PLNU Campus Facilities Adds Electric Vehicles to Fleet and Plans for Future

Campus vehicle electrification is a hot-button topic at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) and recently there have been several additions to PLNU’s fleet of transportation vehicles. Several new all-electric buses have been filtered into use since the spring of 2023 and can be seen on campus.

This process of switching to electric transportation is seen on a wide scale with large trucking companies hiring groups like Tesla to build trucks for an eco-friendly age. Even local transit systems like MTS and their zero emissions bus program have been working on bus electrification plans from as early as 2017. 

Director of Transportation (DoT) Patrick Francis said data regarding PLNU’s electric vehicle (EV) fleet is not available at this time. 

Francis added that the plans for new infrastructure being installed for charging and maintenance are still in progress and that the transition to EV was made for sustainability purposes.

In November 2022, HIVP (Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive)

vouchers allocated approximately $2.93 Billion for the subsidization and sponsorship of companies and businesses purchasing “clean air” or “zero-emissions” vehicles, through the implementation of just over 11,000 vehicles.

These vehicles are functionally similar to many of the other Ford-manufactured buses on campus, such as the E-650 (gas/diesel) powered buses that take students to the Liberty Station campus and similar to the standard diesel or gas-powered buses that have been around campus for years.

The key difference is that these vehicles are driven by electric motors powered by large batteries.

The California HVIP website also has listings for the same Ford E450 buses that show allocated incentives of approximately $60,000 per vehicle.

Discussions about public bus transport online in the articles linked below typically indicate green energy to be the superior choice to Diesel or Gas powertrains, and articles like Forbes’ “All

Buses Will Be Battery Electric Too,” as well as in many publications from the government (Transportation.Gov) and private sectors (E-Buses: On the Road to Lowering Emissions and Improving Public Transport) corroborating similar information.

According to two past student shuttle drivers who requested anonymity (for fear of causing tension between themselves and past employers), after every shift and gas fill-up, drivers would note their mileage on a clipboard system that was used to keep track of consumption and mileage. 

Francis denied the existence of this data.

Dan Toro, associate vice president of Facility Operations and Campus Planning explained the ethos behind Facilities’ efforts at electrification being a focused effort on “responsible stewardship, not just of environmental resources, but [also fiscal] ones.”

Toro outlined efforts in transportation electrification saying; “We’re [Facilities] trying not to spend money on things that grants help with.”

The aforementioned HIVP is one of the grant programs that Gustavo Bernal, assistant director of Campus Facilities, and Toro mentioned, also citing a grant from Volkswagen, which they attributed to granting 50% rebates on certain EV purchases.

E-450 electric buses were purchased by the university through the HIVP. 

According to Bernal, Facilities is currently operating seven full-sized EVs, with two commuter buses, two E-transit (Vans), two shuttles (on campus) and a Ford F-150 Lightning. 

Bernal and Toro credited the F-150 Lighting (an electrified Ford F-150 that rolled out from factories starting in 2022) as one of the most versatile “will-call”-style vehicles that Facilities fields.

Along with promising horsepower values (452 hp), the base model yields a lower range than expected, with the truck hitting approximately 230 miles on a charge, according to Car and Driver, an American automotive magazine.

Other competitive trucks like those from Rivian and Tesla (the R1 and recently the Cyber Truck respectively) top out at over 300 miles per charge. 

According to Bernal and Toro, the positive in operating these EVs is that while they do have slightly less range than their Internal combustion operated brothers and sisters, the cost per charge/tank difference sits at about $15 per charge, while a tank of gas would cost Facilities approximately $80. 

Toro emphasized that steps forward in environmental efforts regarding transportation and energy on campus are meant to “align ourselves with the Campus Master Plan.” 

Toro and Bernal were referring to improvements to campus electrification infrastructure like charging stations for students and faculty that are planned to be installed in the Nease Residence Hall and Finch Residence Hall lot which would not make sense to install currently, given the coming updates and renovations to the area. 

Otherwise summarized by Toro: “Our [Facilities] goal is to not be stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.” 

Toro and Bernal also stated that they would encourage students to approach Facilities with any questions or comments they might have about Facilities regarding campus electrification. Toro even commented not so jokingly: “We might even be open to students scheduling a test drive?”