The Innova Dash is tiny — minuscule, even.
But four of the urban electric vehicles will be a big part of understanding the public-transportation habits of Colorado State University employees.
Innova UEV on Monday announced it will loan the all-electric micro vehicles — each 92 inches long and 50 inches wide, and weighing 1,080 pounds, including the batteries — to CSU's motor pool starting in August.
For a year, CSU employees will be allowed to drive the Dash cars when they need to make off-campus trips. The cars have a top speed of 35 mph and a 100-mile range.
"We've done a lot of research on our campus about why people don't use public transportation alternatives more," said Scott Bailey, director of Academic Computing and Networking Services at CSU. "And one of the most common reasons is that people have either obligations during the middle of the day, before work, after work, these kinds of things. And we are very interested to see (what will happen) if we provide an alternative for these folks."
Outfitted with three video cameras and Wi-Fi-enabled tablet computers controlling the advanced technologies in the car, the Dash also can communicate operational data such as position, speed and battery charge to the campus' computer network. The cars also will collect data about the drivers — everything from heart rate to blood pressure and body temperature. The data will be shared with researchers at CSU, University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin.
CSU, Bailey said, has a well-established sustainability initiative, as well as a lot of research from "our mechanical engineering department in terms of instrumentation, measurement and analysis for not only electric but hybrid vehicles" as well.
The research, Innova CEO Roman Kuropas said, will inform the company's future business decisions.
"Everything that has been mentioned by the four universities is at the heart of what we are trying to research, to learn more about and share that data with the community in order to make correct business decisions in the future," he said.
CSU is already deep into alternative vehicle research. In October 2011, Siemens AG gave a $44.5 million in-kind award — the largest in school history — to develop a hybrid car. The software grant was part of CSU's participation in a national vehicle-design competition called EcoCAR 2, in which students are reducing the environmental impact of a Chevy Malibu without compromising its safety or performance.
CSU has six electric-car charging stations on campus and plans to add four more by August.
Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/howardpankratz