Kenyon’s website states the College is a walking campus. Even so, it has taken steps to promote the use of electric vehicles (EVs) on school grounds. Students, faculty, Gambier residents and visitors will soon be able to drive EVs on campus thanks to the installation of solar-powered charging stations, funded by Tesla, Inc., behind the campus safety office.
David Heithaus, director of green initiatives, is working with Tesla to set up the charging infrastructure. The stations will be located behind the Campus Safety office by the end of the semester, or as early as the end of September, Heithaus said.
The partnership between Kenyon and Tesla began at a “Cars and Coffee” event in the fall of 2015 in Gambier. Jordan Rhyne ’13, who was the manager of the Easton Tesla dealership at the time, brought Tesla electric cars to the event and offered rides to the attendees. The excitement surrounding the cars led Heithaus to think, “What can we do to facilitate getting these vehicles on campus?”
Heithaus said Tesla is launching a major push to get EV infrastructure all over the country in time for their affordable model release.
Tesla’s new model of cars are available to purchase now and are ready to use in 12-18 months. They are running a program called “the Destination Charging network” that supplies the equipment needed to install two of their level two chargers for Tesla vehicles in addition to one universal charger that any EV can use.
Each installation costs around $1,500, but the cost to Kenyon will be “in the hundreds of dollars” after the subsidies from Tesla, according to Heithaus.
The stations will primarily serve guests of the Kenyon Inn, but any EV owner will be eligible to use the sites once they are installed. In addition, Heithaus said the College will be putting in the infrastructure underneath the Bookstore for another set of stations.
Kenyon, and the rest of the country, may see an increase in electric vehicles because of their energy and cost efficiency. “[Electric vehicles are] a lot easier to maintain compared to a diesel or conventional engine,” Heithaus said. “The box cost might be more expensive for these kinds of equipment, but what you save on your mechanical fees relative to diesel engines is considerable.”
Robert Alexander, professor of economics and environmental studies, favors the partnership between the College and Tesla. “If we’re going to make a transition to reduce our carbon emissions, which we really need to do, then one of the things we need to do is move our transportation more to electricity,” he said. “Tesla is probably the single company pushing our society in that direction.”