Electric car

Environmental sustainability, financial flexibility, and enhanced student services will be coming together in the form of two leased Nissan Leaf “vehicle to grid” (V2G) capable electric cars. Plymouth State plans to have the first V2G charging stations in the region installed on campus, representing its latest move toward building a sustainable environment. PSU has found a valuable partner in the New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC), which is starting a new program to help maximize value for V2G-capable electric cars.

“We’re really pleased that the Co-op approached us with this idea,” says Vice President for Finance and Administration Tracy Claybaugh. “The environmental benefits together with the potential for significant cost savings really make this a ‘win-win’ for everyone.”

Unlike standard electric vehicles that have a one-way relationship with power sources, V2Gs have the ability to both draw and return electric current to a cooperating utility. Plymouth State currently has two level 2 (240 volt) chargers located by the Physical Plant Office, which are available to provide power to the Leafs right away. Plans call for installation of one or more level 3 (480 volt) “fast chargers” next spring. Those units will permit bi-directional charging and discharging.

“The environmental benefits together with the potential for significant cost savings really make this a ‘win-win’ for everyone.”

Vice President for Finance and Administration Tracy Claybaugh

As an example, if between 4 and 8 p.m. is identified as the peak demand period, the cost of electricity during those hours will be higher than during the off-peak time of say, 2 a.m. If PSU’s new V2G cars are discharged back to the grid during the peak demand hours and recharged during the off-peak periods, the University stands to earn money from the differential.

NHEC is providing a $1,000 rebate per vehicle and a rebate on the V2G chargers. The remaining costs could very well be paid for by the credits that will accrue to PSU for discharging electricity to the Co-op.

“This V2G set-up will be the first that we know of locally,” says NHEC Business Development Executive Bill Johnstone ’86. “Not only does it offer the flexibility to use or discharge power, it allows users to respond to price signals and encourages electric consumption at times of low demand, which helps the regional power grid and avoids the need to generate more power during peak demand times.”

NHEC wanted to identify ways to reduce peak demand and the University entered the conversation through Johnstone, an alumnus who lives nearby. Johnstone reached out to President Birx and received a quick and positive response, and the conversation soon turned to PSU’s desire to provide a short-hop transportation service for students.

The Nissan Leaf is widely available and capable of bi-directional charging. Johnstone notes that Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen have all reported plans to offer V2G and other manufacturers are likely to follow suit.

The University will be recruiting designated student drivers to receive enhanced safety training before the new ride service is launched. When that’s completed, the service will be available to assist students lacking their own transportation who would otherwise find it difficult to get to important appointments or simply from one end of campus to the other.

“Students who are recovering from an injury or surgery often need transportation assistance,” says Lindsay Page, director of campus accessibility services. “This will be of great benefit to students who have temporary or ongoing mobility challenges and needs.”

Plymouth Creative, a student-run marketing and design agency, is in the midst of conceptualizing eye-catching car wraps for the new vehicles. The designs will call attention to the cars’ innovative technology and that PSU is partnering with NHEC to build a sustainable environment.

“The Nissan Leaf electric cars coming to campus provide a visible example of our commitment to sustainability and our dedication to engaging students,” says Brian Eisenhauer, director of the office of sustainability. “The messages and art on the cars are being designed by students, and the addition of the vehicles to our community will allow students, staff, and faculty to have direct experiences with electric vehicles that contribute to meeting our University sustainability goals.”

Image is a draft of a car wrap concept by Plymouth Creative students.