Las Positas College’s latest effort to promote campus-climate solutions is a push for students and teachers to drive electric. To help with that transition, the school is promoting Bay Area Quality District’s new grant program, Clean Cars for All, on its website.
According to the LPC 2019 Climate Action Plan, 80% of the school’s total emissions are from students and teachers commuting to campus. The report stated that 68% of students and faculty drive to school alone. To help curb this statistic, LPC is hoping more of its students switch to electric cars.
This new mission continues the school’s climate consciousness, which formalized into an action plan in 2010. The updated version, released in 2019, set the goal for LPC to have total carbon neutrality, or to produce zero emissions, by 2050. The last 10 years have produced noteworthy improvements towards that goal, according to the Climate Action Committee director, Kaitlyn Dickinson.
The perennial goal to reduce the school’s carbon footprint has produced a number of changes on campus, such as the solar panels in parking lots.
The Climate Action Committee, implemented by Chabot and Las Positas College, sets out to educate and foster more collaboration between campuses on environmental issues. It has created an internship program for students to learn how different sectors are affected by the environment and industry-specific solutions.
Climate Action also wrote a $50,0000 grant to replace all single-use dining ware on the Chabot campus and kickstarted LPC’s first-ever Earth Week last spring semester.
“We must address biodiversity loss, fossil fuel extraction, land use, resource scarcity and much more,” Dickinson said.
However, “Transportation emissions in the United States are the biggest source of emissions. It makes up 27% of total emissions.”
The Clean Cars for All grant allows applicants to trade in their old gas cars for up to $9500 to use towards hybrid or electric vehicles, also known as EVs. To be eligible for the grant, one must live in a highly polluted community, fall into a specified income bracket and have an operational vehicle from 2005 or later. Livermore is one of the eligible communities.
For students interested in the grant, LPC professor of automotive technology Brian Hagopian explained, “Hybrid means a power supply that is usually coming from an engine.” The difference between electric and hybrid is where the power supply is.
For electric vehicles, power is contrived from a local power source, like solar panels or a coal plant, to charge the electric battery to the point where the vehicle can run on the battery alone.
The primary disadvantage of EVs is how many miles it can travel compared to gas cars. However, the cost is nowhere near the average gas per gallon, which would need to be $1.60 per gallon to be on par with EV kilowatts per hour cost.
Kilowatts per hour is the common billing standard for EV charging. When electric demand is high, like in midday, the billing is more expensive. Though if the vehicle is charged off peak, like at midnight, it is cheaper and does not put as much tax on the electric grid.
“However clean the electricity mix is from the grid is how clean the electric charger is,” said Dickinson.
According to Dickinson, EVs are cleaner overall than gas cars because they produce far fewer emissions over the vehicle’s lifetime.
However, lithium-ion batteries, which power electrical vehicles, are made from rare Earth materials that are dangerous to mine. There are also concerns over how the batteries will be recycled.
“Once electric vehicles are retired, their batteries can be used as stationary storage for renewable energy. The materials in the batteries can be recycled and reduce the need for mining new materials” Dickinson said.
As the future gears toward all electric and hybrid cars, the number of public chargers should keep up..
According to Hagopian, the 14 chargers on campus are not currently sufficient for student and faculty demands. Increasing the number of chargers on campus is one of LPC’s 2019 climate action plan goals.
Though uncertain, said Dickinson, President Biden’s recently signed inflation reduction plan—worth $369 billion—could help Las Positas fund its climate projects.
For now, students can take advantage of Clean Cars for All until grant funds are exhausted.
Lizzy Rager is the managing editor for The Express. Follow her @rager_lizzy.