Utah Valley University is taking a step toward cleaning the air, plus making a statement about the future.

The university cut the ribbon Monday on two charging stations with the capacity to charge four electric vehicles. One is dedicated to UVU fleet vehicles. The other is open to the public to charge their vehicles at no cost. The stations offer level 2 charging, up to 240 volts, which is estimated to charge a battery in 3–8 hours.

“UVU is providing the charging stations to the public free of cost to demonstrate our commitment to this project and improving air quality along the Wasatch Front,” said Val Peterson, UVU’s vice president for administration, in a press release. “This project is an important step in heeding the Governor’s call and turning a vision into a reality from which all Utahns will benefit.”

Jeff Barrett of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development said the charging stations are an important step.

“In a lot of ways, another electric vehicle charging station is a drop in the bucket,” he said. "UVU is the largest institution in the state, and vehicle use is especially critical at that institution. Emissions and air quality are largely attributed to vehicles, especially at a school that is fueled by commuters.”

Along with the composition of the university, its location is important.

“We saw an opportunity, right on the I-15 exit of one of the most trafficked interchanges along the Wasatch Front,” Barrett said. “It is a great partnership.”

He praised UVU for committing to provide power to the public at no charge.

“It is certainly legal for them to sell power, but that is not their goal," Barrett said.

Along with the charging stations, UVU received two grant-supported vehicles to replace others in its fleet. The grants came from the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, Utah Clean Air Partnership and the Division of Air Quality.

The location of the station and its availability to the public will help ease what is termed “range anxiety,” in which those driving electric vehicles can be reluctant to travel away from their home area for fear of not finding a place to recharge them.

“The more charging stations you have the more likely you are to have an electric vehicle,” said Don Jarvis, a member of the Utah Clean Air Task Force and chairman of the Provo Sustainability Committee.

Barrett said most of today’s electric vehicles can travel approximately 80 miles on a charge, but that range is expected to increase to 200 miles in the next couple of years.

“There are dozens if not hundreds of charging stations installed around the Wasatch Front each year,” he said. “Most of the barriers seem to be falling.”

Jarvis said electric vehicles do not produce the same number of air pollutants as those using gasoline or compressed natural gas.

“Electricity has to be generated somewhere, but it is much more efficient to produce electricity in a large plant,” he said. “Every electric vehicle is really good for our local air quality.”

Some say improving the air quality in Utah County through the use of electric vehicles transfers the effects of pollution to areas in which there are more power plants.

“People say that is just displacing those emissions,” Barrett said. “But looking at it globally it is much more efficient to have one large source of combustion generation. That is why we are pushing for diversification of fueling options.”

UVU is working to promote responsible energy use with an Office of Sustainability, a sustainability plan, and by offering a degree in environmental studies. The charging stations contribute to the effort.

“We believe that as an expanding university, it’s not only our obligation but also our opportunity to exemplify the commitment necessary to balance these interests,” Peterson said.

Benefits of electric vehicles as outlined by UVU include greater efficiency, use of a locally produced energy source, reduced emissions and reduced fueling costs.

More information is available at utahelectricvehicles.org.

Daily Herald reporter Barbara Christiansen can be reached at (801) 344-2907 or bchristiansen@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @bchristiansen3.