New Yale vehicles offer easier access for passengers with disabilities, cleaner air for all

The Yale Fleet recently added two new special services vans designed to make it easier for Yale community members with physical disabilities to get around campus. One of the vehicles has the added feature of being environmentally friendly, running on domestically-processed compressed natural gas (CNG).

The American designed and made MV1 — short for mobility vehicle — is the first of its kind designed specifically for wheelchair accessibility. The vehicle is designed to afford a roomy, comfortable ride, and its boxy shape has been compared to the traditional London cab. 

Yale’s Parking and Transit Office liked the MV1’s features and functionality, which include ample head room, a low step-in flat floor, and deployable ramp that is electric-powered for quick and easy passenger access.  It can comfortably fit two wheelchairs and two additional passengers. The vehicle meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“We are happy to improve customer service for our riders, and we can do it with the MV1. The ramp makes for easy access for people in wheelchairs and someone on crutches. No need to deal with stairs,” says Ed Bebyn, manager of Parking and Transit.

Unlike many special services vans and shuttles, where individuals in wheelchairs ride in the back or facing sideways, in the MV1 these passengers will now sit up front, facing forward. This new vehicle provides better accessibility and a better experience for riders with disabilities, notes Judy York, director of Yale’s Resource Office on Disabilities. “The new van allows for a stair-less entry which is a huge advantage for people with mobility impairments including knee and leg injuries,” she says.

“Buying these two vehicles involved collaborating with Fleet Management and the Resource Office on Disabilities,” says Don Relihan, director of Support Services. “Functionality was important, but we also wanted to support the University’s sustainability initiative” by purchasing the CNG-powered vehicle.

CNG is a fossil fuel and its combustion does produce greenhouse gases, but it is a more environmentally clean alternative to gasoline or diesel. It is also much safer than other fuels in the event of a spill — it is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. The average cost in the United States for a gallon of CNG is about $2 cheaper than gas — about $2.69 (as of June 11).

Natural gas vehicles are still a novelty, and fueling stations for them are sparse and often privately owned.  Yale will be able to refuel the MV1 at a public access station located in West Haven. Metro Taxi opened this fueling station last fall using a grant for alternative fuel vehicles from the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project — a public/private partnership.

The second MV1 looks exactly the same but is gasoline powered. Over the next few years, Parking and Transit will collect data for a side-by-side comparison of fuel usage, fuel cost, and miles driven.  These statistics will be used for future fleet purchases, especially when Yale units are considering buying natural gas vehicles — which is in keeping with goal of diversifying the Yale Fleet by purchasing more alternative fuel vehicles.

Both MV1s will hit the roads this summer.