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Have battery, can travel

Electric vehicles have the run of Concordia's Loyola Campus
March 7, 2011
By Renée Giblin
Source: Concordia Journal

Facilities Management’s Global Motorcar at Loyola. | Photo by Concordia University
Facilities Management’s Global Motorcar at Loyola. | Photo by Concordia University

A couple of years ago, Gerry Barrette, the property and management operator on the Loyola Campus, became intrigued by an odd looking, vaguely egg-shaped vehicle parked outside of a car dealership in Carignan on his way home from work. Little did he realize his fascination would lead him to purchase two GEM cars (Global Electric Motorcars) for Concordia.

“What better way to be green,” Barrette said, “than to buy a GEM car instead of another gas-sucking vehicle.”

At the time the university was looking for a replacement truck. When Barrette heard that the GEM vehicles ran on batteries he tried to sell others on the idea. Barrette’s plan emphasized the fact that the electric cars make zero noise, do not use gas, and are inexpensive to run compared to a standard truck.

“The cars cost a dollar a day to run,” Barrette says. Both Richard Young, Director of Facilities Operations, and Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management Peter Bolla were supportive of the proposal.

GEM units range from two- to six-passenger cars, some with a flat bed in the back. According to Patrick Fournier, the head of the Quebec GEM distributing dealership, the units are completely electric, putting them one step above hybrid cars.

Fournier says other universities have expressed an interest in owning them. Airports, municipal workers, police officers and government agencies also see the advantages of buying one.

In the past three years GEM has sold over 40,000 cars in North America, saving, according to Fournier, 200 tonnes of polluting emissions and 57 million litres of gas. They can carry about 600 kilograms and reach speeds of 40 kilometres per hour. They are great for maintaining and patrolling grounds, he said.

The benefits of owning a GEM car pushed Concordia to purchase their first unit in 2009. The vehicle was popular, and the university bought another one the following year. Barrette said the staff adapted easily to the vehicles.

This year Fournier’s dealership lent two more electric cars to Concordia’s athletics facilities. The vehicles come in handy, Barrette said, for disinfecting the artificial turf and hauling equipment across the field. He notes that if the university did not have one of these cars, the work would have to be done manually since it is forbidden to drive a standard, gas-operated car inside the Stinger Dome.

Barrette and Fournier agreed that there are a few cons to owning a GEM car. Speed is not their strength and they need to be recharged every night. Fournier mentioned they are still working on getting the cars licensed for all Quebec roads. As of now, the units used by Concordia can travel all around the Loyola Campus and cross Sherbrooke Street, but they cannot travel downtown or long distances away from the campus.

The university staff uses the GEM cars every day for patrolling the campus or lugging equipment around, but their biggest advantage is how they help keep the environment clean, Barrette said.

Related link:
•   Global Electric Motorcars

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