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NU gets charged up for EVs

Electric VehiclesNorthwestern University is committed to being a leader in sustainability, which means planning infrastructure to encourage our faculty, staff, students, and visitors to make more sustainable transportation decisions. This month, NU is laying the groundwork for its electric vehicle strategy by installing 4 free charging stations to be used by commuters and visitors that drive electric hybrid vehicles (EVs). These first stations are part of a partnership with Schneider Electric, a supporter of sustainability at NU and the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).

Two of stations will be located in the new North Campus Parking Structure on the first level of parking and two more stations will be in the new Visitors Center parking structure. The stations should be operational by early 2015 and will be easily identifiable by wall signage. In addition, Facilities Management is assessing the opportunity to pilot electric utility vehicles in their fleet. The small street-legal, electric powerhouses would provide NU’s shops and grounds crew with a quick, convenient, and low-emissions way to service the campus.

The popularity of electric vehicles has increased dramatically with 2014 sales up more than 20 percent compared to last year. Automakers have taken note with an expanding portfolio of options from small utility vehicles like NU’s, to the U.S. Big Three’s growing lineup of offerings, to entrepreneurial enterprises like Tesla. In fact, Tesla recently announced the construction of a $5 billion “gigafactory” in Nevada to produce the batteries needed to support the “EV revolution.”

“The initiative to support EVs at Northwestern is a no-brainer. It’s a logical step in our commitment to sustainability and green house gas reduction and is aligned with our faculty’s pioneering research on batteries and energy storage,” stated Rob Whittier, NU’s Director of Sustainability. An example of NU’s leadership is SiNode Systems, a clean-tech startup that develops lithium-ion battery anodes that significantly increase energy capacity and charging speed. SiNode Systems won the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.