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There's Something Different About This Car

From the outside, Smith’s latest addition to its fleet of campus vehicles looks like most other economy cars: on the small side, efficient, and sensible.

But don’t let this new, white Honda Civic fool you. As a “hybrid” vehicle, the car burns less gas than its stable mates, moving its engine parts with a combination of gas and battery-powered electricity.

It runs quieter. It stands completely still at stops, with nary a hint of idle. It delivers nearly 20 miles more per gallon than its gas-only counterparts.

“The first time we filled it up, I was pleasantly surprised,” says Karl Kowitz, associate director of business operations in the Physical Plant, who oversees the campus fleet. “It got 44.9 miles per gallon in mixed highway and city driving.” That’s compared with about 25 miles per gallon that the college’s other economy cars get, said Kowitz.

Perhaps most important, the new hybrid significantly reduces the amount of hydrocarbon emissions into the air -- about 84 percent less than the average passenger car.

The new Honda is one of three general-purpose cars leased by the college from Enterprise Rent-a-car. The college also leases 12 passenger vans. All the college’s vehicles are heavily used, says Kowitz. The vans transport sports teams and departmental groups to numerous events, while the cars are typically used for airport trips and to take personnel to meetings in the region. “There’s a large number of trips where there are two people in the car,” Kowitz said. “This [hybrid] is perfect for those occasions.”

Though the Honda hybrid costs slightly more to lease than gas-only models, it’s a calculated payoff, from the perspective of those in Physical Plant, to realize environmental gains.

“You’ve got to look at a lot of environmental factors here,” said Kowitz, such as the
emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. “This is the right thing to do for our world.”

Smith plans to continue adding hybrid vehicles to its fleet, says Kowitz. “We will endeavor to go more hybrid as they meet our needs as an institution, and as vans become available.”

Leasing the hybrid vehicle -- and others in the future -- is another step in Smith’s ongoing efforts to become more environmentally responsible and to minimize its impact on the earth. The college’s Green Team has assertively led campaigns to change campus light bulbs to the lower-wattage models, turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and to get computer users to set their monitors to automatically shut down after a specified period, collectively saving millions of watts, to name a few of the team’s efforts. And this year, the college leased two cars from Zipcar, a national car-sharing service, to help reduce traffic.

The Honda hybrid and other college cars are available to the community for any college-related use. Click here to view vehicle request information.

12/11/06   By Eric Sean Weld
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