UCI Electric Car Program Yields Unexpected Business Benefits


Irvine, Calif., January 8, 2002 — The "city" electric car program run by the UCI Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) has provided unanticipated benefits to the Irvine-area companies using Toyota's prototype e.com cars as fleet vehicles since March 2001.

"I think employee morale is higher since we began using the e.coms," said Gregg Kelly, president of Orthodyne Electronics, headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

The two-seat cars, powered by nickel metal hydride batteries, also have helped the technology company attract new employees.

"The e.com program is a way to differentiate Orthodyne," he adds. "The cars illustrate that there is more to our company than simply chasing every penny. We've been able to educate our employees about this new technology, and they, in turn, have shared the information with the community. The program has served to reiterate the value we place on education."

Scott Samuelsen, APEP director and professor of mechanical engineering, has heard similar comments from other participants.

"We were pleasantly surprised by the unusual enthusiasm for these cars," said Samuelsen. "Although the cars are limited to speeds under 65 mph, their tiny size presents a refreshing transportation option for local communities faced with congested streets and saturated parking lots."

Other program participants are Quantum/ATL, CTG Energetics and several UCI departments.

The third phase of the car-sharing program will launch early next year. The city of Irvine will serve as the "lab" to test the viability of electric vehicles (EVs) as commuter cars to complement the city's rail transit system. A qualified commuter will be able to reserve an EV "station car" to drive between the train station and worksite. During the day, the station car also could be used by qualified drivers for business meetings and other trips.

If successful, the shared-use station-car concept could play a major role in addressing California's air quality, traffic congestion and energy challenges. Manufacturers participating in the program will qualify for zero emission vehicle credits from the California Air Resources Board.

The Advanced Power and Energy Program is located at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering. The school encompasses the departments of civil and environmental engineering, chemical engineering and materials science, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical and aerospace engineering. The school also is home to six research centers, including the Center for Pervasive Communications, National Fuel Cell Research Center, Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility and Center for Biomedical Engineering. In addition, the school is an integral part of the newly founded California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, one of three California Institutes for Science and Innovation. Additional information is available at www.eng.uci.edu.