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Your next Milwaukee parking ticket may be issued by someone driving a Mustang EV

Chuck Quirmbach
One of the Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles coming to Milwaukee's parking enforcement unit.

Later this month, you may see some city of Milwaukee parking enforcement officers driving Mustangs. More specifically, driving the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which is an electric vehicle. It's part of the city's ongoing effort to get more of its fleet off of gasoline use. And Milwaukee's not the only local government in Wisconsin on that road.

On a recent morning, WUWM sat with Milwaukee Department of Public Works Fleet Services manager garage Lonnie Fischer as he fired up one of the 2022 Mustangs.

As we listened to a series of electronic sounds, it was more proof that this was not the sporty, iconic 1965 Mustang with a gasoline engine. This car is powered by a rechargeable battery unit.

Soon, we were off for a ten-minute ride from the DPW garage on Canal Street to the American Family Field and back.

At one point Fischer took his foot off the accelerator to show off the car's regenerative braking system that helps supply a little more juice for the Mach-E.

Chuck Quirmbach
There's not much under the front hood of the Mach-E.

"So as you could feel right there, the engine and the overall vehicle starts to slow. So, the regenerative braking will slow the engine idle speed, and start to recharge the batteries," Fischer said.

After the ride, Fischer said the city of Milwaukee has purchased four Mach-E vehicles for the parking enforcement unit. He said EV is the right choice for the stop-and-go of that job.

"When these vehicles are currently moving and stopping on a very frequent basis to check license plates, the electric vehicle reduced the idle time of those vehicles and the wear and tear on a vehicle because there's no components associated with high fuel usage and stuff like that," Fischer said.

Fischer said as soon as all four Mach-E vehicles are outfitted with license plate readers, the drivers will be on the streets, searching for parking violators.

He acknowledged the city still has to buy faster-charging stations that would get a vehicle 80% charged in less than an hour. Fischer said he hopes that occurs by next year. Until then, a substantial recharge of the Mach E on slower units might take at least 24 hours.

He said the city also has eight other electric vehicles (EV) as part of a pledge to say goodbye to gasoline eventually. Seventy-seven city garbage trucks already run on less-polluting compressed natural gas, with a goal of converting all refuse fleets to CNG by 2030.

Fischer acknowledged Milwaukee's fleet will still be mostly gasoline for some time. He said the city has about 2,900 pieces of rolling stock—including police vehicles, fire and DPW trucks, and even compressors that roll behind vehicles to some jobs.

Chuck Quirmbach
Lonnie Fischer is Fleet Services Manager of the Milwaukee Department of Public Works.

Fischer hopes the city can win more federal grants to pay for more EV.

But he said DPW also needs a way to get more of its mechanics certified to work on the new vehicles, perhaps through rewarding them with higher pay if the techs get the certification on their own.

What is Fischer's long-term vision for the city of Milwaukee vehicles?

"As we identify challenges or obstacles that are there with alternative fuels, we're looking to overcome those obstacles and providing a more green fleet. A more sustainable fleet, quite frankly," Fischer answered.

Ninety miles to the west, the city of Madison appears to be making faster headway on getting away from gasoline. Of 1,400 vehicles in Madison's fleet, 85 are EV. One hundred fifty are hybrid electric and 485 run on renewable biodiesel. Madison's police chief drives a fully electric 2021 Tesla Model 3.

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City of Madison
City of Madison Fleet Superintendent Mahanth Joishy

Madison Fleet Superintendent Mahanth Joishy told a recent Wisconsin Clean Cities webinar that he talked with elected city officials and made this vow:

"I went to them and said, 'I'm not going to approve a gasoline vehicle ever again. Are you all good with that?' They said yes. The other day, police tried to buy a gasoline SUV. I just deleted that e-mail and never responded," Joishy said.

Joishy explained his opposition to buying a gas vehicle for Madison's fleet:

"You'd be stupid to, first of all, because EVs are better performance. They are cheaper to maintain. No moving parts, so you don't have to wait for parts. I'm waiting six months for a Bobcat [utility vehicle] part right now. My people can all work on something else, instead of fixing broken stuff like transmissions and radiators and replacing spark plugs and engine oil and things like that, which are all bad for the environment—all of it," Joishy said.

Joishy urges other city fleet managers around the state to network with each other to discuss the best alternative fuels, vehicles and practices.

And with what they learn, perhaps they will help the rest of us. If predictions from the car companies are correct, many more citizens will also be driving an EV over the next decade.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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