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Posted September 12, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Smart fix: SU adds electric-powered pickup to maintenance fleet

electric powered maintenance truck
Jeff Davis, project manager in Shenandoah University's physical plant department, plugs in the school's new electric powered maintenance truck. Rich Cooley/Daily

extended-cab pickup
Davis takes the extended-cab pickup for a spin on campus Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University's maintenance department received a jolt this week.

The university's first electric-powered truck arrived on campus Wednesday. The two-wheel drive, 72-volt vehicle will replace a gas-powered, half-ton V-8 pickup in the physical plant department's fleet.

The move is designed to reduce the department's carbon footprint and support SU's commitment to campus sustainability, according to physical plant director Gene Fisher.

The truck, from manufacturer Vantage Vehicles, uses no fuel. Its six 12-volt batteries can be recharged using any three-prong electrical outlet. A full charge takes four to six hours and is good for about 60 miles.

The truck is legal on any roadway with a posted speed of up to 35 mph.

Fisher estimates the vehicle will save the university about 400 gallons of fuel each year.

In addition, the pickup's direct-drive transmission system requires no engine tune-ups or oil changes and produces no emissions, though its batteries need to be replaced every few years.

Fisher said the engine is so quiet that he sometimes forgets it's on until he puts the truck in reverse and it beeps to alert other drivers and pedestrians.

Like its predecessor, the truck will be used mostly to haul equipment, Fisher said. Despite its diminutive size, it has a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, and the extended cab allows for tool storage behind the seats.

"I think it's gonna do exactly what we need it to do," he said.

Whether parked next to its older siblings or scurrying through campus, the truck has drawn a few curious stares during its first week.

Fisher said his department is working with university President Tracy Fitzsimmons' office and the Student Government Association to hold a contest to name the truck.

"We want as much student involvement as possible."

As part of its commitment to campus sustainability, the physical plant department also has two electric-powered golf-carts and an ambulance for athletic events, and it recently traded in two of its V-8 trucks for four-cylinder pickups. The department needs to keep some V-8s for snow plowing and removal, Fisher said.

The department is also renovating the area around the Armstrong and Gregory buildings and Abrams Creek to create more green space and improve stormwater management.

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