California State University, Long Beach
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Electric Vehicles Fit Campus Environment

It wasn’t that long ago when electric vehicles were few and far between on the CSULB campus. Today, they are commonplace. “We have roughly 100 electric carts if you count all the different departments on campus,” said Paul Johnson, fleet administrator and superintendent of building trades in Facilities Management at CSULB.

“We’ve downsized our fleet considerably from gas-powered vehicles to where the majority of our fleet is electric. We do have a few of larger gasoline vehicles that we need to haul heavy equipment, pick up materials, etcetera, but for the most part we’re electric.” And, for a busy campus environment such as the one at CSULB, electric vehicles are a perfect choice for a number of reasons. “If nobody cared, we’d probably still have 100 full-sized (gas-powered) trucks on campus,” said Johnson, a graduate of Cal State Stanislaus with a degree in sociology.

“The size of them is bad, they stink and they a make noise. Our people are out there driving around the classrooms and the students and, with an electric cart, all you hear is a little buzz. There’s no exhaust, there’s no noise. They’re small and they’re safe. They are just better all around for the environment we are in.”

And while nothing lasts forever, some of the older vehicles are well into their second decade of use. “If maintained properly these vehicles can last a long time,” said Johnson, noting that the CSULB campus is very unique because of its numerous hills, which really zaps the strength of the vehicles and puts added strain and drain on their systems. “We have some at least 15 years old. We have a great fleet and we are really safety conscious. We’re big on maintenance.”

In addition to the electric vehicles, Facilities Management services more than 300 pieces of state equipment campus wide, including golf carts, a backhoe, police vehicles, lawnmowers, a mobile command unit and the emergency generators. “Right now we have four guys working on 300 pieces of equipment that are required to come in for service twice a year for regular maintenance, so we stay very busy,” said Johnson.

Along with the semi-annual in-house checkups, vehicle operators provide feedback through a monthly vehicle inspection form department designees fill out. It’s just another way to make sure equipment is maintained properly. “This campus never sleeps,” said Johnson. “It’s 24/7. We have people out in the field all the time, so we need to make sure the equipment is working properly.”

Paul Johnson

Photo by Victoria Sanchez

Johnson, who readily and admits to being a “gearhead,” takes personal pride in the fact that CSULB has taken a leadership role in the CSU when it comes to environment-friendly technology.

“We have such a great opportunity being a government agency that, when new technology is out there, we should take advantage of it,” he said. “Some people don’t want to mess with the status quo, but I look at it as an opportunity and I get excited about it. If we find something that we think will really work well for us, then we check it out. Being a gearhead, I am excited about the technology. I always like to learn about new things.”

Johnson pointed out that CSULB also works hand-in-hand with other campuses in the CSU system, sharing information with other campuses, the conversation often as simple as "what are you doing about this problem or what are you doing with this issue?"

“We feed off of each other and I think that has benefited everybody,” he said. “There is a big push to go green. Besides being the responsible thing to do, there are state and federal programs that are being brought up to encourage people to get involved in this. We are talking about alternative fuels and we are on the leading edge of technology here. There is a lot of new stuff out there, so we are hoping to explore some of the technology that is becoming available.”