If you haven’t already seen UCSB staff members dashing around campus at 25 miles per hour in what look like small, Space Age golf carts, be prepared – more are on the way.
The cars, known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, are the latest in zero-emission transportation technology. Recently donated by Ford and Chrysler, about a dozen of the vehicles are now in the university’s possession, and over 50 are expected to be acquired in total.
“They started arriving around October,” Transportation and Parking Services Director Tom Roberts said. “In late December we started getting more.”
The NEVs, which are recharged by being plugged into standard 110-volt outlets, will be distributed to various departments so staff members may travel around campus more easily and transport materials between buildings. Currently, most staff members use regular cars and vans to move around campus, which creates problems with parking and is less efficient than using the miniature vehicles.
According to Roberts, Transportation and Parking Services will cover half the cost of insurance, maintenance, and parking for the NEVs, while the departments using them will be required to contribute the remaining $55 per month. “The electric vehicles may replace some staff cars,” Roberts said, citing the lower cost of leasing and running the vehicles.
While Transportation and Parking Services will round up requests for the electric cars from campus departments until Jan. 16, some groups are already putting them to use. Housing and Residential Services has acquired its own fleet, and the Custodial Management and Instructional Resource departments are reaping the benefits of UCSB’s most recent additions.
John Davis, Classroom Service manager at Instructional Resources, said his department previously had to use a van to take computers, sound equipment, data projectors, and other technology to an average of 120 locations on campus every day. Now the staff is using NEVs, which Davis said “have better visibility, are easier to use and easier to park.”
Not only will the NEVs heighten efficiency on campus, they will help UCSB reduce harmful pollution, as the environmentally friendly machines release no tailpipe or evaporative emissions.
“Zero emissions is better for all of us here on campus,” said Roberts. “It’s a double win.”
The cars can hold one to four people, depending on the model, and are equipped with windshields, wiper blades, rearview mirrors, headlights and taillights, seat belts, reflectors and parking brakes. They can be legally driven on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less, although they cannot exceed 25 miles per hour. Staff members can drive them on campus roads, but they may not drive them on sidewalks, walkways, or bikepaths.