Electric car drives TTU's launch to green power

Green power just got wheels at Tennessee Tech University, where maintenance workers have begun using the first electric-powered car purchased with the sustainable campus fee.

The Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, or NEV, which features an egg-shaped cab with a short bed, reaches a top speed of 25 mph. Approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for public roads, the vehicle is ideal for saving energy while driving around campus at slow speeds, said Larry Wheaton, TTU facilities engineer.

"Purchasing an electric car fits into our concept of making the campus greener," said Wheaton. "Driving this car will be much more efficient than using one with the gasoline motor idling at 15 mph, plus it has a zero smog index rating."

Plans to purchase the car were announced this summer when TTU released information about the first projects to be funded by the sustainable campus fee of $8 per undergraduate student per semester.

The vehicle's purchase price, $11,250, is part of the more than $100,000 in funds being spent. To offset the cost of charging the electric battery, the university will be adding solar collectors on campus to feed back into the power grid.

Made by Global Electric Motorcars, a part of Chrysler Corp., this model can run up to 30 miles on a single charge. GEM vehicles are battery-electric, operate on a 72-volt battery system and plug into a standard 110-volt outlet. Charging takes approximately six to eight hours.

"Many planned communities build roads and bridges specifically designed for these vehicles to save energy and reduce pollution," said Wheaton. "The university has a contract so that we can buy more. We plan to use our experience with this vehicle to guide us in a second purchase.

"Maintenance workers have already begun using this one to make trips around campus when they need to supervise projects," Wheaton continues. "We will consider applications for safety and security as we go along."

The NEV is equipped with three-point seat belts, windshields and windshield wipers, running lights, headlights, brake lights, reflectors, rear view mirrors, and turn signals.

TBR sustainable campus fee guidelines, current project status and more information about TTU's sustainable campus fee can be found at www.tntech.edu/scf.