West Mifflin’s new electric police vehicle made it just in time — one day prior — for the ceremony elected and Duquesne Light Co. officials had planned last week to introduce it and two other electric cars to the public.

Lt. Michael Woodburn had already tried out the Ford 150 Lightning. “It’s so quiet,” he said. “You have to look at the dashboard to see that it is really on.”

The best part? Taking it out for a test drive.

“It drives very well. No complaints here,” he said. “It’s a great addition to the fleet. It does have a kick — pretty powerful. It accelerates fast when you need it.”

The three electric vehicles and six charging stations — that have been operational since December and are already well used by the public — will propel the borough further into an energy-efficient future, officials said, and an electronic one. Borough employees now have two Chevy Bolts to drive as they do their work.

West Mifflin was the first customer to complete a project through DLC’s Fleet Charging program, which is designed to save customers time and money on installing EV charging infrastructure, according to a Duquesne Light news release.

It is also among the first municipalities in the Pittsburgh region to add EVs to its fleet and install EV charging infrastructure on municipal-owned property, according to the release. The borough will add an additional electric SUV to its fleet of police cars, with delivery expected in about two weeks. Additionally, West Mifflin is exploring medium- and heavy-duty electric fleet vehicles.

Kevin Walker, president and CEO of Duquesne Light, opened the brief ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday at the borough building at 1020 Lebanon Road. “This is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of folks that is, quite frankly, visionary,” he said. “It’s impressive to see the leadership, and the vision and the commitment to efficiency and to the planet and to quite frankly your residents here in West Mifflin.”

Walker said West Mifflin is also one of the first municipalities in the state with electric charging stations and an electric vehicle fleet. 

Since the charging stations were energized on Dec. 30, Walker said West Mifflin has avoided approximately 1,479 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions, and eliminated them from the air. “It’s just going to get better and better from there,” he said.

The news release explained that is the equivalent of planting 38 trees and letting them grow for 10 years.

Duquesne Light added a new transformer and lines up to and including the bottom of the charging stations. With its fleet program, DLC gives the borough a 50% rebate on electricity used in the charging stations.

State Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-West Mifflin, said state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, helped West Mifflin purchase the two police vehicles with a $100,000 grant from the state’s Driving Forward program. “It was a collaborative here,” he said. “Not only is this good for the environment, but it will save the taxpayers dollars.”

Brian Kamauf, borough manager, said the borough did purchase the equipment for the charging stations but will receive a rebate from the same program. He said the end cost for them will be about $11,000. The borough spent about $8,000 for lettering and other detailing on the new police truck.

He said 85% of the charging stations’ use to date has been the general public. 

Michael Moses, council vice president, noted this is not the first partnership that West Mifflin has entered into with Duquesne Light. An LED street lighting project and switching to LED lighting in borough buildings resulted in significant savings of taxpayers’ dollars, all accomplished with help from the utility company. 

Moses said Duquesne Light worked with borough managers to do so, and more work looms as West Mifflin plans to convert the rest of its fleet of vehicles. “Duquesne Light has helped with a road map for us for the next 10 to 30 years,” he said. “They have helped us plan this move into the electric future.”

The borough is large geographically, Moses noted, and unlike other municipalities, it operates its own garbage collection system and has its own sewage authority. That means it has more trucks, vehicles and buildings to maintain than others. 

He encouraged other municipalities to work with Duquesne Light. “They’ve been an incredible resource not only for West Mifflin but all of Western Pennsylvania. We’re really fortunate to have them here in our community.  …  It’s gone incredibly smooth.”

Councilman Dan Davis said the borough is switching to all LED lighting in all its buildings over the next nine months, and he said the borough is in the forefront of switching its streetlights to LEDs. It started with several hundred and now has 500 with LED lights. 

He also gave praise to CONNECT, a public policy initiative run by the University of Pittsburgh. Through Eric Raabe, its community projects manager, it brought the borough to the attention of Duquesne Light, as well as other resources, one of which resulted in an air quality monitor located outside the borough building. Davis represents the borough on a CONNECT committee.

The officials emphasized the cost savings ahead for the borough. According to the news release, by electrifying a portion of its fleet over the coming years, West Mifflin can save up to $1.4 million on total vehicle ownership costs, including $900,000 in fuel savings alone.

The release stressed the environmental benefits as well, forecasting that these new electric vehicles and those the borough plans to add will eliminate about 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years.

“Because transportation currently accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Pittsburgh region, partnerships like these are critical to DLC’s vision of a clean energy future for all,” it stated. “EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and, on average, are responsible for 80% less GHG emissions than traditional vehicles. Encouraging the continued growth of EVs will significantly reduce harmful transportation emissions and improve local air quality.”

PennDOT is working to build more charging stations across the state.

West Mifflin’s electric police truck at its new charging station. (Helen Fallon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at hfallon@unionprogress.com.

Helen Fallon

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at hfallon@unionprogress.com.