Fun in the Sun

By , June 4, 2019
Ithaca College’s solar-powered vehicle is making its mark on campus.

If you’re on Ithaca College’s campus during a sunny day this summer, you’re likely to see a relatively new addition to the school’s fleet of vehicles. In April of 2018, the department of Energy Management and Sustainability purchased a four-passenger, electric and solar-powered vehicle that uses zero fossil fuels.

In addition to a rechargeable battery, the Eco Mobile is powered by a 2-by-4-foot solar panel on the roof. Able to go 30-40 miles on a single charge, the vehicle has been used primarily by the Eco-Reps, a student organization devoted to sustainability, as well as the Office of Facilities.

So far, the vehicle has been driven about 400 miles, strictly on campus — though it is able to reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, making it safe for use on certain roads. In the winter, the vehicle is kept on electric power, but during the summer months, there’s enough sunlight that it can run solely off the solar power it generates.

Greg Lischke P.E., director of energy management and sustainability at the college says the goal is to continue to expand the number of uses for the vehicle in future years. “Right now, in addition to usage by the Eco-Reps, we’ve taken it to some of the Sustainability Week events on campus,” he said. “We’d like to use it to help students when they’re moving into their dorms next fall, and as a courtesy vehicle during commencement. I’m hoping that people see this as positive and give it an opportunity.”

Lischke envisions this being the first step towards a more sustainable collection of vehicles for the campus community.  “My hope is that the Eco Mobile helps set the stage for a future migration to an all-electric fleet,” he said. “And over the next decade, I think we can get a good way there with support and proper infrastructure.”