URI Public Safety introduces two electric cars to fleet

First electric vehicles in entire University fleet

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Members of the University’s Department of Public Safety/Environmental Health and Safety Office,
ALL CHARGED UP: From left are Samuel Adams, assistant director of Public Safety and director of Emergency Management; Nancy Paterson, chemical hygiene and hazardous waste officer; Pam McCarthy, Environmental Health and Safety coordinator; Connie Heird, biosafety officer; and Abigail Bernier, industrial hygiene officer. URI Photo by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I. — March 14, 2019 — The University of Rhode Island’s Department of Public Safety is in the business of protecting the campus community from crime, injury, property damage, storms and scores of other threats.

Now it is also helping to protect the environment through its purchase of the University’s first all-electric, zero emissions cars. The University bought two four-door Chevy Volts, at a cost of $33,000 each, through the state master price agreement. The vehicles, which are now on the road, were assigned to the Environmental Health and Safety Office, the University unit responsible for biosafety, chemical safety, hazardous waste, occupational safety and industrial hygiene and radiation safety.

“We are pleased that the Department of Public Safety has become a key participant in the University’s comprehensive sustainability efforts,” said Abigail Rider, vice president for Administration and Finance. “We have invested heavily in our infrastructure, including lighting, heating and transportation, to reduce the University’s impact on the environment and to save money over the long term. Reducing our reliance on vehicles powered by fossil fuels is another big step in this process.”

AN ELECTRIC EXPERIENCE: From left, Pam McCarthy, URI Environmental Health and Safety coordinator; Abigail Bernier, industrial hygiene officer; Nancy Paterson, chemical hygiene and hazardous waste officer; and Connie Heird, biosafety officer, check out the charging equipment for one of the new Chevy Volts. URI photo by Michael Salerno.

Stephen Baker, director of Public Safety, said it is important for his department to look at green alternatives because its police, security and transportation and parking units spend a great deal of time on the University’s roads.

“By reducing pollution and saving money, we are working in concert with a University that is committed to working against climate change and its many serious effects,” Baker said. “We’re proud to be taking the lead in this endeavor. Sam Adams (assistant director of Public Safety and director of Emergency Management) deserves a great deal of credit for putting Public Safety in the forefront of this effort.”

Adams said the two electric vehicles are part of a plan to introduce more energy efficient vehicles to the public safety fleet. In the next round of fleet purchases, Adams hopes to replace service vans with electric vans. Next would be a move to replace police cruisers and sport utility vehicles with hybrid vehicles. Adams said Ford Motor Co. recently announced plans to produce the industry’s first police-rated hybrid vehicles with its 2020 models.

“As we replace vehicles over the next four years, we are going to be looking at electric vehicles, hybrids and those powered by alternative fuels,” said Adams, who manages the fleet for Public Safety. “The maintenance costs are much lower for electric vehicles, and the per-mile cost of electricity is one-quarter the cost of a traditional fuel like gasoline.”

The new Volts have an estimated range of 247 miles per charge, Adams said.

“As part of the big picture at the University, we want to do everything we can to reduce our impact on the climate,” said Adams. “Part of the University’s mission is to reduce its carbon impact through its long-term operations.”

Adams said the new electric vehicles make sense for the staff members of the Environmental Health and Safety Office since they carry tools and supplies as they travel to URI’s four campuses.

Environmental Health and Safety Staff are responsible for ensuring that URI meets all standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Departments of Environmental Management and Health.

“What better place to start than the office responsible for environmental health and safety?” Adams asked.