Oberlin College and Conservatory Transitions to Electric Vehicles and Equipment 

April 30, 2024 3:45 PM

Office of Energy and Sustainability

Oberlin College and Conservatory has taken the next step toward its 2025 Carbon Neutral Commitment. In March two new electric Ford E-Transit vans began to service campus. They were joined in April by four additional all electric GEM eL XD utility carts. Transportation accounts for nearly 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions nationally. The new vehicles are the latest steps as the college converts its fleet from gas power to clean electric power.

The vans were fitted with ladder racks and tool storage. Two Ford chargers were installed for easy recharge overnight or during lunch. The response has been very positive.  “I think it’s great. It feels like we are really moving forward,” says Mike Vega, an HVAC technician who has been assigned one of the Ford vans. “It took a little getting used to, but the storage capacity is good, and the battery life has not been a problem. I’m glad we have them.”

Campus Logistics Manager Angela Crawford and Grounds Manager Becky Bode researched options for the grounds and facilities teams, visiting several area organizations to see what has worked. The plans are to upgrade the south garages around the Service Building to enable additional conversion as leases run out or vehicle attrition continues. As the campus approaches its carbon neutral deadline, other sources of on-site combustion continue to be eliminated.

In addition to vehicles, electric handheld equipment such as trimmers, weed-whackers, and chainsaws are being phased in. “Our team trusts certain brands already. When we tried out the recent electric options, the performance and user experience quickly made the electric tools the new preferred options among my crew. It is vital that the staff operating the equipment lead the change. I’m proud of the work we are doing to support the Carbon Neutral goals,” says Bode. 

Other initiatives are found in athletics, where a Turf Tank robotic line painter was put in service last year. It has been instrumental in creating athletic field markings and allowing staff to monitor the progress while completing other tasks.

Converting from on-site fossil fuel use to clean electric power will continue to be campus-wide. Staff are finding ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing performance. They are piloting new approaches, so that the ones that work can be scaled up. If you see the electric hand tools in practice or see the Ford E-Transit out on campus wave “hello” and smile—we are all in this together.