University Departments are Going Green with GEMs

Return to Issue of Aug. 10, 2009

This is the first installment of a two-part article examining the use of electric and hybrid vehicles on campus.

Diane Sperko, Design Solutions manager, says her department is one of many that use electric vehicles.

While the Department of Public Safety just received the university’s first mild hybrid vehicle, other departments are going green with a vehicle known as a GEM (Global Electric Motorcar).

The GEM is powered by a 72-volt absorbed glass mat battery pack, has a built-in charger and only requires an extension cord and a 110-volt outlet. There are currently eight GEMs on the Kent Campus.

Tom Euclide , associate vice president for facilities planning and operations and Sustainability Task Force co-chair, says use of GEMs directly supports President Lefton’s sustainability initiative by reducing pollution and noise on campus.

In addition to reducing pollution, the use of the GEM also benefits the university by reducing costs.

“Since the university produces part of its own power, we can use our own energy to charge the vehicles, rather than buying it from the electric company,” Darwin Friend, superintendent of fleet services, says. “The electric vehicles also require less maintenance since there’s no engine and fewer moving parts.”

John Walsh associate director of campus environment and operations, says after the custodial department initiated a green cleaning program, the staff began to research other areas where they could go green.

“I like to think it all started with the custodial services green initiative,” Walsh says. “It prompted us to consider other ways to be green which led to us researching green cars.”

That research led to Campus Environment and Operations acquiring four GEMs for its fleet of vehicles.

Design Solutions and the Department of Network Services and Telecommunications each acquired their first GEMs several months ago. Diane Sperko, manager of Design Solutions, says her department wanted to provide better service to campus departments while being more environmentally friendly.

“I was putting a lot of wear and tear on my personal car, since I drive to different departments almost every day,” Sperko says. “We got the GEM in February and it’s really been quite a savings. I can charge the battery and usually go three to five days on one charge. Also, since the car is so small, I can park in smaller spaces and get in and out of places quickly, providing departments with more efficient service.”

Jim Zentmeyer, associate director of residence services, believes placing electric vehicles in service is a worthwhile investment for the environment and university. His department recently obtained its second GEM.

“I think the GEM is a great investment,” Zentmeyer says. “It demonstrates and furthers our commitment to sustainability, creates a better image and sets higher standards for the university.”

By Lindsay Kuntzman

Return to Issue of Aug. 10, 2009

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