UConn is reducing the oil dependency of its fleet, one vehicle at a time. The University installed a new charging station and acquired its first heavy-duty electric vehicle (EV). OEP student interns helped Central Stores/Motor Pool staff obtain a $75,000 DOT grant for the purchase of the E-Star van, which has excellent payload capacity and power, along with a 100-mile range per charge, to easily handle its daily delivery duties around the main campus. The grant covered most of the cost differential for replacing a 10-year old petroleum diesel-powered truck.
Because high initial costs can seem prohibitive when investing in alternative technologies, a longer-range cost-benefit analysis has proven to be a better tool for making purchase decisions about green products. With the grant factored in, the E-Star's avoided fuel costs reduce the payback period to 5 years and result in a net savings of ~$60,000 to the University over the E-Star's projected 12-year lifespan. As with many emerging technologies, the cost of parts and services will continue to fall as the technologies become more mainstream, and as research improves the functionality of vital components, like the lithium battery that powers the van.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The new van is not only more environmentally-responsible for the campus but also ergonomically superior for the drivers and passengers who use it daily. It runs more quietly and has no CO2, NOX or particulate emissions. In order to accommodate the van, UConn partnered with CL&P to install the University's first EV charging station. Located in the Motor Pool parking lot, the station is free for use, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM, by any University employees or residents with EVs of their own. The E-Star needs eight hours to recharge and uses the station overnight. This charging station provides the University with the potential to purchase more electric vehicles in the future.
Workplace Charging Challenge
In February 2015, UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy signed a pledge the university to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge. UConn was eligible to participate in the challenge because of the electric vehicle charging stations on campus used primarily for employee use. This pledge commits the Office of Environmental Policy to assess and promote the use of electric vehicle charging stations on campus. Benefits of joining the challenge include informational and technical resources, peer to peer exchange and information sharing, recognition of charging station successes, and support from Challenge ambassador organizations like Green Parking Council. The Challenge also provides UConn with support in assessing whether or not workplace charging is right for the university. UConn is responsible for assessing employee demand for charging and setting a minimum goal for providing for employees driving electric vehicles. The university is also required to develop and implement a partner plan to capture a workplace charging strategy.