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Carleton’s Commitment to Sustainability Hits the Roadways

May 13, 2008

In keeping with Carleton’s commitment to sustainability, the College’s Fleet Vehicle Services division recently added two new Toyota Priuses to its roster of automobiles. The first mass-produced hybrid vehicle on the market, the Prius is considered the most fuel-efficient car currently sold in the United States.

The two electric hybrids replace two older vehicles, Ford Focuses, that were due for replacement after seven years of use by the College. The College decided to take advantage of this opportunity to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the fleet by purchasing these environmentally friendly vehicles. “The college has made a commitment to sustainability,” says Adam Smith, ENTS research assistant. “These cars are a visible extension of the College.” Marilyn Hollinger, fleet services manager, concurs, “So far the response has been very positive.”

The decision to purchase the hybrid vehicles came after an extensive study of the College’s fleet fuel consumption and expenses. Carleton maintains an extensive fleet of 13 regular minivans, two omnivans and four cars for use by sports teams, student organizations, and faculty when conducting official College business. Collectively, the fleet annually ramps up over 200,000 miles. Consultant Bruce Anderson led a study to determine if upgrading the fleet would be efficient and to what degree the fleet should be upgraded. The study found that upgrading cars that were already due for replacement to hybrids would be an efficient and cost effective decision. There was also interest in replacing campus minivans, however with the absence of an effective hybrid substitute, this move had to be postponed.

The Prius has become an increasingly popular choice for motorists with a desire for high performance combined with high efficiency. The car’s innovative duel, electric-gas capacity allows it to minimize fuel consumption without sacrificing performance. The Prius has an onboard computer that switches between the fuel and battery power options, choosing traditional fuel for open road driving and battery for city maneuvering. With this flexibility, the Prius averages 60 miles per gallon for city driving and 51 for open road driving, making it a favorite of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to its technical performance, the Prius is also admired for its internal comfort and elegant design.

Currently there is a roughly two-week waiting list for the use of the new vehicles. Whitney Hough '09 (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who has driven one of the new cars, reports, “The Prius was a very smooth drive. I could not even tell when the engine shut off at the stoplights, and it was great knowing that it was not wasting gas.” She notes, “I think that the Prius is a very good investment for Carleton, and a fabulous step for the school to take in its drive to become eco-friendly.” This sentiment is echoed by many users of the vehicles.

There are no immediate plans to replace any more cars in the fleet, however given the success of these two new hybrids, Campus Services hopes to continue modernizing and improving the efficiency of the fleet. Discussions continue regarding the possibility of upgrading campus vans to a hybrid model, which are reported to debut in 2010. In the meantime, Campus Services will continue monitor the positive effects of their new purchases.

For more information, or to add your name to the long waiting list for use of a campus Prius, contact Fleet Vehicle Services at (507) 222-4443.

Written by Joseph Brown '09