ELF car small but mighty
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 23:09
Green thinking has become a trend in the recent years. From smart cars to recycling to gardening, campaigns on saving the planet have reached beyond borders globally and continue to spread.
“I think that’s one of the biggest findings out of the last 30 years of trying to be green. You’ve got to make these things more convenient,” John Pratte, the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said. “It’s like with recycling. There’s a reason why there’s curbside recycling. We had to make it as convenient as throwing the stuff away.”
The College of Science and Mathematics is contributing to the green trend in their own special way. The college has purchased an ELF, a car that is solar powered and gets the equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon. A poster in the college states the car is the first ELF in the state of Arkansas and notes that “driving an ELF is one of the cleanest, greenest things we can do for our community and planet. With an ELF, we are part of the solution not the problem.”
ELF weighs less than 150 pounds and can support up to 350 pounds. It can be plugged into an outlet to charge, but is also solar powered. It gets 20 mph on electric power, but can also be pedaled like a bicycle. It charges in one hour by outlet and seven hours by sun. Anyone can own an ELF if they’re willing to pay the $4,000 for it.
“Basically, we needed something to get around campus and at the same time we thought it would be great to sort of lower our carbon footprint, as well as we needed something as an educational tool,” Pratte said.
“Occasionally you’ve got to go over to facilities or the Convocation Center and you know it’s like, ‘I’m not walking. It’s a mile or so. I’m not going to walk. It’s 100 degrees. I don’t want to get my car and drive.’” Pratte said.
Pratte said the college had end of the year money left and since the college was looking for a functional vehicle to drive around campus they found the ELF.
“It’s great for some of our courses to be able to show a solar powered vehicle. And we’ve even got interest now from several of the engineering faculty who want their students to be able to take a look at it to see how could we improve it,” Pratte said. “So it’s going to be used sort of as a learning tool and a transportation vehicle.”
The company, Organic Transit, is based out of Durham, N.C. Pratte said they understand the ELF will more than likely not be seen on roads for awhile, even though the company is experiencing quite a bit of growth.
“They’re kind of building them for that urban transportation vehicle that you might need. That’s kind of what we find ourselves in here on campus. It’s like a little urban environment. There’s nowhere to park,” Pratte said. “The quickest way to get some place is straight through, which requires walking or biking. It’s an ideal vehicle for that.”
Pratte said one benefit of having the ELF over a golf cart was the ELF could simply be placed in the sun to charge instead of always having to be plugged in.
Because the ELF has a limited speed of 20 miles per hour, it’s not considered a car, which means it doesn’t have to be licensed.
Pratte said the car will be used by office staff to take paperwork across campus. He said it gives them the ability to get across campus quickly without having to take a car.
“We often times go to the car and say, ‘I’ve got to have a car. I’ve got to have a car,’” he said. “The car has always been the most convenient. And I think if you start showing people that there are other convenient ways to get around they’ll start using those.”
“I ran into one of the police officers and he was on one of the Segways. I was like, ‘Hey, you want to race?’ His (Segway) only goes 12 mph and mine goes 20. I can pedal and go faster,” Pratte said.
The Segways, although thought to be the most convenient means of transportation, are actually not so convenient, Pratte said. This is because they can’t be taken on the road and provide no protection from the weather.
The ELF car is white, but it won’t be plain for much longer.
“We’re going to put ‘A-State’ on it. We’re going to put ‘College of Science and Mathematics’ on it,” Pratte said. “I told the creative services people, ‘Hey, I want you to pimp my ride.’ So if we do take it into town people are like, ‘Hey, Arkansas State.’”
Pratte plans to use the car in his Energy and the Environment class during the solar energy portion of the course to show students how a solar panel works.
Students are also concerned about the environment and are supportive of the ELF vehicle.
“It’s better for the environment and it’s cheaper than using oil,” Wajdan Alshehab, an undeclared sophomore of Alqteef, Saudi Arabia, said.
“And it’s clean,” Horiah Alaradi, a freshman computer science major, also of Alqteef, said in response to Alshehab’s comment.
“Here it is very expensive,” said Alshehab. “I pay $50 for gas for my car here and in Saudi Arabia it’s just like $10 or $20.”
“It’s too much,” Alaradi said.
Both girls expressed their concern for the passivity in Saudi Arabia about going green.
“They use what they like. They don’t worry about the environment,” Alshehab said.
Alaradi and Alshehab are not the only students who think awareness should be raised on this issue. Tony McMickle, a graduate student studying biology of Wynne, said, “I think people are a lot more aware of it today. Education is a major component to getting people to change.”