Electric Garage shuts down; e-car use minimal at CMU

Lately, many drivers have been making the switch from gasoline powered cars to electric cars. Why? The main driving factor leading many Americans to make this switch is the fact that electric cars provide benefits to today’s drivers that, for many, seem to outweigh the use of gasoline powered cars.

The major appeal of electric cars is the environment-friendly nature of the car, which swaps out the gasoline motor for an electric one, resulting in less pollution. This fact is especially great for those living in major cities where the effects of pollution from over-population pose an increasingly serious threat every day.

The appeal of electric cars has swayed many who no longer see the appeal of using gasoline and are starting to take notice of the negative aspects of it. Jason D’Antonio, director of the Health Profession program at the Mellon College of Science, commutes roughly 30 miles to and from work every day and has noticed that the fuel consumption from his current car has become too high for him. The gasoline free nature of electric cars is what appealed to him most. “I want to use little to no gasoline for commuting,” D’Antonio states. He also hopes that this aspect of electric cars will encourage others to make the switch as well.

The gasoline engine in regular cars is replaced with an electric motor in electric cars, which results in a nearly silent drive, another major appeal of electric cars to drivers. The electric motor is powered by controllers which get their energy from rechargeable batteries. While both types of cars look similar on the outside, one way of spotting the difference is to note that gasoline powered vehicles can be seen hooked up to gas pumps while electric cars get their energy from a charging wire.

Previously, Carnegie Mellon University was home to the “Electric Garage” which, in addition to eight vehicle recharging stations, also provided a high-power wall connector for Tesla electric cars. The high-power wall connector at the Electric Garage was able to provide roughly 58 miles of range per hour of charge. Located on 4621 Forbes Avenue, the Electric Garage was made free to the public in the Oakland area.

On Aug. 5, the Electric Garage was closed down to make room for the construction of the new Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Building. As a result, the electric car charging stations have been relocated to nine locations on the Carnegie Mellon campus. Two are located on the first level of the East Campus Garage, another two are located on the third level of the Dithridge Street Garage, and five are on the bottom level of the Robert Mehrabian Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) Garage. As of Aug. 20, anybody using one of the three garages is able to use the charging stations.

While many people across the country have started to see the appeal of electric car use, the knowledge of this type of car, or rather the appeal of it, has not yet persuaded many in the Carnegie Mellon community, which may have added to the decision to utilize the old location of the Electric Garage for the new TCS building. In an email, Michelle Porter, director of Parking and Transportation Services at Carnegie Mellon, states “There is a very small number of students/[faculty]/staff utilizing the charges on campus.”

One could argue that while there are many real world incentives to using electric cars over gasoline cars, the lack of incentives for electric car use at Carnegie Mellon University, paired with drivers’ questions about the practicality and affordability of them, has not helped in promoting discussions about using this type of car.

Michelle Porter states that currently the university “[does] not provide any incentives for electric car drivers.” D’Antonio certainly believes this is a part of the problem. He points out that there are no financial benefits to using an e-car at Carnegie Mellon, such as, for example, a discount on parking electric cars. While there are no added incentives for using electric cars on campus, D’Antonio does note that one area electric cars do have an advantage is that while there are no gas stations around campus, electric cars are at least provided with a few charging stations for a couple hours of charge. This fact does not, however, make up for the lack of conversations about the usefulness of electric cars.

“As a university known for innovation and making ideas come to life, I would think that environmental awareness of this issue would be more front and center, and would permeate conversations resulting in more efforts to promote fuel efficiency commuting,” D’Antonio states.

While electric car use has not been given much attention on campus, there has been a lot more focus on other methods of transportation such as Zipcars, motorcycles, and handicap accessible cars, which have far more spots on campus that electric cars. The drive to include and promote conversations about other methods of transportation at Carnegie Mellon is present, but sadly electric car use has not been as included in this movement.

It is still unclear as to whether or not Carnegie Mellon University will take the initiative to promote more discussions around electric cars on campus. However, with the growing use of electric cars across the globe, one can hope that this will soon change.