KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is amping up sustainability efforts. The institution, in partnership with Consumers Energy, unveiled 10 new dual-port electric vehicle chargers on campus capable of powering up 20 vehicles simultaneously—the most public chargers of any university in the state.
"Western Michigan University has long been a leader in promoting sustainability and innovation," says President Edward Montgomery. "This expansion of our electric vehicle charging stations demonstrates our continued commitment in those arenas and our willingness to partner with others who share the same values and vision."
A $50,000 grant from Consumers Energy's PowerMIFleet initiative helped to fund the new electric vehicle technology on campus. As the first research institution in the state to install such technology in 2011, Western continues to have the most robust electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Michigan and ranks among the top five colleges nationally.
“Consumers Energy plans to power one million vehicles on our state’s roads by 2030. We commend Western Michigan University for taking a leadership role to help us all drive this clean energy transformation,” says Sarah Nielsen, Consumers Energy’s executive director for EV programs. “We look forward to seeing drivers in the region use these public EV chargers and expect others will take inspiration from the example the university is setting.”
The grant program also provided a fleet electrification assessment, one of many things University leadership and Western's Carbon Neutrality Committee will consider when charting the institution's commitment to address climate challenges and work toward a more sustainable future.
"Western has a long and positive history with lowering our carbon footprint, implementing energy conservation projects, building LEED-certified buildings and keeping up with new trends and technologies for electric mobility on our campus," says Pete Strazdas, associate vice president for facilities management.
Western students helped to fuel the electric vehicle charging infrastructure improvements on campus. A team of engineering Broncos completed a Senior Design Project in fall 2021, investigating ways to revitalize the University's charging network, ultimately making technology recommendations and developing a model the University can draw upon in the coming years to maintain a robust, revenue-neutral and publicly accessible charger network.
Chargers are located at various locations across Western's Kalamazoo campuses, including the solar array south of the Miller Auditorium parking ramp; in front of Floyd Hall; at the Office for Sustainability; between Sangren Hall and Seibert Administration Building; and on Stadium Drive near Waldo Stadium. They are available for public use and will cost $0.20/kilowatt hour while charging. An additional parking fee of $1.50/hour will be assessed after two hours of charger use and will continue until the vehicle is unplugged and moved. Those fees are based on research conducted by the engineering students and students in Western's Haworth College of Business as well as peer-institution review and stakeholder input.
"We believe that the pricing plan will balance affordability and accessibility with long-term charger network upkeep and renewal," says Jeff Spoelstra, director of Western's Office for Sustainability and co-chair of the Carbon Neutrality Committee. He will lead student researchers in a yearlong usage study to reassess charging fees in summer 2023 in order to ensure equity, user satisfaction and network sustainability.
"We want to learn together. Western has a great track record of pulling groups together and giving students a chance to engage in meaningful research—in this case, learning how to manage an electric vehicle network."
A real-time map of campus chargers is available through the ChargePoint app. Instructions for using the chargers and answers to frequently asked questions will be available on the Office for Sustainability's webpage.
In addition to a growing electric vehicle infrastructure, Western is charging ahead with advancements in sustainable technology—from developing technology to improve energy efficiency of autonomous vehicles to supercharging lithium-ion battery research.
"We all have a role to play in protecting our planet for future generations. Thanks to forward-looking organizations like Western and Consumers Energy, we can work together to advance strategies that can be a model for the world," Montgomery says.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.