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Over the past several years the City of Fremont has made strides toward promoting and developing clean energy in the community.

One community solar farm already drawing power from the sun and another currently being developed. Now, the city recently purchased five plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Kia Niro crossover vehicles with help from a grant from the Nebraska Environment Trust through the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance.

The city received a $300,000 grant towards Solar Farm No. 2, 50 percent of the cost of two ChargePoint public electric vehicle charging stations, and 50 percent of the cost of five qualified vehicle. Qualified vehicles are those that are all electric, or are PHEV.

The city purchased the five Kia Niro’s for $28,681.95 a piece, with the grant covering $14,340.98 of the cost of each car. The new PHEVs have a rechargeable battery with a gas powered engine as backup.

“We are just getting ready to hand them over to the departments,” Grant Coordinator Lottie Mitchell said. “We have them licensed, insured and the decals put on them. So they are ready to start driving.”

The five Kia Niro’s were purchased as replacements for vehicles that aged out of the city’s fleet of vehicles, so they do not add to the city’s overall roster of vehicles.

According to Mitchell, five different city departments will use the hybrid vehicles including staff at Keene Memorial Library, Lon D. Wright Power Plant, Public Works Department, Building Inspection Department and the Planning Department.

“They’ll be used for all kinds of needs, for example the Planning Department will use it around town when they put up their public notice signs,” she said.

She added that the decision to purchase PHEV vehicles instead of all electric, came because the all-electric vehicles would essentially be limited to in-town uses.

“(The cars) are going to be used for conferences held out of town, and that is why we chose the hybrid vehicles,” she said. “For in town driving all-electric is great, but when they go to overnight conferences out of town the electric vehicle charging infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet. So to send somebody out of town in an all-electric vehicle doesn’t really work right now.”

Along with the vehicles, the two ChargePoint public electric vehicle charging stations have been purchased and installation will begin soon with one of the stations being located in downtown Fremont in the David Kavich parking lot and the other station is proposed to go in the Fremont Mall parking lot, just on the north side of Hy-Vee gas station.

Mitchell has already had the chance to drive one of the PHEV vehicles and says she was surprised by the car’s performance driving around Fremont.

“I was shocked by how well the electric motor performs, driving around town it did not switch over to gas at all and drove just like the other cars on the street,” she said. “It was all electric and didn’t skip a beat.”

The city is currently in the process of applying for 2019 funding through Nebraska Environment Trust and the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance that would allow the it to offer several incentives to Fremont Department of Utilities customers for purchasing their own electric vehicles.

“If they purchased an electric vehicle then we would give them a rebate of $4,000, and also a $500 rebate to go toward the cost of installing a home charging station,” Mitchell said. “That funding has not been awarded yet, but we are applying for it so stay tuned.”

Those potential grant dollars will be awarded in April 2019.

Mitchell says the implementation of green energy technology in Fremont has been in an effort to diversify power generation.

“It’s very beneficial to be diversified in our electric generation, and we have all facets now,” she said.

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