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The popularity of electric vehicles is on the rise as technology improves and more companies offer accessible options.

It might not be the first option that comes to mind when considering a new car, but it certainly is an economical and environmentally friendly option to consider. According to Energy.gov, in October 2012, more than 7,000 plug-in and all-electric vehicles were sold.

In an effort to meet this demand, UCF plans to add more electric vehicle charging stations in the parking garages in the next year. There are currently four proposed as part of the expansion of Garage C, which is underway, said university spokesman Mark Schlueb.

UCF currently has seven charging stations where faculty, staff and students can charge their electric cars for free. There are EV charging stations in parking lot D1 next to Memory Mall, B6 next to the Visitor Information Center and Parking Garage A on the first level near the elevators. The peak hours are usually between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The combined cost of the two charging stations at Parking Garage A and the Parking Information Center totals almost $18,700. The university didn’t pay for the four charging stations in Lot D1 along Memory Mall, which were funded by a grant.

Schlueb said the total cost of the project was about $380,000, including construction, solar panels and electronic hardware. The cost was covered by a research grant from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium. It went into operation in February 2010.

The four charging stations in the D1 parking lot are solar-powered, and the rest are hardwired to UCF’s electricity provider via Duke Energy.

Jonathan Warner, a computer science major at UCF, co-owns an electric Nissan Leaf with his girlfriend. Warner has always been interested in cleaner transportation and newer technology. He said the Nissan Leaf fit his budget and seemed like a step in the right direction thanks to its technology and low environmental impact.

Apart from fuel, an electric vehicle, also known as an EV, has little maintenance compared to a gasoline or diesel vehicle because there’s no oil to change, fuel to add or air filters to replace.

Electric vehicles also boast regenerative breaking, which charges the car’s battery when it stops and starts. Warner said that the regenerative braking means that the energy used to accelerate the car up to speed can be converted back into the battery, saving a great deal of energy that would be otherwise wasted in stop-and-go traffic.

“The acceleration is different,” Warner said. “In EVs the torque applies instantly and there’s no need to shift through gears — the car just immediately speeds up, allowing you to jump pretty much any car at the light.”

Matthew Aberman, president and co-founder of Energy Knights, a green student organization, said UCF’s initiative of putting EV charging stations free of charge, or at a low cost, is very important.

“Over time, research efforts and industry are hoping to use the electric vehicle as a form of grid level storage that can be utilized to help complement distributed energy resources,” Aberman said. “[Having] UCF in a position to add more charging stations in the future could assist the university in becoming more energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint.”

Warner usually charges his car once a week and does so on campus while he goes to class. If he can’t find an open charging station, he can plug the car in at his apartment or off campus.

And if his car ever runs out of battery, it goes into reduced power mode for him to pull over and call Nissan so they can tow the car to a charging station.

“I really enjoy the car,” he said. “I’m exploring Orlando more often, hanging out with friends more and dread running errands less, all without burning gas or a hole in my wallet.”

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Natalia Baqueiro is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future. 

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