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UFV adds first electric vehicle to its facilities fleet

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UFV has added a 2015 Nissan Leaf, a fully electric vehicle (EV), to the UFV facilities fleet to replace a retiring work van in their continued attempt to promote sustainable operations.

Blair McFarlane, UFV’s energy manager, explained that the retiring van had been a lemon since the day it was purchased, riddled with defects. When reviewing and filing gas receipts, McFarlane found that the van cost the university $5,300 in fuel in 2017 about 28.8 per cent of the fleet’s fuel costs.

“The numbers started to just jump out and say, okay, this is the time to make that transition to electric vehicles, so we can offset carbon emissions, so we don’t need to continuously make these fuel purchases, and we can also be a leader in the community,” McFarlane said.

The retiring van was driven 25,000 km over the last year. It would cost the new EV $430 in electricity fees to cover the same distance, compared to the $5,300 in fuel for the van. With the reduction in fuel costs, elimination of oil change fees, and reduction of carbon tax, McFarlane estimated that the EV could pay for itself from savings in 4.6 years.

In addition to financial savings from the EV, the visibility of the UFV brand on an electric car out in the community is another positive of the purchase, according to McFarlane. The EV can be seen driving to and from UFV’s campuses sporting a bright green paint job, complete with UFV branding.

“If you look at our vision and values, it outlines our role within the community to be environmentally responsible and sustainable in our operations,” said McFarlane. “We’re doing our best to live up to that and this is one key component, transportation, to move towards being more sustainable and reducing our environmental impact.”  

One of the four road-licensed vehicles in the UFV fleet, the EV will be used by the facilities department for transporting people and materials between UFV campuses. While it is smaller than the van it is replacing, McFarlane said the EV has been more than adequate at its job so far.

“One of the original thoughts was to partner with trades and see if we can build a platform instead of having back seats,” McFarlane said. “That’s an idea that we’re still toying with and just looking for the right opportunity. But as it stands, the vehicle has been very functional for its intended purposes.”

In addition to the EV, the fleet includes two grounds trucks, a shipping van, and a cube van, which can be used to transport materials of equipment that wont fit in the EV. McFarlane hopes to see the UFV fleet fully electric, but direct replacements for these vehicles is currently out of UFV’s price range.

McFarlane emphasized, though, that switching over to sustainable practices is a short-term goal of UFV’s, not a long-term goal, and switching over to sustainable transport options is part of this process.

“We certainly can’t continue to wait for these technologies to become more readily available or prevalent. We need to be leaders within our community because the longer we wait, the larger the problems are with the air quality, climate change, cost of operations, you name it. We need to continue to act and act rapidly,” McFarlane said.

Throughout the UFV campuses, there are currently a total of 11 level one charging stations, which take between 12 and 14 hours to charge a single vehicle, and six level two stations, which can each charge two vehicles in four to six hours. Parking times at the level two stations are restricted, meaning that multiple electric cars can be charged there each day.

UFV has recently added two new level two charging stations, one at the Chilliwack campus and one at the Abbotsford campus, with more being planned for the future. McFarlane roughly estimated that UFV has 30 to 35 drivers with electric vehicles on campus, and demand is increasing for charging stations.

“We’re having a hard time keeping up with demand because that group of drivers keeps expanding,” McFarlane said. “So, we are going to keep looking for key locations and good opportunities to further support that transition to low-carbon transportation.”

Image: UFV Today

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