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Environmental Cabinet Uses Prius

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The Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) today displayed its solution to high gasoline prices – its new, high-mileage Toyota Prius fleet vehicles.

Four of the gas-electric hybrids were added to the cabinet's fleet this year to help reduce cost and increase efficiency for Kentucky taxpayers. EPPC Secretary LaJuana S. Wilcher said that was in keeping with the philosophy of Governor Ernie Fletcher's administration.

"Governor Fletcher and this cabinet are committed to saving tax dollars and protecting the environment by using this fuel-efficient technology," Wilcher said. "Governor Fletcher pledged to make state government more efficient, and the use of hybrid vehicles is just one example of that commitment in action."

The Prius hybrids were available to drive today at the event held at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK) in Georgetown. Consumer demand for hybrid vehicles, especially the Prius, has increased dramatically as gas pump prices have soared.

As part of Kentucky's observance of Earth Week, TMMK and Kentucky state government partnered to demonstrate hybrid technology and to promote recycling. The EPPC began replacing large sedans with hybrids last year to save tax dollars and increase efficiency.

City-highway mileage for the cabinet's Prius vehicles has averaged 47.6 mpg, compared with 21.5 mpg that was typical of the larger sedans. "In-town" mileage has been 59 mpg for the Prius, compared with 16 mpg for other sedans. In addition, the federal government includes the Prius among vehicles rated best for reduced "greenhouse gas" emissions.

Prices for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.244 per gallon nationally and $2.197 per gallon in Kentucky as of Monday.

Wilcher, Finance Secretary Robbie Rudolph and Acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert also toured the extensive recycling program at TMMK's Georgetown assembly plant.

Kevin Butt, general manager of environmental affairs for Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, said Toyota is "striving to be the cleanest automaker in the world."

"Certainly that applies to our hybrid vehicles, like the Prius, but also to a number of environmental initiatives at our manufacturing plants," Butt said.

TMMK embodies the Earth Week emphasis on recycling and personal responsibility for the environment with a "zero waste" policy in which virtually everything is recycled. For example:

• Food and waste paper are collected daily from six TMMK cafeterias and composted for use in landscaping around the assembly plant.

• Water used in the manufacturing process – 20 million gallons per year – is cleaned and filtered and reused for boilers and cooling towers.

• Assembly team members segregate 107 different types of plastic caps and plugs, which are sorted and recycled. In the past, more than 120 tons of the material went into landfills.

• A refurbishing of the assembly plant’s paint operation resulted in a 22 percent reduction of emissions of volatile organic compounds last year. A new program for running air compressors more efficiently saved 35.7 million kilowatts of electricity in 2004 – enough to power 2,000 single-family homes for a year.

• TMMK's on-site garden covers three acres and produces vegetables that are donated to food banks to help feed the needy of the community.

Secretary Wilcher and her Cabinet colleagues commended the company for displaying unbridled spirit in recycling.

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