Mayor Paul A. Dyster calls himself a "green mayor," as in environmentally friendly, and now his city is officially a green zone in the eyes of the New York Power Authority.
Richard M. Kessel, the new president and chief executive officer of the authority, joined the mayor on the steps of City Hall on Friday to hand over two electric cars that will be used by the city police department.
Each golf-cart size vehicle could just about fit in the trunk of the two Ford Crown Victoria police cars they will replace, but Police Superintendent John R. Chella was glad to have them.
"We're looking in the same direction as the mayor in terms of green energy, and these new vehicles give us flexibility," Chella said.
The police department already has one electric GEM, short for Global Electric Motorcars, made by a Chrysler company in a plant in North Dakota.
Chella said the vehicles will have two purposes -- to patrol downtown areas and assist visitors during the tourist season.
The vehicles will be used in high crime areas, Chella said. "If we get a spike in car break-ins, for example, we would use the GEMs to check parking lots."
Dyster said the electric patrol cars will come in handy on the rebuilt Falls Street in the heart of the tourist district, with its pedestrian-friendly reduction of vehicular traffic.
Unlike commonly used three-wheel electric vehicles, the GEMs are street compliant, Chella added, in that they are registered like automobiles.
The front-wheel drive electric cars are powered by six 12-volt batteries, which keep the vehicle going for about 30 miles. Recharging takes six to eight hours.
The top speed is 25 mph, so in Chella's example of using them to check car break-ins in downtown parking lots, they could outpace miscreants running from the scene.
If the suspects try to get away in a car, however, officers would have to call in for backup -- a Crown Victoria.
The electric cars cost nearly $14,000 apiece. The Power Authority and the city will each pay half.
Kessel, who joined the Power Authority on Oct. 14, praised Dyster's leadership in moving Niagara Falls toward a greener future.
"Environmentalism and energy go together," Kessel said. "These vehicles are the future."