ECU Goes ‘Green’ with Hybrid, Electric Vehicles
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Purple and Gold are ECU’s official colors, but the technology of a few new campus vehicles has added a little green to the mix.
From ECU’s new full-size hybrid bus to its pint-sized electric GEM, efforts across campus are being made to downsize fuel use and gauge the usefulness of alternate technology.
The $15,000 GEM truck, purchased this summer by ECU’s Environmental Health and Safety Department is street-legal and extra quiet. It whisks across campus and on its neighboring streets, traveling no faster than 25 miles per hour.
“There was a desire on the part of the administration to try out the new technology,” said Tom Pohlman, an environmental manager for ECU’s Environmental Health and Safety.
“The entire UNC system is under a mandate to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent by 2020. And this vehicle would allow us to test out an alternative.”
The vehicle, Pohlman said, is available for use by grounds and maintenance, parking and traffic, mail services and any other department with a need for short-term transport.
Pohlman says it costs between 30 and 35 cents to charge the vehicle overnight, and it can go approximately 30 miles per charge. Its bed can hold up to 700 pounds.
Because the vehicle can’t travel on roads with a 45 mile per hour speed limit, a campus map that identifies allowed routes is stowed in the glove box.
After testing out a hybrid bus in 2005, ECU’s Transit Services purchased the $550,000 hybrid bus this fall, and expects three more “clean” diesel buses to arrive in 2008. Wood Davidson, ECU Transit Manager, said ECU’s Student Government Association had expressed a desire for Transit Services to invest in hybrid engine technology.
“The hybrid bus is another initiative in ECU Student Transit’s continued commitment to technologies that improve efficiencies, decrease petroleum dependency and help reduce emissions,” Davidson said, noting that ECU’s Transit is also using biodiesel fuel in several other buses, including the hybrid bus.
While the hybrid technology added approximately $200,000 to the price of a new bus, Davidson said he anticipates an annual reduction of about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel each year, and an annual savings of approximately $10,500 in fuel costs. Emissions will be reduced by more than 90 percent, compared to regular
diesel buses, and the buses themselves are far quieter than regular engines, cutting down on noise pollution. The hybrid technology works by using the motor as a generator, Davidson said.
“Up to 40 percent of the energy to accelerate the bus is energy saved during regenerative braking,” he said. “When stopping or decelerating, vehicle energy is converted to electric energy and stored in the battery cell.”
ECU’s Parents Council also donated a GEM vehicle to Student Health Services, and ECU’s Facilities Services purchased seven new “flex” fuel vehicles.