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Electric Cars Available For Test Drive

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
March 5, 2008

The Zenn

Next week, UNH faculty and staff will have the chance to test drive an electric car to help evaluate the vehicles for possible addition to university’s Clean Fleet program.

The cars are being brought to campus through the joint efforts of UNH Energy and Campus Development and the University Office of Sustainability in conjunction with the UNH Energy Task Force and Maine Electric Vehicles of Falmouth.

For two weeks, beginning March 10 and running through March 24, two all-electric Neighborhood Electric Vehicles will be available for test drives. The Zenn (www.zenncars.com) is a sporty two-seater while the Miles (www.milesev.com) is a more utilitarian four-door that resembles a mini-SUV.

UNH’s Clean Fleet program—or EcoCat—utilizes a combination of vehicles fueled by natural gas (CNG), bio-diesel and gas-electric to fulfill the university’s commitment to alternative fuel, fuel efficient, and low emission vehicles. The Zenn and the Miles are the first all-electric cars UNH has tested.

“We are always looking to make our vehicle fleet more efficient,” says Steve Pesci, Energy and Campus Development project director for special projects. “The electric cars fill a niche market.”

The Miles

Pesci says between 10 and 15 departments (mail services and CIS, for example) have been identified as potential candidates for an electric vehicle.

“Their trips are less than one or two miles. They may travel from the core campus to West Edge but they never leave campus,” he says.

Gasoline fired vehicles are inefficient for that kind of use, Pesci adds, because the constant stopping and starting is hard on the engines.

“The vehicles we buy get beat to death,” he says.

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles are designed for use in urban and campus environments on roads with speed limits of less than 35 miles per hour. Fully charged, they can run up to 50 miles and are USDOT approved for on-road use.

The cost of operating an electric car is about half per mile what it costs to run a standard vehicle, Pesci says. While the up-front expense is about the same, the long-term costs still need to be evaluated, he adds.

The first electric vehicle was invented some time during the 1830s but it wasn’t until 1891 that an electric engine was used successfully power a car. But Henry Ford’s introduction of the gasoline-powered Model T became the wave of the future and by 1920, electric cars were a thing of the past.

Escalating gasoline prices and a desire to reduce pollution have renewed interest in the electric car and many of the large automobile manufacturers are working to develop vehicles that can go as many as 150 miles between recharging.

If your department would like to sign up to test drive one of the vehicles contact Carole Berry at the Energy and Campus Development Office in Ritzman at 2-2650 (carole.berry@unh.edu) to reserve a half-day test slot. There will be a 10 minute sign-out/orientation. The test drive is limited to faculty and staff.

For more information on UNH’s sustainability efforts in transportation, visit


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