Rolling green around townIf you’re looking for a quiet ride, this is it. The University of Wisconsin-Superior unveiled a fleet of four new electric cars Tuesday, offering media, students and staff a chance to get behind the wheel. “Oh, it was fun, a lot of fun,” said UWS senior Brody Bakken, who took one of the e-cars for a spin.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
If you’re looking for a quiet ride, this is it. The University of Wisconsin-Superior unveiled a fleet of four new electric cars Tuesday, offering media, students and staff a chance to get behind the wheel.
“Oh, it was fun, a lot of fun,” said UWS senior Brody Bakken, who took one of the e-cars for a spin.
The ride was smooth, quiet and comfortable, students said.
“It’s also eco-friendly,” said Brandon Gordon, a UWS junior. “It’s excellent, a great way to save money and gas, so why not?”
The four new vehicles - three slated for facilities management use and one for the custodial and IT departments to share - sport a bright white paint job but they are truly green.
“The reason we mainly did it is, quite honestly, we’re trying to drive more toward our sustainability focus, reducing our carbon footprint, and this is one of the ways that gets us there,” said Frank Andrews, buildings and grounds superintendent for UWS. The electric cars also allow the university to expand its fleet without increasing the number of state license plates on campus.
“We’ve got all the gas vehicles we can have,” Andrews said. But these cars take a separate blue license plate reserved for slow moving vehicles.
The electric vehicles, originally built for the military, have a top speed of 25 mph and can drive about 50 miles on a full charge. They can be recharged with a regular extension cord. Funding for the vehicles, which cost between $20,000 and $22,000 apiece, was provided through state money earmarked for sustainability improvements on campus.
Tom Fennessey, director of facilities management at UWS, said they looked at many different electric vehicles before selecting these. The Minnesota-built cars met highway standards and were beefy enough to handle campus needs.
“From reports that we got, they handle winters the best of any of the electric vehicles,” Fennessey said.
Earlier this month, the Superior City Council approved an ordinance allowing low speed vehicles to drive on city streets.
“Now, that doesn’t allow golf carts,” said Fennessey, who is also a Superior city councilor. But it gives licensed, street-legal vehicles like the e-cars more flexibility. You won’t see them crossing the Blatnik Bridge, but you may see them off campus.
“We can run to Menards and local places, get around town,” Andrews said.
The little white cars, which have been driving on campus for about six weeks, have elicited smiles and double takes from the public.
“We’ve had nothing but positive reactions, both the campus and the community have been very positive,” Fennessey said. He hopes to one day add options such as solar panels to the car roofs to make them completely self-sustainable. And maybe, he said, the move to electric cars will spark a community response.
“I’m hoping that this really sends a message to the community, whether it’s individuals or businesses, that they’ve got the opportunity to try to be sustainable, too, with smaller vehicles, electric vehicles ...”
Just this week, a fifth electric car came to UWS. The used vehicle was purchased by the residence life department and will be used by them.