By UNC Charlotte Facilities Management
Facilities Management employees work all across campus and are dependent upon fleet vehicles to commute to jobs and transport tools and materials. Because of this need, FM currently has 280 fleet vehicles within its operational units. The vehicles serve a great purpose, but they become costly to maintain after a few years. To cut back on these costly repairs, T.J. Woods, transportation, warehouse and logistics manager, alongside the Office of Sustainability and other collaborators have identified a solution that is costly upfront, but more sustainable over time both for the environment and employee workload. The details outlined below are part of a current $1 million proposal, and information is subject to change.
Typically, the fleet vehicles FM uses begin their replacement process around year six and are decommissioned at year eight. Beyond eight years, the operating effectiveness is not reliable, optimally productive or sustainable which results in equipment downtime for repairs and service, reduces the productivity of employees and impacts customer service for campus stakeholders. In the current fleet, 170 vehicles are more than eight years old and an additional 47 are at least six years old, demonstrating that costly repairs are imminent without action.
The upkeep of the fleet has been a longstanding issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. As it stands, the automotive shop evaluates the need for each vehicle’s repair on a case-by-case basis to decide if repairs are a good use of state-appropriated funds or if the vehicles need to be recommended for surplus. This is a daily operational occurrence but increases in complexity due to the recent reorganization of campus leadership and operations infrastructure.
Woods, along with his collaborative team, have identified two different vehicles to introduce to campus. The first vehicle is a small electric vehicle (EV) cart called the Max-EV. This vehicle is engineered with automotive-grade parts and can handle the day-to-day demands that FM employees ask of their vehicles; whereas the GEM-EVs (commonly known as the GEM carts FM currently uses) are engineered with golf cart-quality parts that require a unique skillset for service and repair. The Max-EV will replace all internal combustion engine (ICE) carts on campus. Some of FM’s full-size vehicles may also be replaced with the Max-EV in an effort to reduce our campus footprint on top of our carbon footprint. The current GEM-EV fleet may also be upgraded to Max-EVs.
The other vehicle is the Electric Last Mile Solutions electric vehicle (ELMS-EV). This vehicle is a service van that will replace a large portion of our full-size vehicles on campus. The ELMS-EV is larger than current fleet vehicles, therefore providing more space for maintenance technicians to store parts, materials and tools on their vehicles. This will allow technicians to provide a higher level of customer service by having vehicles that are standardized and equipped with the necessary items to perform service calls and repairs.
The ELMS-EV comes in two different options, the UD-1 and UD-0. The UD-1 is a title van that is allowed to travel on highways, supporting technicians who need to travel to the Dubois Center or the Kannapolis Research Campus. Being a highway vehicle, the UD-1 requires a state inspection. The UD-0 is another service van option but is classified as an off-road vehicle. The UD-0 will be for main campus use only and is not allowed to travel on the highway. As an off-road vehicle, the UD-0 does not require a state inspection, saving the University money compared to the current fleet.
“Bringing electric vehicles like the Max-EV and the ELMS-EV to campus is a big deal,” said Woods. “The University has a goal to reduce our carbon emissions and increase sustainability in our community. As a graduate of Charlotte with a degree in Environmental Science, goals like these are easy for me and my team to support and play a part in. I am excited that the first of these vehicles will be put into service within the FM organization and that our technicians will be equipped with a more reliable vehicle that reduces their carbon footprint as well as their campus footprint. It just seems like a win-win.”