Purchase photos

Green initiative brings new vehicles to FHSU

8/26/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University is leading the charge on going green by recently purchasing two electric vehicles.

The pickups operate at two cents per mile and will be used around campus to haul equipment and complete various assignments.

"One of them is assigned to our environmental maintenance office," said Jim Schreiber, director of grounds. "The other is assigned to our filling maintenance office. They're used like a regular pickup. Guys will use them to go check on projects, haul equipment and tools."

The trucks run completely on electricity and last 30 miles on a single charge. A charging station is located on campus.

"They'll just be running around campus," said Mike Barnett, vice president for administration and finance. "It will take a lot of time to use up 30 miles, so typically they don't have to charge it every night."

The trucks were purchased less than six months ago in an attempt to reduce the number of gas vehicles on campus.

"We produce our own electricity (through wind turbines)," Barnett said. "So it made sense to start converting some of our utility vehicles to electricity. My goal is to change over from fossil fuels to renewable energy."

Typically, vehicles powered through electricity are less powerful than those running on fossil fuel.

"The one concern the physical plant has is they are smaller than your typical pickup," Barnett said. "The utility of the vehicle is still a question mark for us. But if we can make them work, the savings over time could be significant."

The trucks cost more to purchase, but Barnett hopes the savings on fuel costs will make the difference.

"We don't know if it's going to work at this point and time," he said. "I think the fuel savings alone should be significant enough to pay for the cost of the vehicle over the life of the vehicle, then it becomes a decision of if we want to employ more electrics and fewer fossil fuels, or do we stay with gas pickups."

If the experiment proves to be successful, the university will need to determine whether the vehicles can be used off-campus.

"They are street legal, but it's an issue with increasing our fleet size," Barnett said. "If we can tag them, they can ride them downtown to do errands. If we run into an issue with tagging, we may not have significant growth. I'm optimistic we could maybe go 50/50 on these electric versus gas."

Barnett said the university could not switch completely to electric due to the power differences.

"Gas obviously has more power and can tow better," he said. "There are some advantages to gas, so we won't ever be able to get rid of them. But if we could get rid of 50 percent, that would be a good deal."

The university also is exploring the possibility of solar energy and battery storage for the wind energy.

"We're always exploring opportunities to save money," Barnett said. "If we can do that and be sustainable, it's a perfect fit."

The sustainability projects still are in the experimental phase, but Barnett said they could result in saving 50 percent of the university's current energy needs.