Emory to help test electric bus

The Emory campus is becoming a regular proving ground for innovative alternative transportation vehicles, and University transportation staff hope that trend continues.

Last year, Emory teamed up with Georgia Power to participate in the testing of a new electric car. Several Emory employees drove the car to and from work for varying periods of time to generate data on how the vehicles performed compared to standard gas-powered automobiles. Emory also continues to have the use of an electric-powered G van from Georgia Power that is used primarily for special events and night escort services.

This year, Georgia Power has again asked Emory to help test an electric vehicle. Cheryle Crumley, manager of alternative transportation services in the Parking Office, said that beginning this week, Georgia Power has agreed to loan Emory an electric shuttle bus, known as a Q bus, for at least the remainder of the academic year, and perhaps through next summer. Crumley said that Georgia Power has tested the bus under hot-weather conditions during the Olympics, mostly in the Georgia Tech area. Now, Georgia Power wants to test the bus in cold weather and under a variety of other operating conditions, including the stress of operating in heavy traffic and making frequent stops.

Don Francis, senior marketing engineer in Georgia Power's Electric Transportation Group, said that Emory's compact campus makes it ideal for testing electric vehicles. Francis said the current battery technology for electric vehicles does not allow for long-distance travel without recharging. (An electric charging station has been placed in Peavine parking deck to service the vehicle on loan to Emory.) Emory is only about five miles from the main Georgia Power service facility downtown.

In addition to the bus on loan to Emory for a year, Francis said Emory will have the services of an additional electric bus as six busses being tested for a downtown transportation project are rotated in and out of Emory's shuttle routes during the year. Francis said the driving conditions at Emory are similar to those of the downtown project, so Emory was asked to participate.

Crumley said that while the testing process provides valuable data to Georgia Power in order to help get innovative vehicles to the marketplace, the testing process also benefits Emory by demonstrating the degree to which such vehicles meet Emory's transportation needs before the University actually purchases the vehicles. The first route under consideration for the electric vehicle is shuttle route B, which serves the Michael Street parking decks.

The Q bus has a 35-seat capacity, compared to 21 seats on the largest shuttle bus currently serving route B. Crumley said about 2,600 people park in the Michael Street decks, and she believes that constitutes the greatest demand for campus shuttle service. She also said the bus is wheelchair-accessible.

A dedication ceremony for the new bus is planned for Thursday, Oct. 24, from 2-3 p.m. in front of Dobbs center. President Bill Chace is planning to attend.

--Dan Treadaway

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