Akron’s golf courses will be a little greener this summer.
The city will soon begin using 20 eco-friendly golf carts fueled by natural gas or hydrogen.
Akron City Council approved the purchase of the golf carts Monday from Hydrogen Energy Systems LLC (HES), a start-up company in the Akron Global Business Accelerator. HES has developed technology, known as a mixing block, that runs a small internal combustion engine on 100 percent hydrogen or natural gas.
The purchase will be the first commercial use for the new technology and the company is hoping it will help spur interest from other municipal or private golf courses looking to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly.
“It’s really exciting,” said Deputy Mayor Rick Merolla. “I look forward to seeing these out there.”
The Akron Development Corporation (ADC), the city’s nonprofit arm, will purchase 15 golf carts fueled by compressed natural gas and five golf carts powered by compressed hydrogen gas from HES for $300,000. The city will lease the golf carts from the development corporation.
Merolla said he expects the city to be able to cover the expense within seven or eight years because of the lower cost. He said the hydrogen- and natural gas-powered carts will run about a fourth of the cost of the current electric carts the city is using. He said the carts will remain charged for twice as long as the normal carts used at the Good Park and Mud Run golf courses.
City officials saw a prototype of the golf cart HES created. Merolla said the only difference between it and a traditional golf cart was that it was quieter and had no fumes.
“It has just as much umph as other golf carts,” agreed Council President Garry Moneypenny, who also saw the prototype.
Councilman Mike Williams asked if the technology can be used for lawn mowers, which cause a lot of pollution.
Jeff Wilhite, CEO of HES, said the technology may eventually be used for this purpose, but isn’t as of yet. He said the company’s next goal is developing an adaptation for tow motors.
Bob Bowman, deputy mayor of economic development, said HES needs to be focused at its inception, but can eventually branch into other uses and markets. He said, for example, that he thinks there will be a market for the technology for use on scooters in Asia.
Bowman said this initial purchase allows the city to support a fledgling company developing new technology here in Akron.
The Akron Development Corporation will help HES market and sell its golf carts and HES will pay the development corporation a portion of the sale of every ADC-marketed golf cart.
In other business, council passed a resolution opposing state legislation aimed at providing uniformity with municipal income taxes. Akron is concerned the bill would result in unfunded mandates and “a substantial loss in revenue” for cities. Akron instead favors a plan proposed by the Ohio Municipal League and a Dayton Area Mayors and Managers Association that also seeks more uniformity with income taxes, but would be “revenue neutral,” according to Art Preiksa, Akron’s new tax commissioner.
Moneypenny reminded council about how the state has drastically cut the local government funds provided to cities, counties and libraries over the past few years. He said council needs to send a “loud message” against the state making the proposed changes to income taxes.
“This is all about trying to get control of our money,” he said.