Engineering senior Michael Mullins, an intern with the Plant Operation Division of the University, hopes to exchange some of the University’s trademark white vans for battery-powered electric vehicles.

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Plant operations employee Ted Dwornick inspects one of the vehilces on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re looking to switch to alternative fuel vehicles…for the environment as well as for the cost savings for the University,” Mullins said.

Plant Operations hired Mullins to research how the University could move toward more fuel-efficent means of transportation.

Salespeople from e-ride, an alternative transportation company, yesterday brought two electric cars that resemble small Hummers to Transportation Services headquarters on South Campus so that foremen from Plant Operations to assess their practicality.

Each of the cars, called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, run on nine 8-volt car batteries that can be fully charged overnight. When charged, the batteries power the vehicle for about 40 miles when running at a speed of 25 mph.

Each model would cost between $17,000 and $28,000 but would only cost, “pennies a day” in electricity to charge the batteries Mullins said.

Plant Operations officials said they were concerned that the small size of electric vehicles could lower worker productivity, Mullins said.

“Other vehicles we’ve looked at may not have the capacity or the weight or the ability to work around an entire plant operation’s eight-hour workday,” Mullins said.

Ted Dwornick, an air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic for Plant Operations, said he thought the vehicles would be good for some work around the University but not for heavier projects.

“I think they’d be more geared toward light service work as far as the plant department is concerned,” he said. “There are certain things which they wouldn’t quite fit into the scheme of things, but for the majority of applications they’d probably be good vehicles.”

Dwornick said the 30- to 40-mile range of the vehicles is consistent with the average distance the University’s maitenance staffers travel each day.

Johnson said Plant Operations wouldn’t replace its entire fleet with electric vehicles because the electric models wouldn’t be able to drive fast enough in areas with higher speed limits.

While Mullins said he was hopeful about e-ride’s potential partnership with Plant Operations, no contract has been inked. He said no decisions will be made for about eight weeks.

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