The United States Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) approved the initiative that was presented by Tulane University. The EERE awarded the school and its partners $737,500 to make the enterprise a reality, and as a result, Tulane will be purchasing five Grande West Vicinity transit buses equipped with electric vehicle technology (EV) along with five private charging stations.
One of Tulane’s partners in this innovative effort is the Southeast Louisiana Clean Fuel Partnership, which works with local fuel providers, vehicle fleets, community leaders, and other stakeholders to not only save energy but also promote the use of advanced vehicle technologies and domestic alternative fuels when it comes to transportation.
The SLCF Partnership’s director, Courtney Young, said of the school, “Tulane was one of the first universities in the region to install EV charging stations on campus for students, faculty, and staff. Similarly, the electric shuttle bus project is the first of its kind in our area, so we’re looking forward to understanding and showcasing results to comparable fleets as a potential replicable solution to replace the older model, highly polluting diesel shuttles in our communities.”
The project is set to begin with the five EV shuttle buses joining Tulane’s existing university shuttle route that links together the school’s affiliate programs with its uptown and downtown campuses. Though the approved project is set to last three years, the ultimate goal is for the University’s staff to monitor the efficiency, operating performance, and general costs of the EV shuttle buses and share their findings with public transportation fleets across the Crescent City and other Universities.
The wide-accepted notion is that clean, electric vehicle technology-equipped transportation is more environmentally healthy and cost-efficient than traditional means; therefore, the project team at Tulane will test that hypothesis to see if using electric vehicles as public transportation would be a more viable option for other campuses and the larger New Orleans area.
Tulane’s initiative to purchase and incorporate the five Grande West Vicinity EV shuttle buses was one of 55 research and development projects accepted by the EERE. All of the selected projects aimed to further advance vehicle technologies in exciting and innovative ways with assistance from the EERE’s Vehicle Technologies Office.
This total collaborative project is between Tulane’s ByWater Institute and University Campus Services as well as local partners, the Alliance Bus Group, Entergy, and the Southeast Louisiana Clean Fuel Partnership. The Southeast Louisiana Clean Fuel Partnership. Shelley Meaux and Liz Davey of the Tulane Bywater Institute are the principal investigators of the project, and Davey expects the project’s short-term effects to involve the elimination of air pollutants that cause local health issues such as heart and lung damage. Additionally, according to Davey, “In the longer term, especially as electricity generation moves to more clean and renewable sources, the use of electric vehicles will also reduce our carbon footprint.”
While the project is still in its early stages by being awarded this opportunity, it’s obvious that Tulane University and its partners have their eyes and well-intentioned perspective set on the future of New Orleans and the planet at large. Tulane University’s Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Norton shared his hopes, saying, “This is an exciting opportunity for Tulane as we work to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that result from university operations. Tulane’s shuttles are highly visible in the greater New Orleans area and [w]e are confident that the impacts of this project will extend beyond the boundaries of our physical campuses. By sharing our operational, financial, and environmental impact experiences and data, we hope to serve as a blueprint for other institutions in our region.”
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