ASU's electrical vehicles, are they paying off?

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - 2011 may be the year of the electric auto as several major car makers get ready to roll out the battery powered transporters.

ASU is no stranger to electric vehicles of all types, from trucks to transport.

Is the Segway the most sophisticated electric vehicle on the ASU campus? Could be, with it's 6 gyroscopes. But it certainly is not the only one.

Motor Poll Director Wade Smith said electric vehicles on campus are pretty common.

"Of the slow moving vehicles it's about a quarter of our slow moving vehicles." Slow moving vehicles being the tiny trucks, the mini vans, golf carts and other small vehicles.

About 30 vehicles out of the entire motor pool fleet are electric.

Unlike the sophisticated cars that are poised to hit the American roads. ASU's vehicles are primarily utility vehicles.

Smith, "Purpose built vehicles made by Taylor Dunn that are used for deliveries throughout the campus. We have service vehicles that are electric vans."

Looking like many of the other mini vans the college owns. The vans that the IT Department uses, swaps the gas cap for an electric plug.

Smith, "These are service vehicles for the Information Technology Department. They just purchased these about 5 or 6 weeks ago. They are still really just breaking them in."

The vans are so new there is still plastic on the seats. Each van will sit about 6 people and still has a gearshift but no transmission per se.

Smith, "The company over here in the United States that buys these. Buys them without the drive train and puts an electric conversion kit into them for a slow moving vehicle."

Not fast on the road, limited to 25 miles per hour but they would be fun to tool around town in.

Of course you do have to recharge the batteries using the on board charger. The charger on the cargo truck puts out a loud hum so it gets parked outside to charge. Other vehicles use an external battery charger.

Smith showed me the bright green cord on the new vans. "In this day and age the newer vehicles you simply plug it into a 110 outlet and you're good to go."

Looking a little sad, the new mini vans predecessors sit in a corner of the storage lot having been replaced by new technology. Their boxy shape and exposed seating replaced by a smoother look and doors and windows.

ASU still has golf carts and other electric cart type vehicles that are used on campus. But how about cutting back from 4 wheels to 2?

Granted the vans look like fun but how about the Segway. The motor pool has 2 that can be checked out for people to run errands on and move around campus when nothing has to be carried.

In exact dollars, Smith actually couldn't say if the college saved money on his bulk fuel buying. But departmentally speaking,the higher input cost for an electric does pay off.

Smith, "You do reap the benefits of helping to save the environment and you do save considerable amount of fuel in your department."

As far as buying more electrics, Smith says they are looking into the possibility or perhaps more fuel efficient gas or diesel burners.

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