Northeastern Utility Trucks Going Electric
New electric utility trucks are being introduced to campus to help facilities operations continue to align with Northeastern’s climate goals. Five zero-emission Vantage vehicles will be introduced for the various trade services to use to transport supplies to various sites around campus. With 2 seats and a back cabin for storage, the new trucks are not only an asset for the environment but also for the workers using them.
The new Vantage trucks can hold more equipment than the smaller utility trucks, which takes away the need for as many trips and will replace some trips by gasoline-powered trucks. The spacious cabin has ample storage space and shelving to help workers so that they can work more efficiently. The vehicles are also fitted with touchscreens, so that work order files can be downloaded onto the vehicle itself, creating a paperless option for the workers.
“They do the job and they’re great vehicles for what they are used for,” the chief mechanic at the Auto Shop Paul Freitas said.
The Auto Shop owns 8 larger gasoline-powered pickup trucks, though they are hopeful that the durable heavy duty vantage trucks can handle the bigger jobs the pickup trucks were used for.
The batteries in the Vantage vehicles are Lithium-ion, which according to the US Department of Energy is the most common type of battery for electric vehicles and is also used in most portable electronics because of their high energy efficiency and high power-to-weight ratio. Eventually, most components of the battery itself can be recycled.
“We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time in terms of electric vehicles,” Freitas said.
Electrical outfitting in the Gainsborough garage already exists for use of the new Vantage trucks. How often the vehicle needs charging depends on how far it drives in a day for its various tasks, though Freitas said they can generally last a few days.
The Vantage vehicles were bought to replace older electric club cart utility vehicles which are being scrapped for parts. The Northeastern Facilities fleet still has about 30 electric utility carts made by Club Car company, they resemble golf carts and have less storage than the new Vantage vehicles. Eventually, Director of Transporation Bob Middendorf says that they hope to switch to all Vantage electric vehicles. To him, there is a “dramatic difference” between the former utility carts from Club Carts and the new vehicles. While these vehicles are replacing vehicles that were also electric, these are more durable, will last longer, and do not need to be serviced.
The Vantage vehicles are produced by a company based in California focused on both gas and electric fleet vehicles. According to Paul Freitas, The University ordered them 2 years ago and they finally arrived in in December after many issues with supply chains and pandemic related manufacturing slowdowns.
Freitas explained that the auto shop was hoping to make the 8 regular gasoline pickup trucks electric as well, and tried to order electric pickup trucks in 2021, but between the pandemic and supply chain issues, he has not gotten them yet. The Ford Lightning trucks will begin to be assembled in March of 2023, and Freitas is hoping to get them soon after.
Additionally, the auto shop has three electric bikes also capable of transporting crew and materials.
Written by Renée Abbott, January 24th, 2023