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Electrical Vehicles Charge Forward

November 6, 2012 at 9:45 am
By Sarah Lukins

If you’ve been anywhere near James hall since school started, you’ve probably noticed the new electrical vehicle charger.  It’s hard to miss in its futuristic chrome glory.  The charger was installed in the late summer to promote more sustainable commuting for Carleton faculty and staff.  The new station puts the college on the map of energy nodes, making the purchase of electrical vehicles more feasible for potential buyers in our region. In view of the college’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), which seeks to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the EV station is a natural progression toward a more sustainable campus.  Commuting to the college accounts for 7.5 percent of Carleton’s greenhouse gas emissions- a sizeable amount. For Carleton, the EV charger reinforces our commitment to promoting sustainable fledgling industries.  Currently the station serves only one car, that of history professor David Tompkins.  This lone pioneer is a daily commuter from the Twin Cities.  Burning three gallons of gas a day traveling back and forth in his ‘95 Honda Civic made him consider his carbon footprint.  Tompkins says that if Carleton had not installed the EV station, he could not have purchased his car.  His new Nissan Leaf has a battery life of about 60 to 70 miles and charging time of about three hours during the work day, making it ideal for commuting from the cities.

Although electrical vehicles have been touted as an efficient and sustainable alternative to regular vehicles, their impact is contingent upon where the electricity comes from. If the power line is hooked up to the grid, the electricity could easily be generated using coal or other fossil fuels.  David reckons that if this were the case, the efficiency of his car would be the equivalent of 40 mpg.  Although Carleton is not run completely off renewable energy, the college generates about 25 percent of its electricity through its resident wind turbines and Xcel energy (which powers Northfield’s grid) also has clean energy in its mix of fuels. David buys wind energy for his home in the cities making his car run almost entirely on renewable energy.  Hopefully this investment will push others, like professor Tompkins, to pursue new, more sustainable forms of transportation. 

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