Alt-fuel vehicles join campus fleet
By Brandon Watson
January 22, 2009
"Vroom, vroom" has a new ring to it in Physical Plant. More to the
point, it may have no sound at all as the division looks to
incorporate alternative-fuel vehicles to its fleet.
Physical Plant is purchasing a two-seat
electric utility vehicle that will get 50 kilometres to a charge.
Unlike the demonstration model above, Western's
'truck' will have an enclosure and a longer bed –
used to carry maintenance tools and equipment.
"As with most departments that operate trucks on campus, our
customers have expressed their concerns regarding emissions. And,
quite honestly, they are right. We can do better," says Roy
Langille, Associate Vice-President, Physical Plant & Capital
In the fall, Physical Plant followed the footsteps of Foot
Patrol and invested in a hybrid sedan. The Honda Civic sedan was
acquired primarily to move PPD employees, consultants, and clients
According to the Honda website, the Civic Hybrid is a
low-emission vehicle that delivers high fuel efficiency. The rated
fuel efficiency is 4.7 litres for every 100 kilometres of city
driving. It swallows barely half the fuel of the non-hybrid
The effort to improve the largest fleet on campus
doesn't end there.
Physical Plant has agreed to purchase a two-seat electric
utility vehicle. The vehicle's features include six 12-volt flooded
electrolyte batteries, which can be charged by plugging into a
standard household electrical receptacle. Reaching a top speed of
40kmh, the average range is about 30 miles (50km) on a single
To accommodate typical maintenance tools and equipment, a 70"
x 48" flat bed with a 700 pound cargo capacity comes as standard
There are options such as additional seats, enclosures,
heating, and covered beds. This flexibility means that Physical
Plant can satisfy most of its transportation needs through simple
Langille likes the possibility of a growing electric fleet.
"Physical Plant will continue to evaluate the electric
vehicles and hope to add them to our fleet wherever possible," he
Before that can happen, he admits there are some challenges to
overcome. For example, the new home of Physical Plant, the Support
Services Building, is located across Western Road. Any trip to
campus requires the low horsepower vehicles to share city roadways
with regular traffic.
Fortunately, there are a number of successful deployments of
electric vehicles in Ontario. McMaster University, in the bustling
city of Hamilton, has faced similar hurdles and now boasts a number
of electric vehicles in its fleet.
Acknowledging that safety is non-negotiable, Langille believes
that if the issues can be overcome, the vehicles have a bright
future in the Physical Plant Division.
"Not only is going electric the right thing to do in
addressing the concerns of our customers, but it also reduces our
dependency on fossil fuels," he says. "This is undoubtedly the next
generation in transportation and we'd like to be at the forefront
of the trend."
The writer is a communications officer in Physical
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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