Going green at GVSU

Kyle Bindas

In a world of rising tides and temperatures and receding icecaps and oil supply, the planet needs people with the knowledge and skill to work with the technology of tomorrow.

Grand Valley State University’s Alternative Energy Club is focusing on renewable energy and alternatives to fossil fuels in order to work on possible solutions to these environmental problems.

The club started in 2010 with a junk car and an idea.

Ron Grew, the then engineering labs supervisor, had a 1999 Subaru Outback that was no longer running, so he and some students decided to convert it into an electric car. The project was a success and the club got the car running.

“It did work when we got it put together,” said Eric Schierbeek, president of the club. “We drove it around the parking lot a couple times.”

The group was originally called the electric car club, but as the club moved on to other projects and expanded its scope, a new name was needed. Thus, the Alternative Energy Club was born.

The next project the club worked on was an electrically assisted bicycle, but this was more of a filler project until the next large conversion came about.

Their current project is another conversion, but this time with a two-wheeled vehicle instead of four.

Now, the frame of a Honda cb750 sits on the workshop floor, in the middle of a conversion to an electric drivetrain. The process was a long one with many steps.

“We had to draw up everything before we bought anything so that we knew it was going to work,” Schierbeek said. “We’ve been working on that for the past three years. Making sure everything is going to work, getting all the components build and figuring out what needs to be done.”

The group plans to expand the scope of its work in the future, moving beyond vehicle conversions. Schierbeek talked about the possibility of creating a wind turbine, using the solar panels on the roof of the building, entering in an electric go-cart contest, and even building their own electric car from the bottom up.

Unfortunately, there is limited man power in the club lately. Currently the club only has four members, but in previous years they have had many more.

“There were probably seven or eight guys when I started, then a lot of them graduated, and the club director retired,” said Alex Dumouchelle, a member of the club. “We’re hoping to get this (motorcycle) done so we can bring it to Campus Life Night in the fall to draw more people in.”

The club looks to give all members real life experience, valuable knowledge and experience they otherwise wouldn’t have gained, Dumouchelle said.

“There are a lot of machines they don’t teach you how to use and this is a great way to learn,” Dumouchelle said. “It’s a lot of hands on applicable things outside of class, which I really enjoy.”

The club meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the vehicle bay of the Keller Engineering Laboratories, located on the Pew Campus.

For a video of the running Subaru Outback electric conversion, visit ww.youtube.com/watch?v=lLV9YYF2wrw.