UA Adds a Leaf to Its Sustainability Portfolio

The first all-electric car to come to a university campus will be added to the UA's car-sharing program through a partnership with Connect by Hertz on Earth Day.
April 21, 2011
Old Main meets the new green: This Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric vehicle to join a university car-sharing fleet in the U.S. (Photo by Bill Davidson)
Old Main meets the new green: This Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric vehicle to join a university car-sharing fleet in the U.S. (Photo by Bill Davidson)

The University of Arizona will receive an all-electric car for its car-sharing fleet on Earth Day through its partnership with Connect by Hertz, the Hertz Corp.'s global car sharing club.

The UA will be the first university campus in the nation to get the car. UA Parking & Transportation marketing manager Bill Davidson got a sneak preview of the silverish-gray Nissan Leaf when it was delivered the other day.

"It's beautiful inside and out. Everything looks very high-tech," he said. "There is no ignition key; only an on-off button. You press the button, and the only way you can tell that it started is by all the lights on the dashboard going on. You can't hear a thing. Accelerating and braking is incredibly smooth."

The Nissan Leaf will be showcased at the UA Earth Day student event held on the campus Mall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, April 22.

"We are happy to welcome electric vehicles into the Connect by Hertz car sharing fleet here at the University," said David Heineking, director of the UA's Parking & Transportation Services. "Connect by Hertz has been a great asset to University students and staff, and having an electrical vehicle, the car of the future, today is something we're all excited about especially as it ties into our Earth Day initiatives."

Open to UA employees and students, Connect by Hertz is a cost-effective alternative to owning and maintaining a personal vehicle. The Nissan Leaf is the first zero-emissions addition to the UA's existing pool of seven Toyota Prius, two Smart Cars, a Mini Cooper and two Ford Explorers.

"The program is especially popular among our students, because unlike with most other car rentals, anyone 18 years or older can sign up," Davidson said. "The feedback we get is very positive, and our membership base keeps growing."

At the end of March, UA's Connect by Hertz program included close to 700 members. Members pay a low, hourly rate and must have a valid driver's license with a good driving record for at least one year prior to joining. 

Students, faculty and staff can take advantage of their membership on campus and also benefit from reciprocal membership at any Connect by Hertz city in the world, including in New York, London, Berlin, Madrid, Melbourne and Paris.

"Most of our subscribers use the cars to drive to appointments, run errands or shop off campus," Davidson said. "The membership includes gas, insurance and roadside assistance."

Upon enrolling in the program, members receive a smart chip enabled Connect card, which gives them keyless entry to any car in the fleet that the member reserves. Located in five convenient on-campus locations, the vehicles can be rented from one hour to up to a week by making a reservation by phone or online.

"The car knows at all times who should be in it," Davidson said. "You scan card on the outside, and it unlocks. The keys are inside."

The in-car technology enables Connect by Hertz representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. A hands-free audio kit connects members to a member care center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental.

On a full charge and a new battery, Nissan quotes the Leaf's range at 100 miles. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the car's actual mileage may be closer to 73 miles, while the Federal Trade Commission published a range between 96-110 miles.

Plugged into a charging station, the Leaf's batteries recharge in about four hours. A few specialized stations do the job in about 20 minutes, according to Davidson, but those are less common, at least for now.

With the introduction of the Nissan Leaf, Tucson is one of eleven cities partaking in an electric charging station development initiative called the EV Project.

For the UA, the EV Project will install electric chargers in four locations around campus: the 2nd Street garage, the Tyndall Avenue garage, Lot 6088 and the 6th Street garage.

In addition, the UA Motor Pool will have a charging station available for the EV cars provided.

On a larger scale, the project will build a charging station infrastructure throughout Tucson, providing electric car drivers with multiple locations to juice up their vehicles.