University of Cincinnati unveils new electric vehicle-charging station

In many ways administrators at University of Cincinnati like to think they’re helping to put together the college campus of the future.

And after the latest joint effort between the university’s Parking Services Department and a handful of its environmentally conscious students, it’s hard to argue with them.

On Saturday, UC officials unveiled the first electric vehicle-charging station on or even around the Clifton campus. It's in Lot 13  near the west façade of Wherry Hall on the school's medical campus, at 3225 Eden Ave.

Electricity for the station will be provided and paid for by Parking Services, and an additional electric vehicle-charging station is planned for West Campus, according to Tom Robinette, UC's public information officer.

Robinette said the station can charge two vehicles simultaneously at 240 volts per unit, charging them completely within eight hours. 

On average, it costs less than $1 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $2 to $4 for an all-electric car at a private charging station, according to the organization Plug In America (PIA) .

“Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity. (Electric vehicles) are so efficient that the cost per mile driven is significantly less than with a gasoline-powered car,” according to PIA’s website .

Right now, access to the charger is limited to those who have parking passes through the university.

Some critics like Facebook user Rick Arnoldy wrote , "You'd about have to have one at each parking spot. What are you going to do when you Pull up and the spot is taken?"

While the system isn't yet perfect, it's a step in the right direction, said Scott Betz, one of 10 UC environmental studies capstone students who helped design and develop an adjacent green space with sustainable landscaping funded by the university's Office of Planning + Design + Construction.

“It’s not a final solution. It’s a seed we’ve planted that will hopefully grow into additional charging stations and green initiatives in the future,” the college senior said. “If the demand is there, the accessibility will also begin to rise. Hopefully people will start using it.”

Betz, a double-major in environmental studies and architecture, said the charging station can accommodate an electric or electric-hybrid vehicles.

To help prove that point, university representatives and the involved students hosted a midday open house during the morning to show off both the high-tech addition charging station as well as the surrounding terrain.

Part of the event gave electric car owners from around the area the chance to briefly charge their vehicles, including several local Tesla luxury electric car owners.

“We wanted to hold this event to drum up support on and around campus,” Betz said. “It’s a small way to contribute to the betterment of the university and community.”

In an effort to do so, the university plans to launch a social media campaign to promote the charging station and other green initiatives taking place around campus in coordination with Earth Day on Monday, according to Betz.

But the Dayton, Ohio native said he doesn’t think the university sees this as a once-a-year thing.

“This (initiative) shows the university is committed to green technology and (Saturday’s event) is one way that commitment manifested,” he said, adding that the university has an Office of Sustainability that recently started offering Environmental Literacy Certificate of Achievement to students.

"The University of Cincinnati recognizes its role as a leader in sustainable practice, research, and education," according to the department's website . "UC seeks to consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of its decisions and commits to incorporating the concept of sustainability into its academic and research programs; the design, operation, and maintenance of its buildings and landscapes; and its organizational structure and management."

While there are no concrete data on the number of electric cars in the Greater Cincinnati area let alone faculty, staff and students, it’s hard to indicate how widely spread the use of the charging station will go.

But the numbers in the short term don’t matter to Betz. He said the important figures will be seen a few years down the road.

“Hopefully a few people who are on the fence about the future of electric cars will see things like this and tip over to our side.”

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