PRINCESS ANNE, Md. –– UMES’ eco-friendly portfolio now includes a solar-powered Cruise Car.
Gabriel J. Christian, a Washington-area attorney, donated the vehicle as a gift for the university’s Department of Technology to support instruction in the expanding field of alternative energy.
“Our goal is to build a course around this vehicle,” department chairman Derrek Dunn said.
Stephen McDaniel, UMES’ vice president for Institutional Advancement, said Christian’s unique donation shows “people are now beginning to realize that gifts come in a variety of forms. It’s not always money.”
From afar, the all-white vehicle resembles a giant Jurassic World-inspired egg, or perhaps a smaller version of the one used by the Pope.
Upon closer inspection, it quickly becomes clear the vehicle is much more than a golf cart on steroids.
Equipped with four individual seats (and seat belts), brake and headlights, turn signals, drum brakes, a windshield wiper and a radio, the vehicle is designed to be used on public roadways.
Dunn said no firm decision has been made on whether to limit its movement to UMES’ 745-acre main campus.
“The important thing is we have something to provide our students with some hands-on experience in learning how we are moving from reliance on fossil fuel driven mechanics to green energy sources,” Dunn said.
The newest addition to UMES’ motor pool is a 2008 model of a KUDO solar electric hybrid, among the first manufactured by Sarasota, Fla.-based Cruise Car Inc.
It’s fitted with a solar panel on the roof that charges eight 6-volt batteries and also can be plugged into an electric source as needed.
The spec sheet says it weighs about 1,500 pounds, can do up to 20 miles-per-hour and can travel roughly 37 miles on fully charged batteries.
Nathan Kalin, Cruise Car’s marketing director, said universities are among the company’s clients because many use them for instruction as well as for practical applications.
“Every customer has a different application,” Kalin said.
Over the 10 years it has been manufacturing alternative-energy vehicles, Cruise Car has incorporated redesigns, such as using lightweight aluminum frames, to make them even more efficient than the one given to UMES.
When McDaniel was a fund-raiser for Alcorn State, people occasionally donated farm equipment to the land-grant university in Mississippi. The solar-powered Cruise Car, he said, is a first in his 30-plus years working in higher education.
Having the Cruise Car as a teaching tool “opens a door for research by faculty and students. Everybody is looking for ways to reduce reliance on fossil fuels,” Dunn said.
Technology students recently built rotating solar panels adjacent to the Thomas & Briggs Arts and Technology Center, and plans are in the works to install a small, demonstration wind turbine to augment instruction.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to update and improve our curriculum so it is relevant to our students,” Dunn said.
Bill Robinson, director, Office of Public Relations, (410) 621-2355
Office of Public Relations
University of Maryland Eastern Shore