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USU receives $30K grant for hybrids

The Herald Journal
Kevin Opsahl

Monday, March 5, 2012

Utah State University recently received a grant from Utah Clean Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy to offset the incremental cost of 15 hybrid vehicles purchased by the university.

The $2,000-per-vehicle grant will serve as a rebate for hybrid vehicles purchased by various departments and used for university business. Departments at USU are encouraged to use fuel-efficient vehicles whenever possible to minimize the university’s carbon footprint.

The vehicles are mainly used for extensive travel by USU faculty, staff and administrators at USU’s main campus and regional campuses.

Vehicle makes include Toyota Prius and Ford Escape, according to officials at the USU Recycling Office.

“Commuting is the highest portion of USU’s carbon footprint, so the $2,000 rebate helps USU recover some of the incremental costs for the vehicles,” USU fleet manager Kevin Phillips said in a statement. “We are mandated by state law to increase our efficiencies and reduce fuel consumption, so utilizing hybrids make sense. This grant validates our continued use of alternative-fuel vehicles at USU.”

The only condition of receiving the grant is that the vehicles display a decal in the rear window that reads “Clean Advanced Technology Vehicle,” as well as the Clean Cities logo. The vehicles will also have to be made available from time to time for a brief inspection by Department of Energy auditors.

The funding is part of a larger grant originally obtained by USU Parking and Transportation for its compressed natural gas buses.

Last year, the Aggie Shuttle System marked a milestone during the 2010-11 academic year, when it documented 1 million riders in a year.

USU has also introduced other sustainability efforts, thanks to its Sustainability Council, chaired by Nat Frazer, former dean of the College of Natural Resources. It introduced a carbon offset program for faculty and staff in a step toward reducing the carbon footprint on campus. Faculty and staff are now able to donate $10 by voluntarily deferring part of their travel reimbursement.

© 2012 The Herald Journal.

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Federal grant money to fund hybrid vehicles

The Utah Statesman
Allee Evensen
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

USU Parking and Transportation Services has received a $30,000 grant from Utah Clean Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy to offset costs for 15 new hybrid vehicles.

The vehicles were purchased by various departments across campus, said Nat Frazer, president of the Sustainability Council. He said Kevin Phillips, former manger of fleet and resource recovery for the transportation department, was looking for available government grants and came across the $2000-per-car rebate.

"(The departments) were not expecting it," Frazer said. "They didn't know about it." 

According to a statement from Parking and Transportation Services, the only stipulation in getting the grant money is the hybrid vehicles display a rear window decal which has a Clean Cities logo and reads "Clean Advanced Technology Vehicle."

Though most state fleet-vehicle regulations do apply to the university, Frazer said USU has adopted its own policy that has similar guidelines. He said a number of units such as the climate center and the wildlife department purchased hybrid vehicles because they get high gas mileage. 

In 2010, USU President Stan Albrecht approved a Climate Action Plan aimed at reducing the school's carbon footprint. He signed the policy requiring all vehicles purchased to be hybrids or "right-sized" for the departments that use them.

Frazer said last year the university spent around $650,000 on gasoline. If it could cut the amount of gasoline used by 10 percent by using sustainable methods, it will save a significant amount of money, he said.

"We're trying to keep costs at the university under control by spending less on energy and lowering our carbon footprint," he said.

It fits into an overall plan to lower carbon emissions not contribute to Cache Valley air conditions and lower energy costs, Frazer said, adding that university vehicles are generally used for basic around-town driving. 

"If you're just trying to go to a meeting, you don't need a giant pickup truck with (a) 600-horsepower engine," he said.

The grant is a subset of a larger sustainability grant awarded to Parking and Transportation Services that allowed the department to outfit shuttle buses to run on compressed natural gas, said Alden Erickson, Aggie Shuttle supervisor. USU currently has a fleet of 11 buses — 10 of which run on compressed natural gas. 

He said the money for the grant was initially placed in the hands of other organizations across the state, but as they realized they couldn't meet the requirements of the grant, due to lack of funding, the state was able to reissue a portion of the money to USU

"We're always looking for opportunities to have the best and safest fleet that we can in order to help all-over sustainability," he said. "If we can help out, that's part of (being a) team player."

Charles Darnell, associate vice president of facilities, said the university could never increase its fleet exponentially because of state guidelines, but it can maintain and improve on what it already has. He said the grant is a step in the right direction with efforts to be more sustainable, but the transportation department still has work to do.

"We have so many vehicles, this is not something you can do overnight," he said. "We will always be looking for opportunities to take advantage of a grant."

He said the university provides aggressive maintenance and inspection on its fleets of cars and buses, and the department has signed on to do a sustainability rating program in order to assess how it's doing.

The vehicles run on a combination of gas and electricity and are part of a fleet of more than 50 sustainable-use cars the university owns. On average, a hybrid vehicle costs around $5,000 more than a regular vehicle, said Kevin Phillips, former manager of fleet and resource recovery for the transportation department. He said the point of the grant is not to entirely pay for the cars, but to aid the school in its sustainability efforts.

He said because of the amount of carbon monoxide buses release, transportation is a large part of the university's goal to be more sustainable.

"We hope that it won't be the last grant (we receive)," Phillips said. "We hope to (continue) purchasing these vehicles. The advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages."

© 2013 - Utah Statesman

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