A sun-powered gift

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