Electrifying the U Shuttles


(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

A new wireless electric bus will hum through the center of campus within the next year.
The electric bus began ferrying students shortly after the beginning of this school year, but Alma Allred, director of Commuter Services, said construction on the cross-campus route will not start until spring 2015. The bus will run from the South Campus TRAX stop north to the Warnock Engineering building.
The USU startup company Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification developed the technology for the wireless electric battery, which reduces the cost and weight of an electric car’s battery. The bus parks above a 3-by-3 foot WAVE wireless pad embedded in the road. The pad collects power through wireless power transfer and transfers it to the charging pad on the bus’ undercarriage.
Katya Wagstaff, a freshman in musical theatre, said she was unaware of the project, but is excited for the U to be taking steps to minimize its environmental impact.
“It’s really exciting for us to be one of the frontrunners in something so good for the environment,” Wagstaff said.
The shuttle currently works on an express route from Salt Lake Central Station to campus or on whichever route the shuttle system needs it most. The shuttle is the first of its kind in the country.
“There are prototypes in Korea and Italy,” Allred said, “But they don’t go to the extent that ours does.”
Wagstaff said she rides the shuttles daily and looks forward to using the new bus once it goes through campus.
Allred said initially there was some resistance to the proposed route.
“The shuttles are loud and noisy and dirty,” Allred said, “So why would we run them through the center of campus?”
Allred said the electric bus will lessen noise pollution on campus — the bus creates “less noise than a skateboard.”
In addition to being quieter than other shuttles, the electric bus reduces the amount of pollution and the amount of money spent on fuel and oil.
The bus is part of a larger project to make commuting to the U more environmentally friendly.
“Hopefully this allows some people who park on the north side of campus to be able to ride TRAX and then take this shuttle instead of driving and parking,” Allred said.
Commuter Services has converted a third of its other shuttle services to natural gas, Allred added.
Allred said this attention is being paid to the shuttles because the shuttle services are an integral part of campus life.
“Students can’t easily navigate 15,000 acres on foot,” Allred said.
The funding for the project came mostly from a $2.7 million grant secured for WAVE by UTA from the United States Department of Transportation. Allred said the U used parking revenue to purchase the 40-foot electric bus.
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