The UWI’s electric vehicle station: powering ecological energy on campus

Charging your vehicle with electricity is now a reality at The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine Campus in Trinidad.

On December 10, 2019, The UWI installed its first, level-two, 230-volt Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) charging station on the campus. Open to the campus community, it is located at the car park bordering the Faculty of Engineering’s building on the southern side of the campus.

The St Augustine Campus is the E-mobility hub for the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

Partnerships power innovation

Made possible through private-sector partnerships, this new EVSE aims to help reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. It also supports The UWI’s philosophy of making its campuses climate smart to complement its research and advocacy agendas.

Three years prior, in 2016, the Faculty of Engineering began its journey towards investing in the global transition towards EVs, partnering with the Faculty, the Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI), and the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC).

The final product resulted from a collaboration with Massy Motors, the Electric Vehicle Company of Trinidad and Tobago (EVCOTT), and BELEC Power and Energy Solutions Limited. The Ministry of Public Utilities Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI) inspected the station.

Future plans for this project include employing renewable energy technologies to power other electric charging stations.

Transitioning to electric vehicles

“It’s time to be part of the transportation revolution,” says Dr Sanjay Bahadoorsingh, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (DECE), and Deputy Dean of Enterprise Development and Outreach for the Faculty of Engineering.

Based on years of research, Dr Bahadoorsingh, and many others at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (DECE) and the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, saw the need to be prepared for the transition towards electric vehicles (EVs).

“We decided to tackle it from the perspective of what would ensure safe adoption and also allow the technology to be embraced and grow,” he says.

The team investigated international best practices to ensure that this new technology was safely adopted. This was critical, as this first station will serve as a model for others to follow.

The EVSE will also allow the engineering departments to participate in data collection and research aimed at improving infrastructure and mitigating potential challenges in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

At the charging station launch are Kelvin Baboolal, Deputy Chief Electrical Inspector, Government Electrical Inspectorate; Jeremy Page, Assistant Vice President, Structural Changes, Massy Motors; Professor Chandrabhan Sharma, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (DECE) and Representative of the Electrical VEhicle Company of Trinidad and Tobago; Winston Boodoo, Managing Director, BELEC Power and Energy Solutions Limited; Dr Sanjay Bahadoorsingh, Deputy Dean, Enterprise Development and Outreach and Senior Lecturer in the DECE; Dhanraj Samlal, Property and Projects Manager at Massy Motors; Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal of The UWI St Augustine, Professor Brian Copeland; and Tabitha Gopaul, General Manager at BELEC.

It has also propelled the Faculty towards creating a green space.

An area adjacent to the charging station has already been earmarked. What will it look like? With a goal to be carbon free, it will include sustainable power from renewable energy sources, including solar photovoltaics and wind turbines. At present, the charging station is electric grid powered.

Trinidad and Tobago: Low emissions, but high risk

Globally, transportation accounts for about 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. While Trinidad and Tobago’s emissions account for significantly less than 1 per cent of this, the country is at risk from many of climate changes’ adverse effects. This includes coastal erosion and the already unpredictable hurricanes and tropical storms.

Making strides towards low-carbon emissions is something that the country is focused on, after signing on to the Paris Agreement on climate change to reduce greenhouse emissions in 2016 (ratified locally in 2018).

Internationally, there has been a transition from internal combustion engines (ICEs) towards EVs on a large scale.

Norway is currently leading with the largest per capita fleet of electric vehicles in the world.

China is also ahead with the largest electric bus deployment in the world. This adoption is not surprising. Many car manufacturers, such as the Volkswagen Group and Daimler, have pledged to no longer be producing ICEs by 2025, as part of a projection towards a carbon-neutral world by 2050.

A futuristic Trinidad and Tobago

Imagine powering your vehicle at home versus lining up at the gas station.

A futuristic Trinidad and Tobago can be seen converting inefficient combustion engines (ICEs) to electric vehicles (EVs), and storage from renewable energy, to ensure that it is no longer heavily dependent on fossil fuels. This will also go a long way in helping to reduce its carbon footprint and improve environmental consciousness.

E-mobility is attractive ecologically and environmentally. With more citizens showing interest and purchasing hybrid and electric vehicles, future innovations and consumer behaviour can well align.