UFV recently replaced a van in the facilities fleet with a fully electric vehicle, marking significant progress in sustainability at UFV.
With how precarious our environmental situation seems to be — the latest and most frightening update from the National Resources Defence Council on Earth’s resources has us passing the point of no return within 20 years — moving into sustainability has become more essential than sensible.
Personally, I’m all for doing our part to save the environment — in fact, I’m known for nagging my friends about putting their garbage in the right waste bin — but the introduction of this car raises some concerns. Namely: competition for charging ports. Those charging ports are some of the best parking spots on campus, and although parking there is restricted to only two hours, those spots seem to almost always be filled. The introduction of UFV’s electric vehicle — especially if the whole fleet eventually goes electric — could mean even more competition for charging ports in a climate where the number of electric vehicle drivers is increasing. I don’t have an electric car myself, but I can imagine the irritation of constantly having to check if a charging port is free, or having to leave a class mid-lecture because your two-hour slot in the charging station has ended. And while introducing more charging ports is certainly a possibility — they’re actually not as expensive as anticipated, but they’re not cheap either: according to an article by the Globe and Mail, a home charging station costs between $800 and $2,000, and a public Level 2 charger can cost as much as $5,000, but BCHydro offers rebates of up to 50 per cent of costs for workplace charging stations— we don’t really have anywhere to put them without converting regular parking spots, and I don’t even want to think about the frenzy that would incite for the 10–11 a.m. parking crowd, where finding a spot is already near-impossible.
If we’re going to convert UFV vehicles to electric, the obvious next place to start is the shuttle buses. While it’s nice that facilities is going to get this car paid for within five years by saving on fuel costs, I can’t imagine this vehicle is transporting people and materials between campuses as often as the shuttles are. It’s important to remember that this vehicle is a facilities one, so while it’s a great start on sustainability, it’s fairly self-contained. Especially with the introduction of those big, ancient school buses in the Langley route — which, don’t get me wrong, was absolutely the best solution for the situation — our vehicle carbon emissions have to be at an all-time high. However, with how specialized the shuttles are with campus card readers, elaborate UFV detailing on the outside, and accessibility seating, switching them to electric would be a huge monetary hassle. And as much as I want to be Team Sustainability, making these kinds of moves isn’t always easily affordable — we’re poor students, there’s a reason we don’t all have electric cars already.
Besides, there are other ways UFV can be more sustainable. Our campus reducing heat in compliance with the forced shut down of natural gas — besides making me cold in class — has drawn my attention to the ways we aren’t progressive or sustainable. Switching our heating systems from natural gas to a renewable resource seems like it would be more effective in reducing our carbon footprint than transitioning one vehicle to electric. Installing solar panels seems just as possible as introducing an electric vehicle, and considering how much electricity the campus uses (in the 2106/17 fiscal year, UFV used 11,040,667 kilowatt hours of electricity), seems it would have a bigger impact in the long run.
An electric vehicle is a great first step, but it’s certainly not all we can be doing to make our campus more sustainable.
Or, maybe we should just forget cars altogether and learn how to teleport.
Image: Cory Jensen/The Cascade