solution that will allow parking enforcement officers to patrol tight spaces safely while demonstrating the city’s commitment to energy-saving initiatives.”

This zero-emission vehicle was built entirely in the United States and meets the needs of parking enforcement, along with stringent safety standards. In addition, the Firefly meets all federal and state regulations mandating use of alternative fuel vehicles. It has one of the best “Miles Per Charge” in its class, coming in at a range of 60 MPC. Also, the Firefly is equipped with an on-board data acquisition system which will allow the city’s Fleet Management Division to collect statistical parameters and help map service cycles before potential issues develop.

“The Firefly electric vehicle is a great example of transportation innovation at the local level,” says Alleyn Harned, Director of Virginia Clean Cities. “Roanoke has long been a leader with city-owned electric vehicles, and this task-oriented vehicle is ideal for starts and stops of parking enforcement duties. With zero tailpipe emissions and with domestic electricity costs a fraction of gasoline; this is a thoughtful application of clean technology. Hopefully other cities can learn from Roanoke’s leadership.”

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