Johnson County Government’s fleet has an exciting addition this month: the county’s first all-electric vehicle, a Nissan Leaf. The vehicle will be used primarily by the Department of Health and Environment’s air quality compliance specialist, Mike Boothe, and is the third generation of a series of cars that Boothe has used to start the conversation about how alternative energy sources can improve our air quality.
The new vehicle replaces a 2004 hybrid car, the county’s first and still a novel concept at the time it was purchased. The hybrid, now one of many in the county’s large fleet, was retired in early June. Boothe was the first and last person to drive the vehicle. Prior to the purchase of the hybrid, Boothe converted a 1990 Ford Explorer to run on propane, which burns cleaner than gasoline. The Explorer provided clean-burning energy to employee drivers for about 10 years.
“I conduct inspections at various manufacturing companies and facilities within Johnson County that are subject to the Clean Air Act. I believe that we should lead by example, to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk,” said Boothe of the importance of his department’s leadership in seeking out alternative fuel options. “Our department has long advocated the usage of alternative fuel vehicles as a means of emission reductions, and the Kansas City region has a long history of complying with the EPA health standard for ground-level ozone. Vehicles are a major contributor to ozone formation here and this will begin a new chapter of reducing emissions from the County’s fleet.”
Gasoline-powered engines are one of the most significant producers of ozone, a gas that contributes to what we experience as “smog.” At high enough levels, ozone can affect the quality of the air we breathe, particularly in the hot summer months. Electric vehicles produce no ozone and are cheaper to drive, saving the county money while setting the standard for air quality-friendly driving habits.
Boothe hopes other municipalities and drivers across the metro will follow his lead and consider going electric. It could help your fellow residents breathe a little more freely in the years to come.