Three new electric car charging locations have been added to Lehigh’s campus at Zoellner Arts Center, the Farrington Square garage and Iacocca Hall as of January 2020.
Lehigh received a $30,000 grant to support the additional charging stations as part of the Driving PA Forward – Level 2 EV Charging Rebate Program from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Grants Center, said Katharine Targett Gross, sustainability officer in the Office of Sustainability.
Gross said this is part of the Connections plan to work on the future of mobility at Lehigh.
The first charging station was installed in March 2018 in the Alumni Memorial parking garage, said Sharon Field, manager of Parking Services.
Field said there are 15 Lehigh electric vehicle owners who are registered users of the electric vehicle charging station. She said the car chargers will support current Lehigh drivers and possibly encourage others to buy electric vehicles.
“We had an employee who, before the chargers, would plug in at a dealership close to Wegmans for four hours, and he literally would go to Wegmans and shop for four hours even though he didn’t have to because that was the closest charging station to him,” Field said.
Field said Lehigh experienced over 100 charging sessions in the electric car chargers in the month of February alone.
If a student or faculty member possesses a Lehigh permit, the first four hours of charging is free. After that, it costs $2 an hour. If a student or faculty member does not have a Lehigh permit, it costs $1 per hour for the first four hours and then $2 per additional hour.
Matthias Falk, professor of biological sciences, drives an electric Fiat 500. He said he loves his car — it’s powerful and fun to drive, and it feels like driving a go-kart.
He bought the 3-year-old electric car for $8,000. He said he saves money by not having to go to the gas station, and maintenance is cheap.
Lehigh is trying to become a greener campus, Falk said. He said driving his electric car has a positive impact on the environment, as there is a reduced carbon footprint, and it does not burn fossil fuels.
“We need to reduce our impact on this planet, because it’s at a point where we really do serious damage — and especially with emitting so much carbon dioxide, so that causes global warming,” Falk said. “I’m a biologist, so quite some time ago, (my family) decided to reduce our carbon footprint by doing more recycling, saving simple energy, switching all the lightbulbs in the house to energy saving bulbs… We bought our own solar (panel) system.”
Falk said there should be more charging stations on campus. He recommends the school adds one on Goodman Campus and at the SteelStacks, where the commuter lots are.
“Lehigh is working to transition to more sustainable transportation options, so this is one way to help support that, as well as support visitors to campus, faculty, staff and students who might be driving electric cars and continue to expand charging stations on campus,” Targett Gross said.
Targett Gross said the ultimate goal is to create a more connected and integrated campus that’s bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly. Transportation Services is also reevaluating bus routes and vehicle types to increase efficiency, she said.
Field said they are hoping to add an additional car to Enterprise CarShare, and work on a new bike-sharing program.
“I have children, and I want my children to live in an Earth that is at least as good as the Earth we are living on, and…their children should have a safe place to live and enjoy this planet,” Falk said.