By Ed Brennen
The campus blue have added a touch of green.
The UMass Lowell Police Department has acquired its first electric vehicle — a brand new Nissan LEAF — through the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP).
According to UMass Lowell Police Chief Randy Brashears, the unmarked electric vehicle will be used by members of the department for non-patrol-related duties.
“There have been times during the day that all our vehicles are being used, so this vehicle will really help our Campus Resource Officers move around the community,” says Brashears, who worked with Associate Director of Sustainability Ruairi O’Mahony on obtaining the vehicle on a three-year lease.
“It helps us support the university’s sustainability mission, so it’s a win-win,” Brashears adds.
Officers Jeff Connors and Bill Emmons started driving the LEAF as soon as it was delivered to campus in early January. Neither had ever driven an electric vehicle before, and both have been impressed by its performance.
With a driving range of approximately 100 miles on a single charge, Connors says the vehicle will easily meet the department’s day-to-day needs, which include making neighborhood home visits, as well as trips to the courthouse and the state police crime lab in Sudbury.
Run by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, MassEVIP provides $7,500 incentives to help public colleges and universities, municipalities and state agencies purchase or lease battery electric vehicles. Combined with federal and dealer incentives, the UMLPD is able to lease the LEAF for approximately $620 per year — or just $52 per month.
The department currently has six marked and three unmarked gas-powered vehicles in its fleet.
“From an environmental aspect, adding the LEAF means we don’t have another big eight-cylinder or six-cylinder vehicle to run,” Connors says.
Given the amount of electricity used in police cruisers for computers and communications devices, Connors says hybrid electric vehicles may be more feasible for departments down the road.
“I think you’ll see more of them in the coming years, especially with the fast-charging stations becoming more mainstream,” he says.
Brashears adds that the police department's LEAF will also be used in ongoing research conducted by the university on electric vehicle battery life.