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The University of Sussex

 2 Oct 2001 

Electricity is the driving force: University of Sussex invests in greener transport

The University of Sussex is moving forward with its commitment to the environment by greening its fleet of eight vans for maintenance workers at the institution's Falmer campus.

The University has joined the 'clean-fuel revolution' by taking delivery of four Peugeot Partner electric vans from local dealer Becks of Brighton.

With a top speed of about 50 mph and a range of up to 50 miles, the new vans are ideal for the short journeys (as little as half a mile) made by carpenters, electricians, delivery workers and other staff who handle day-to-day maintenance of the University's buildings and grounds on the 240-acre campus and elsewhere in the Brighton area.

Mr Philip Cowling, from the University's estates department, expects the vehicles to save money and reduce air pollution on the campus. He said: "Running fleet transport on 'clean fuels' such as electricity can bring about both significant cost reductions and major environmental benefits."

Electricity is one of the few alternative fuels that are viable in the UK today and are proven to offer environmental benefits over traditional fuels. A major benefit of electric vehicles is that they produce no exhaust and thus no emissions, giving a reduction both in particulates and in gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.

Amanda Hastings, the University's Environmental Officer, said: "These modern electric vehicles offer an efficient and clean means of transport and we hope they will have a positive role in reducing the impact of road transport on the campus environment in which staff and students work and study. This purchase demonstrates the University's commitment to promoting green transport."

She added: "It is not only good for the campus and local environment; it will save the University money on running costs as well." It costs as little as 1p per mile to run a car on electricity compared with around 10p per mile for a standard petrol or diesel vehicle. And since 1 April electric vehicles are free of vehicle excise duty.

Another distinction is that there is hardly any noise. The new vans, white with the University livery, look much like any other small commercial vehicle; but they sound rather different.

Because the motor of an electric vehicle is stationary at rest, there is no need for a clutch or conventional gearbox. The vehicle therefore effectively has automatic transmission; changing gear is reduced to a simple push-button operation that selects forward or reverse.

Brian McAlister, from Peugeot dealers Becks of Brighton, said: "There are a number of differences from conventional vehicles, although the Peugeot Partner van is simplicity itself to drive. All users are given specific training on day-to-day maintenance tasks, the recharging system and driving techniques to minimise power consumption and make the most of the range of the vehicle."

The van is capable of travelling for up to around 50 miles before being recharged and power comes courtesy of the 13-amp sockets at four on-site charging points. The vans can be fully recharged overnight or part-charged when they stop for shorter breaks. Large amounts of electrical energy can also be recovered during braking, when the motor becomes a generator and recharges up to 20 per cent of battery power.

The batteries are located both at the front (under the bonnet), and at the back (in the place usually reserved for the spare wheel).

 Notes for editors 

Each of the electric vans cost 4,000 more to buy than the equivalent petrol-driven model, but the difference was made up with a grant from the Powershift programme run by the Energy Saving Trust (EST). The EST was set up after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to help reduce C02. Its Powershift programme, which provides part funding for vehicle fleets to purchase clean-fuel vehicles, is funded by national and local government and has also received support from a range of industrial sponsors including Vauxhall, Ford, Peugeot, Toyota, Ford, Transco, BG Plc, British Gas, Volkswagen, Shell, Calor, BP, Mobil and Powergen. More information is available online.

For further information, please contact Alison Field or Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email or

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