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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU moving to greener transportation

New Mexico State University is working to make sure getting around campus is not only beneficial to students, faculty and staff, but also beneficial to the environment.

A GEM electric car, one of a number of alternative fuel vehicles recently purchased by New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"Whenever we can, we're buying alternative fuel vehicles," said Barry Law, NMSU's transportation and equipment services manager. "We've also added three new shuttle routes around campus this fall."

The transition of NMSU's vehicle fleet to more environmentally friendly cars and trucks and the increase in shuttle routes coincide with President Michael Martin's recent pledge to neutralize the university's global warming emissions.

The three new bus routes will make it easier for students and employees to get to work and class from campus housing and the university's outer parking lots near the Pan American Center. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles by reducing the amount of traffic through campus.

During the last fiscal year, NMSU purchased 28 alternative fuel vehicles. These include electric and hybrid cars and vehicles able to run on ethanol blended gasoline and diesel blended with biodiesel. These vehicles now make up approximately 14 percent of the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles.

The transition means NMSU is moving forward rapidly to meet compliance with tougher state rules for universities and other government agencies in New Mexico.

"The state requires 75 percent of all new vehicles we buy to run on renewable fuel," said Law. "Additionally, by 2010, 15 percent of all the fuel we buy must be renewable. Compressed natural gas, while cleaner burning than gasoline, does not count."

The university will soon switch to an E15 blend of gasoline, made of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent traditional gasoline. Ethanol is made from corn or other agricultural crops containing sugar and cellulose. The university is also working toward using a B20 blend of diesel, with 20 percent of the mixture coming from biodiesel. Biodiesel is made by refining vegetable oils.

Additionally, the university is purchasing GEM electric cars. Classified as a low-speed vehicle, the GEM plugs into a standard electrical outlet each night to charge. According to the GEM's Website, it has a maximum speed of 25 miles an hour, with a range of 30 miles.

"The battery isn't strong enough for an air conditioner, but works well driving around campus," said Law.

Currently, NMSU's ethanol and biodiesel come from distributors in eastern New Mexico and Texas. In the future, the university plans to work with distributors to find more efficient ways to bring the fuel to NMSU.