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Vol. LXIV, No. 16
August 3, 2012

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Pilot Program Allows Commuters to ‘Plug In, Power Up’

A Nissan Leaf gets a charge out of the MLP-7 parking garage.

A Nissan Leaf gets a charge out of the MLP-7 parking garage.

The infamous psychologist, writer and counterculture icon Timothy Leary was famous for the line, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Although we don’t want employees to drop out, a new pilot program is encouraging owners of electric vehicles to turn on a charging station while they work.

With the help of the NIH Federal Credit Union (NIHFCU), the parking staff has reserved 8 spaces on the Bethesda campus as electric vehicle charging stations. The program starts out with 4 spaces in the Clinical Center garage (P-2 and P-3) and 2 spaces each in MLP-6 and MLP-7. Spaces are painted an “eco” green and marked EV for electric vehicle. Outlets have a kilowatt meter recording total power usage as the vehicles charge up.

Without much fanfare, a few Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs have been seen— dashboards blinking—powering up in the designated spaces. At this time, the pilot runs until NIHFCU’s $2,000 donation of energy use is exhausted. However, if interest remains steady and a method to allow employees to pay for their own energy consumption is resolved, the parking staff envisions opening up additional charging stations at other locations on campus.

Peter Yuen, a staff scientist with NIDDK, is already on board. “The charging stations are terrific. I use them all the time,” he said. “They are in a great location, especially since it is a protected environment. Charging up during the day allows me to go further for off-campus meetings and do more after work too. I congratulate NIH for being forward-thinking.”

Laura Novik, the HIV vaccine studies coordinator with the Vaccine Research Center, enjoys the flexibility they offer. The chargers allow her “to run errands after work when I need to without having to go home and charge my vehicle first.”

Even Leary himself might have found this program, aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption and pollution, progressive—or at least “far out.”

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