You Bought King County Council a Prius

You'll find it in a council member's driveway.

The latest perk of being on the King County Council: an electric-gas hybrid to drive around. The council this week approved an ordinance that allows one of its members to test out a Toyota Prius as a way to promote low-emission technology and fossil fuel alternatives to the general public. But members don't only get to drive the car to county events—they get to park it in their driveways, a rare benefit. As with most government entities, King County has strict take-home policies for county-owned vehicles. But the council agreed unanimously that this "demonstration project" is worth rewriting the rules for. Says the ordinance: "Incidental personal benefit or convenience from such a public use does not constitute personal use." Council member Larry Phillips is the first guinea pig, and says it makes sense that he gets to drive the car all the time. "Otherwise nobody talks about it," he says. "That's the point." Phillips started driving the Prius about two months ago, and says he's only filled up once since. "I get about 49 to 50 miles per gallon. It's really quite remarkable," he says. The car's a converted hybrid, which means it has a battery pack and runs on electricity unless you exceed 35 miles per hour. The car is not without hassle, however. "You have to plug it in and remember to unplug it," Phillips says. He's yet to drive away while tethered, but he admits he's gotten in and shut the door a couple of times before realizing he was still plugged in. In addition to raising awareness, the hope is that council members, in exchange for driving the car, will be able to make recommendations for future county purchases of energy-efficient vehicles. Phillips gets the Prius for less than a year, and says council member Larry Gossett is likely next in line. Says Phillips of his colleague: "He's been champing at the bit."

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