NIU transportation manager Bill Finucane gives U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale) a guided tour of one of the university's hybrid vehicles.
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Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
June 7, 2006
DeKalb — Three members of the House Committee on Science got a firsthand look at Northern Illinois University’s efforts to reduce the amount of gasoline university vehicles burn each year.
Two of the university’s Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles (one from the sedan pool, the other a part of the NIU police fleet) were prominently displayed at a June 5 meeting of the committee, hosted by U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale), at the Naperville Municipal Center.
The Prius vehicles are powered alternately by a standard internal combustion engine and an electric motor, depending upon the situation. The university began adding the vehicles to its fleet in the 2003 model year. Currently, about 20 percent of the university auto fleet is comprised of the hybrids, including four of five police cruisers.
The hybrid cars have performed extremely well, NIU transportation manager Bill Finucane said. They have required no unusual maintenance and get dramatically better mileage.
The standard sedans in the university auto pool currently average 25 mpg to 28 mpg versus 44 mpg to 48 mpg for the Prius. As for the police cars, Finucane said, the cruisers replaced by the hybrids got 8 mpg to 10 mpg in normal use versus 40 mpg for the Prius.
Biggert, who chaired the meeting, and her colleagues, Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) and Michael Honda (D-Calif.), toured the vehicles and were impressed to hear that the university was so successful in reducing its use of gasoline. Honda, who owns a Prius himself, was particularly interested to learn of their use by police on campus.
During the hearing, the lawmakers heard from experts on advanced technology vehicles who discussed the use of hydrogen, ethanol, battery-powered vehicles and hybrids such as the Prius to reduce American reliance on foreign oil. The consensus of those testifying was that a combination of all those alternatives, and maybe others yet imagined, will be required in the future.
Examples of all those types of vehicles were on display at the hearing, including a vehicle from the City of Chicago (a hybrid), experimental battery powered vehicles (Illinois Institute of Technology) and an E-85 vehicle from General Motors which can operate on fuel comprised of up to 85 percent ethanol.
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