IU has added the first all-electric cars to its fleet operations.
They purchased four 2017 Nissan Leafs about two weeks ago for use around campus. Two of the cars will be used for parking enforcement, one was given to IU Campus Bus and the fourth went to IU Fleet Services, where IU employees can rent vehicles for university-business.
“Electric cars don’t work for everyone, but when they do work for you they work really well,” Kevin Whited, transportation demand management coordinator, said.
Whited said the Nissan Leafs get about 100 miles to a charge, which is perfect for IU employees who drive around campus and Bloomington, such as the Office of Parking Operations.
Parking enforcement drives around campus all day and normally idles the car while writing a ticket. This uses gas and increases pollution on campus.
However, with an electric car like the Nissan Leaf, the University can save money on gas and reduce emissions at the same time, Whited said.
The same goes for Campus Bus, who shuttles drivers to and from their starting bus stops to the parking area where the drivers begin their shift.
But the cars are less efficient for longer distance travel.
Highway miles take more energy to complete, which significantly dwindles the charge on the car. This makes longer trips, such as a professor commuting to IU-Purdue University Indianapolis, less efficient and nearly impossible without proper chargers along the way.
When Whited was testing the original Leaf they picked up in Indianapolis, the car died in Martinsville, Indiana, because it ran out of charge before arriving in Bloomington.
But for driving around campus and within the community, the Nissan Leafs will save the University gas and maintenance costs.
“This is a test case,” Whited said. “We’re going to see how it works.”
IU was partly able to secure these Nissan Leafs because the car company is preparing to release a new model that will have a 200-mile charge. Through this discount and a few other partnerships, IU was able to bring the cars to Bloomington.
Different IU groups are also able to rent the Leafs from Fleet Services to see if an all-electric car would benefit them. If it works out, they could replace an already existing car in the fleet with one like the Nissan Leaf.
If the all-electric cars work well for Fleet Services, Whited said they could see them expanding to other sectors of IU’s employment base who drive mostly around campus. The main obstacle for that is trying to get electric chargers installed in campus parking garages, which Whited said he hoped would encourage faculty to switch to electric cars as well.
“Faculty, staff and other departments who just drive around town could use these very efficiently,” he said. “They’re a great idea to use.”
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