A sun-powered gift

Sustainability director Dedee DeLongpré Johnston with the newest-model solar-electric hybrid shuttle that will begin serving the Reynolda Campus in 2010.

Three special gifts have been delivered just in time for the holidays, one to Turkmenistan, one to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and one to Wake Forest: the newest-model solar-electric hybrid shuttle, designed by Cruise Car, Inc.

The 14-passenger vehicle will move students, faculty and staff around the Reynolda Campus in an environmentally friendly way by converting direct sunlight into electricity. A series of solar cells on the roof helps generate the electrical energy needed to charge the shuttle’s 16 maintenance-free batteries. At night, an automatic charger is plugged into the vehicle to completely recharge the batteries using electricity.

“An all-electric vehicle generates fewer harmful emissions and uses less fossil fuel than a gasoline-powered vehicle,” says sustainability director Dedee DeLongpré Johnston. “But, the electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels. A portion of the electricity used by a solar-electric hybrid vehicle comes from a renewable source though, so it’s better for the environment. When the batteries are charged by sunlight, the vehicle is off the grid — something an all-electric vehicle will never be able to do. When the vehicle does need to be plugged in, the batteries are already partially charged.”

Another gift that came with the shuttle: easy maintenance. The shuttle’s solar top is designed to last for at least 20 years and requires only a simple cleaning with soap and water to keep it running smoothly.

Wake Forest is the first university in North Carolina to purchase a solar-electric hybrid vehicle from Cruise Car. “By reducing the need for single-occupancy vehicle travel on campus, we reduce emissions and parking-related concerns for students, faculty and staff,” said Jim Alty, associate vice president for Facilities and Campus Services.

Categories: Student, Sustainability