Student, SG propose more vehicle charging stations

ORACLE PHOTO / ADAM MATHIEU

When USF senior John Pilz invested his own money into purchasing an electric vehicle, he expected to be able to charge his car on campus, whenever he needed to. 

It was only after purchasing the car that he discovered there were more electric vehicles on USF’s campus than charging stations.

Currently, USF only has two stations, near the Marshall Student Center, which were opened for use in December 2011 and free to students and staff with a valid parking permit.

For the two charging stations, USF has 25 electric vehicles registered with Parking and Transportation Services.

As a result of the lack of charging stations on campus, Pilz decided to take action and proposed to the Student Green Energy Fund that the university install more on-campus charging stations. The proposal is currently being reviewed.

“Obviously, with 27 users and only two stations, there’s a problem with availability. They have different classes and, quite frankly, people just don’t use the stations and it kind of defeats the purpose of having their car,” Pilz said. 

According to data from the two charging points, from the spring 2014 term, the existing charging stations were at average peak occupancy of 100 percent every day. 

Sophomore Jimmy Abbiati says he gets to campus two hours before his classes start in the morning just to make sure he’s able to charge his car.

“I commute there every day, and every time, it’s always a battle to find a parking spot and to find a charging station, because a lot of times you get cars that have to be there for four hours to fully charge and sometimes you can’t even find a spot the whole day,” Abbiati said.

This month, the World Resources Institute reported a 228.88 percent increase in sales of electric vehicles in 2013, compared to the previous year. As electric car sales are growing, the need for public charging stations is increasing as well.

In September of this year, ChargePoint, the company that manufactured the two existing charging stations on campus, reported a 35 percent increase in university stations on their network, compared to 2013.  

“I think that USF has really turned a blind eye on this mainly because they’re not paying enough attention to how fast this is expanding and they haven’t realized that only two charging stations is really nothing,” Abbiati said. 

After identifying a clear need for more charging stations, Pilz went to Parking and Transportation Services Director Raymond Mensah, who made a commitment to do something about increasing the number of charging stations. 

After speaking with Mensah, Pilz was encouraged to submit his proposal to the Student Green Energy Fund and include information on any and all resources he would need to execute his proposal.

Once per semester, any USF student is eligible to submit a proposal to use funds to sponsor a project pertaining to environmental sustainability on the USF Tampa campus. 

The Student Green Energy Fund receives their funding from the Student Green Energy fee. Currently, 0.58 percent of undergraduate tuition per credit hour is placed in the fund and used towards proposed projects.

Tuesday night, USF Student Government made a resolution to see the proposal through, following a petition that received 1,000 signatures in support. 

“In my eyes, this resolution means that we are taking the first step as a student body and the university in the right direction in saying that, at the very least, we recognize the issue and that we can potentially take action on it,” Pilz said, “But to me, this does not mean that we have done anything, we just simply put it down on paper that it’s an issue.”

In 1995, USF became the first university in the nation to install a 20,000 watt electrical charging station in the solar carport near the engineering building, under the supervision of USF engineering professor Elias Stefanakos. 

Following the installment of the infrastructure, General Motors (GM) installed electric vehicle charging stations in the solar carport. After a recall of the vehicles, the charging stations were subsequently removed as GM’s property. However, the infrastructure supporting the previously removed charging stations still exists, which Pilz proposed to use to install more charging stations and return the structure to its intended use. 

“Each charging station costs $7,000 and it will charge 2 cars per station,” Pilz said. “That’s four extra cars: double the capacity of the current
station.” 

Charging stations can cost as little as $500 to $600, but Pilz said he feels the more-expensive model is necessary. 

“These stations have a monitoring system so the school will be able to tell how much electricity is going out, who is using the station, and whenever it’s being used, so they’ll be able to know everything that goes on with the station,” Pilz said. “We’re paying for the science.”

The Student Green Energy Fund will make its decision on whether or not to provide funds for the purchase order in three weeks.

 Should the purchase order be approved, installation could occur as soon as December.

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