E-Net News

Elon electric vehicle gets power boost from the sun

University staff recently installed solar panels on a cart used by grounds crews to extend the distance they can travel between battery charges while reducing operational expenses.

Ray Pruitt (left) and Chad Aldridge installed solar panels on one of Elon University's electric carts used by Physical Plant employees to travel through campus.

One of Elon University’s campus vehicles is now pulling power from the sky, particularly on cloudless days.

Staff members in the university’s Automotive Services department recently fitted solar panels onto an electric cart used by Physical Plant staff members who maintain campus landscaping and utilities. The panels cut down on the amount of time the vehicle needs to charge and extends the vehicle’s range.

To adapt the vehicle, Automotive Services staff members Chad Aldridge and Ray Pruitt built and attached a custom aluminum mounting before installing the solar panels and control box.  

Staff had noticed that as the campus has expanded in recent years, electric vehicles traveled farther each day. They started noticing that some electric carts exhausted their power supply before the end of the day.

“More and more E-Rides began needing a charge at lunchtime for a little boost of energy,” said Keith Dimont, supervisor of Automotive Services. “Now with the solar panel this vehicle comes in at the end of a sunshiny day only needing a partial charge.”

In addition to the upgrade being practical and cost saving, it also contributes to Elon’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037. Based on the performance of the two solar panels atop the cart, Physical Plant administrators hope to add solar panels to the remainder of their 32 electric vehicles in the fleet.

- Story by Jessica Bilecki, education and outreach coordinator in the Office of Sustainability

Eric Townsend,
7/25/2014 8:30 AM