by J.T. Buchheit
Gasoline continues to fuel the automotive industry, but the usage of electric vehicles has been steadily increasing over the past few years. The Center of Sustainability has contributed to that by adding charging stations for electric vehicles on campus.
“We’ve had those on campus for several years,” said Kristy Howell, sustainability education and engagement coordinator. “They were originally funded by the Student Sustainability Committee. The committee wanted to have them on campus, and the first round was put in in Carlsen. … The motivation was actually a request from students to be more accessible and friendly to EV drivers.”
The stations near the Carlsen Center were installed in 2011. They were heavily used in 2014, nearly doubling the hours used from 2011 to 2013 combined. Thus, additional stations were installed, with one near the gym and the other near Galileo’s Pavilion.
The Driver’s Ed program on campus has provided students opportunities to learn to drive electric vehicles, and other students are learning how to fix them.
“They handle a little differently from regular combustion-engine cars,” said Howell. “We have students who are learning to work on these cars in Automotive Tech, so they’re going to be learning about how the new EV that we’re getting works.”
Pat Duff, an architect who is working on a project for the college, drives a 2012 Chevrolet Volt and is happy with how it has performed.
“If I charged it at home only, it would cost me about 50 cents a day,” said Duff. “The only thing my family doesn’t like about it is that the heat isn’t great in the winter until you run out of electricity and are on gas.”
Duff likes the charging stations on campus and is surprised by how infrequently he sees other cars parked there.
“If you could buy a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt and charge free at the college, why wouldn’t you do that instead of paying for gas?” he said. “What I’m not spending on gas is paying for my car.”
Duff would like to see more people driving electric vehicles and taking advantage of the charging stations due to the environmental benefits the cars provide.
“Electric vehicles will allow us to move toward transportation that doesn’t pollute or pollutes significantly less,” Duff said. “Combination vehicles like the Volt allow significant reduction in the use of gas but the ability to use it when you want to go on a long trip or want flexibility.”
While these parking spots are handy for those who drive these vehicles, not all students are happy with them.
“I think they take up a lot of parking spaces,” said student Raelynn Goddard. “I think if they were all being used, they’d be great, but since they stay empty a lot of the time, it’s frustrating.”
According to Howell, it will be up to the students to determine the future of these vehicles on campus.
“So as a campus, it’s going to be mediated by what our interest is from students in supporting EVs on campus and what our interest is from our program coordinators and our faculty in terms of making sure people know how these things work.”