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Article Launched: 10/23/2005

Littleton takes on technology


LITTLETON -- Rick Bourassa says the hybrid car he uses for work is so quiet that he sometimes “wonders if the engine is even running.”

Bourassa is a meter tech for Littleton, Light, Electric and Water Department. He drives the department's Hybrid Toyota Prius to check electric meters.

For the energy company, buying a hybrid car was a no-brainer.

“It's a good precedent for an energy company,” said John Lanciani, an electric-services technician.

The Littleton Electric, Light and Water Department, purchased their hybrid in April 2004 and paid $22,000 for it. Currently, the Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill that would reward businesses with a tax break to buy hybrid cars.

LEWD is a public company and wouldn't be eligible for a tax break.

Concord also has a public power company that purchased a hybrid. The Concord Municipal Light Plant bought their Toyota Prius in 2002.

“It's always nice to be ahead of the curve,” said Dale Cronan, assistant superintendent for the Concord Municipal Light Plant.

Concord paid $21,025 for their hybrid in 2002. Cronan says at that time, the economic benefits of buying a hybrid weren't that great. Gas prices were not as volatile, and the life of the car's batteries seemed risky.

“It was cutting edge, and sometimes people are a little reluctant, “said Cronan.

“When you're in the energy business, the least you can do is belly up to the bar and take a chance.”

The Toyota Prius is a top-selling hybrid. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Prius gets 51 miles per gallon on the highway and 60 miles per gallon for city driving.

Rick Bourassa estimates he gets 46 miles to a gallon and now uses 70% less gasoline than a normal car.

The hybrid not only saves money and energy, but is one of the cleanest cars on the market.

The Reading Municipal Light Department, also a public power company, ordered a Toyota Prius to promote the conservation of energy. “As an electric company we support conservation,” said Vinnie Cameron, general manager of Reading Municipal Light Department. “Any amount of conservation helps the environment.”

The Littleton Electric, Light and Water Department is researching hybrid bucket trucks to also help conserve. Current trucks run on diesel fuel and are often idle during the day.

Savos Danos, general manager of the Littleton Electric, Light and Water, said hybrids would cut down on the noise of a diesel engine.

“The trucks would support being a good neighbor and promote a cleaner environment.”

Hybrids work by integrating a gas engine, electric motor and a high-powered battery. The battery powers the electric motor. The batteries recharge by using the power from the gas engine.

The Prius has an LCD screen that visually replicates what part of the hybrid system is being used to power the car.

Bourassa says he's relieved the Prius has the same power as a regular compact, because big trucks tend to drive fast down Ayer Road.

Danos says he'll always be personally fascinated with the storage of electricity.

“It's all about ideology,” said Danos. “Hybrid cars helps promote the industry towards innovations in storage.”