Converting 369 internal combustion engine vehicles in the MSU fleet to fully electric vehicles over the next decade adds to the growing list of sustainability efforts designed to make campus greener.
MSU also is investing in two DC fast chargers for public use through the PowerMIFleet program; the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s ChargeUp Michigan program; and Capital Area Transportation Authority. The chargers will be available for public use at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway on Harrison Road this fall.
In this conversation, I discuss the project and the future of electric vehicles with Adam Lawver, director of campus services in Infrastructure Planning and Facilities at MSU; Jeff Myrom, director of electric vehicle customer products for Consumers Energy; and Brad Funkhouser, chief executive officer for the Capital Area Transportation Authority.
(4:50) - “We've been a partner with Michigan State University for pushing 20 years now. And recently there's been a big push in the region to look at zero emissions. And that's been a priority for both the university and CATA independently. We want to test this technology as it unfolds. There are a lot of agencies that are testing electric buses right now. We want to make sure that the battery life is adequate because ultimately what we're trying to do is put out great service while we improve sustainability. It's important because we spend a lot of money on fuel by design; we have diesel and unleaded buses. You have 30 percent of the fossil fuels in Michigan greenhouse gas emissions coming from public transit.”
(6:28) - “We do want people to charge overnight. Absolutely. People may not realize it but at night, especially in the residential sector and frankly probably even at universities, when most of those people go home or they're sleeping, they are not using a lot of electricity.”
(9:12) - “Electrification really is the way of the future. And that's why Michigan State is such a great partner because this is an institution very interested in the success of the future and what's groundbreaking, what's new, and what can we learn?”
(10:37) - “I think it’s awesome when you have multiple entities that are similarly aligned strategically. As we look at trying to reduce our overall carbon footprint that Michigan State generates and reduce our greenhouse gases, one of the components of that is the solar carports. The university fleet is another element that we can really look at. This project will learn from these initial 40 vehicles. But over the next nine years to 10 years, we really expect to replace at least 370 vehicles across our fleet. As the economics change and as electric vehicle pricing becomes cheaper in the future and the technologies become better, then we'll probably continue to increase that quantity of vehicles over the next decade.”
(15:45) - “Michigan State University wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This project of converting our fleet from internal combustion engines vehicles to electric vehicles aligns in support of that.”
(17:10) - “Transportation and clean energy are an excellent pair. When you look at emissions and potential pollution from the transportation and utility sectors using fossil fuels, that's about 50 percent of the greenhouse gases in the United States. If we can get to clean energy and then battery electric vehicles that are being powered by that clean energy, we're taking half the greenhouse gas pollution off the table within our generation, which is a huge win.”
(18:37) - “My advice is to get behind the wheel. I'm six feet five. I fit in that thing just fine. It kind of shocked me. But when you have a smaller motor and you don't have that transmission and all the extra parts that run through the center of the vehicle, you open the cabin quite a bit.”
(19:20) - “The other thing that surprised me was the instant torque. It's not like a little four cylinder; this thing took off and it's fast. That performance tends to shock people in addition to just kind of the creature comfort of being inside. And then another thing that really impressed me was you get in highway speeds, and you don't realize how much wind and car noise there is. But when you're in an electric vehicle, it's quiet. And so, you can hear all these things that you can't normally hear. And you're like, wow, this is just a really different experience and it's much more relaxing.”
(19:55) - “Get behind one. I think people will be impressed. I understand its new technology and you have to get used to it. And yes, there's getting used to charging being different, but most people find that when they can charge overnight, they wake up in the morning and have a full fuel tank. That's a significant benefit. And in the wintertime, one of the things I absolutely love about EVs is there's instant torque and there's instant heat. So, I'm not waiting for this thing to warm up and that little blue light to go off before I can accelerate. And the cars tend to be heavier with that battery, so you get better grip in the snow. So, there are a lot of benefits to being in a northern state too and driving an EV that don't often come across when people hear about electric vehicles.”
(21:32) - “They require less maintenance. You need brakes less because a cool feature of electric vehicles is what's called regenerative braking. You can set up the vehicle so that when you take your foot off the gas, the vehicle automatically starts breaking. But it's by the motor essentially running in reverse, which is charging the battery rather than energy coming from the battery. This is called one-pedal driving. Once you get used to one pedal driving, you only need to hit the brakes in an emergency or when you have to stop quickly during rush hour. But I know people who've driven a hundred thousand miles in their EV and never replaced the brakes. I don't know anybody who's done that in a combustion vehicle.”
(25:02) – What is a frunk?
(25:35) - “One of the things that I'm most proud of and I feel is most important about this project is it's a partnership. These things don't happen in a silo. Without the financial partnership of Consumers Energy and CATA, these projects wouldn't have happened.”
(27:07) - “Price parity is going to happen even without government subsidies, and we're seeing experts predict that right around 2025. Auto manufacturers will have over a million EV production capacity per year by 2025. We're looking at a rapid transformation here.”
MSU Today airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 5 a.m. on WKAR News/Talk and 8 p.m. Sundays on 760 WJR. Find “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.