Campus Fleet of Utility Vehicles Receives Workout
The department's fleet of vehicles definitely gets a workout.
"Our oldest and most used for grounds (duties) are definitely the utility vehicles," Askerlund says. "They're used every day year-round. Those range from new until they don't function any more. We get our money's worth out of them. The golf-cart-type vehicles get more moderate use. We put a box on (the electric utility vehicles), and our mail distribution people use those."
The arrival of electric utility vehicles has given the department the ability to move a bit more quickly around campus.
"We've had golf-cart-type vehicles for years," Askerlund says. "The electric (utility vehicles) are relatively new. We have a couple of those now, and they're a little different animal. They're more road-worthy. They have headlights and signal lights and taillights, so you're more comfortable being in campus traffic with those. We don't hesitate to get on, for instance, our perimeter road with them."
The electric utility vehicles have brought additional benefits.
"We like the convenience of the electric vehicles," he says. "They charge quickly, and they're holding up pretty well. We've had a couple of them for several years now, and we've had good luck with them."
Many grounds operations have come to rely on utility vehicles to provide additional hauling capacity for their activities, and Askerlund says the electric vehicles have held their own in that capacity.
"You can get a little bit more in an electric (utility vehicle), compared to a golf cart," he says. "They have a more traditional small-truck suspension. A golf cart is a fairly rigid suspension system. You can get a little bit more weight in the (utility vehicle) and more volume. The bed on them is comparable to a really small pickup truck."
The electric utility vehicles also have lightened the department's maintenance load.
"We don't have the maintenance issues (with electric vehicles) that we had with the small gas engines," he says. "The electric vehicles seem to be quite a bit more maintenance free. We knew the reliability we had with the previous chargeable electric vehicles. (Purchasing electric vehicles) was also a conscious decision to get away from refueling, oil changes, and tune-ups."
The ongoing migration to electric utility vehicles for grounds duties also is affecting equipment use in other areas of the department.
"We did have several gas-powered vehicles that our heating-plant folks were using to make their rounds on the campus, and we've gone to the electric vehicle for them, as well," he says, adding that the campus's parking services and security also have started using two electric (vehicles) for their activities.
While benefits related to sustainability and ease of maintenance have affected the department's decision on purchasing utility vehicles, cost and performance considerations are never far from such decisions.
"Overall, our goal is to get a long life out of a vehicle," Askerlund says. "We really strive to get our money's worth. We look at front-end costs closely, but we are also looking for a vehicle that's maintainable and somewhat sturdy, if you will, and that will hold up under our use."