Courier Services to roll out electric cars

Starting Friday, Courier Servies will use the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars to make campus deliveries.
Starting Friday, Courier Servies will use the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars to make campus deliveries.

A pair of Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars will begin purring across campus on Friday. The “green” vehicles — named 110 and 220 in homage to voltage standards — will be used by Courier Services to make campus deliveries.

Patrick Barrett, director of Transportation Services, said the rising cost of gas fueled UNL’s move to an electric alternative.

“Really this is a nice way for UNL to go green in another area,” said Barrett. “We use fuel-efficient subcompacts now. But it will be nice to reduce our emissions further through this electric option.”

The vehicles have a range of about 75 miles before a charge is needed. Barrett said that distance is under daily averages for Courier Services and the vehicles will be recharged overnight.

“We tested the vehicle for three weeks in June and were very happy with how they performed,” Barrett said. “Horsepower and torque were very good and the power is at a constant level. They have great visibility for the driver.

“They are actually so quiet that they are set up to make a little noise as they go down the road.”

The summer test of the vehicle came after Barrett attended a fleet managers association conference in St. Louis in April. He chatted with a Mitsubishi vendor at the conference and was able to arrange for the test. Mitsubishi shipped the car from California to Lincoln. When the test was complete, the car was sent to St. Louis for an auto show.

Staff was pleased with how the vehicles performed in the heat of summer. Wondering how they operate in the chill of winter, Barrett contacted a fleet manager in Ontario, Canada.

“He said the range does drop off a little bit when it gets cold out,” Barrett said. “But, and this is a quote, he said, ‘We do get a lot colder than you.’”

UNL is leasing the vehicles for three years through a dealer in Des Moines, Iowa. The dealer is the closest Mitsubishi dealer approved to service electric vehicles.

The motor and batteries are under warranty for seven years. Other mechanisms, such as door locks and window cranks, are under warranty for three years or 36,000 miles. Barrett said UNL auto technicians will handle all repairs they are trained to fix. Mitsubishi will fix major problems.

“Until we get a record of electricity used, life of tires, battery life and such, we won’t be able to do a complete lifecycle cost analysis,” Barrett said. “But, based on the figures provided and the average of what we pay for electricity, we expect to break even in about four years.

Barrett expects UNL will purchase additional electric vehicles in the future. However, he said “real world numbers” would be needed before those purchases could be made.

“This is really a test of these electric vehicles,” said Barrett. “The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality is watching our program very closely because this is an option they are interested in.

“UNL is definitely taking the lead in Nebraska when it comes to making use of electrical vehicles.”

- Troy Fedderson, University Communications