Plant Operations Goes GreenWith Purchase of Electric Trucks

September 9, 2008 

Electric TruckThe University of Houston Plant Operations recently added three electric, gas-free trucks to its fleet—another step in UH’s plan to implement green initiatives.

“Plant Operations has been a leader in sustainability in many areas since the mid-90s,” said Dave Irvin, associate vice president for plant operations. “These new mid-sized electric vehicles expand that effort while saving the university life cycle costs.”

The department purchased the trucks from California-based manufacturer Miles Electric Vehicles, which manufactures gas-free, low-speed, all electric vehicles that produce zero tailpipe emissions.

These are the first fully electric trucks on campus and are a continuation of an initiative that started nine years ago when the department purchased its first electric vehicle, said Neal Smith, supervisor of the Auto Shop.

Reaction to the vehicles includes numerous stares and favorable comments.

“I have been stopped by students, contractors and professors,” Smith said. “They want to know ‘Where did that come from’ and ‘Whom does it belong to?’ They’re curious and just want to stop and take a look.”

Plant Operations first developed interest in the Miles Electric Vehicles when Smith attended the 2007 Texas Association of Physical Plant Administrators Conference, which featured one of the trucks.

“Dave Irvin was bold enough to step up and say ‘Let’s just buy three.’ We took it from there,” Smith said. At the time, gas prices weren’t as high as they have been this year, so the timing of the purchase couldn’t have been more perfect.

Each truck’s baseline price was $19,000, which is relatively inexpensive, but is a bit more than a S-10 truck (Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger), Smith said.

“New technology primarily costs more at the beginning, so we look at this as an investment rather than an expense,” Smith said. “The truck costs less than $5 a day when you charge it, and it fits into a regular 110v outlet. There’s no carbon foot print. It’s a step in the right direction, and a step that’s needed.”

Smith also stressed how drivers can maneuver the trucks around the campus with ease compared to the scooters that people normally see on campus. The trucks are bigger, fast and blend in better with other vehicles on major streets such as Cullen Boulevard, Elgin Street and Wheeler Avenue, he said.

Over the next year, several Plant Operations’ departments will test the trucks. If the testing goes well, then “we will consider whether we want to expand the program,” Smith said.

Irvin hopes the trucks bolster awareness of green initiatives in a new and exciting way.

“It’s great to be a good citizen while also saving money so that more funds can be better used to serve our students,” he said.

For Cougars who are interested in taking a ride in the vehicles, Plant Operations is planning to host a campus event. At the event, which will be open to the UH community, attendees will be able to view and ride in the electric trucks. For more information, call 713-743-8027.

Cydney Rax