Need a ride but don’t want to peddle your way across campus? Why not rent a car?
That’s the question posed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where by the start of the fall semester, anyone with a valid UW-Madison ID will be able to check out an electric vehicle to drive around campus.
Wisconsin is one of four schools to be awarded four “micro cars” to use for a year as part of a project to study sustainability on campus. The Innova Dash University Electric Vehicles will arrive on Madison’s campus this summer as part of a program run by non-profit technology researcher Internet2 and the cars’ manufacturer Innova.
According to The Cap Times, the use of the electric cars on campus, as opposed to gas-powered vehicles, will reduce emissions but will also provide researchers with important data to use in studying how a fleet of electric cars could affect the campus community. Every aspect of the cars’ use will be recorded; where the car goes, fuel consumption and engine performance, says Brian Rust, communications director for the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology.
The cars, which have been completely outfitted with data-collection tools, will connect to the campus’ wireless network to feed real-time data to researchers. Online connectivity also allows for the system to accept reservations for each vehicle via smartphone.
The plan at the Madison campus is to allow the vehicles to be checked out by anyone with a valid university ID card. “They’d be able to go to a site and authenticate and put in a reservation and have it accepted or rejected based on availability and usage,” says Rust. “We’re obviously going to be learning very quickly how feasible that is, to suddenly have 40,000 people be able to reserve electric cars and whether or not it’s the best use to have one student take a car from one class to another as opposed to, if it’s a four-seater, having four people use it.”
The cars have a range of 45 to 65 miles depending on the kind of battery installed, so usage likely would have to be limited to the immediate campus community. The project is being coordinated through the campus’ Office of Sustainability with assistance from other campus departments and Madison Gas and Electric.
Colorado State University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington have also been selected to participate in the program.