UCSD to Lease Electric Cars to Students for National Study

To bring 50 electric cars and 50 charging stations to UCSD, the Jacobs School of Engineering is teaming up with the City of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric, GE and CleanTECH San Diego to launch Smart City San Diego, an organization which will bring sustainable clean energy initiatives to the San Diego region.

The organization’s first step is a study on electric vehicle use at UCSD’s campus.

UCSD Strategic Initiatives Director Byron Washom said the idea for the study originated from a suggestion to use renewable solar cells on campus, like those on the top of Hopkins Parking Structure, to charge the vehicles.

“When [solar cells] are used to charge electric vehicles, there are zero tailpipe emissions, unlike the result when electric vehicles are charged at home,” Washom said.

The concept developed into a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advanced into Smart City San Diego as a collaborative effort to expand alternative energy use.

Starting in September, students, faculty and staff members can lease electric vehicles for as long as three years. Prospective drivers must be at least 18 years old, have a favorable credit rating (or someone to co-sign the lease) and proof of insurance.

Fifty drivers will be selected from a questionnaire focusing on demographics and driving patterns to ensure a variety of participants. After the pool of qualified participants is selected starting in September, participants’ names will be provided to a commercial leasing company that will disperse the vehicles immediately.

“We anticipate that we will have more than 50 ideal participants,” Washom said.  “The final selection will likely be as simple as blindly picking names out of a hat.”

Smart City San Diego will work with an undetermined professor in the social sciences division to create a profile that will study mainstream consumer behavior to understand their decisions and to identify other possible electric vehicle initiatives.

The profile will assess variations in commute distances across ages and family sizes. The goal is to create a mirror reflection of what the actual buying population may be. In choosing a diverse sample group, the program can project future consumer patterns and preferences.

“We expect a strong response from people to respond to this opportunity,” Washom said.

About 12 Smart City cars will be available for lease at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year, with new models provided annually for three to four years thereafter. According to Washom, the 2011 study will most likely use the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt — models that, unlike hybrid-electric competitors such as the Toyota Prius, are able to run solely on electricity for extended periods.

“The idea is that as the price of electric vehicles decline and more units are produced, UCSD faculty, staff and students will be buying electric vehicles themselves and driving them to campus,” Washom said.

UCSD, San Diego Gas & Electric and the City of San Diego will designate public charging areas on campus and throughout the city. Organizers are hopeful for green industry in San Diego, which they believe will be vital to the local economy.

San Diego was one of multiple regions chosen in 2009 for stimulus-package grant money funneled toward clean energy research.

About 11,210 electric vehicle charging stations will be implemented in home-base, commercial and public locations in support of public adoption of plug-in vehicles in major markets in five states: Arizona (Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas), Washington (Seattle area), Oregon (Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Eugene), California (San Diego) and Tennessee (Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville).

“UC San Diego is committed to working with our partners to develop and demonstrate innovations that will enable carbon-free transportation,” Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said in a Jan. 31 statement. “Through our collaboration and the university’s significant investment in renewable energy generation and storage, smart grid communication infrastructure and the expertise of our faculty and staff, we are poised to help with the successful adoption of electric vehicles in San Diego and eventually, mainstream America.”

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal