Enlisting a Chico State newcomer to pick up leaves dropped by the campus arboretum’s 2,700 catalogued trees at the peak of foliage drop may seem unfair—but that’s exactly what Facilities Management and Services did last fall.

Two months later, the unit is pleased to report that its new electric street sweeper—the first of its kind in the 23-campus California State University system—was up to the task.

Thanks to urging by FMS Associate Vice President Mike Guzzi—and total buy-in from University administration—the department added a D.Zero2 street sweeper from Dulevo International to its fleet of vehicles that clean the campus grounds, collect and mulch leaves, and provide overall maintenance.

The purchase made history as Chico State became the first CSU to use an all-electric street sweeper. It also aligns with the University’s strategic priorities of resilient and sustainable systems and is a significant step toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the campus carbon footprint, and achieving the University goal of climate neutrality by 2030.

“The campus and its leadership are dedicated to meeting our aggressive sustainability goals by investing in items like this,” said Guzzi (Civil Engineering, ’06). “Our goal is to eventually move as many of our vehicles to all-electric as possible, so getting this large piece of equipment purchased is a major step in the right direction.”

A digital dashboard of an all-electric street sweeper.
FMS operators quickly acclimated to the digital dashboard of the Dulevo all-electric street sweeper. (Photo by Mike Alonzo)

The University street sweeper typically operates five days a week, for about four to six hours a day, patrolling the 12 acres of promenade and pathways on the 130-acre campus. In addition to maintaining a sanitary environment and tidy aesthetic, it prevents the clogging of storm drains, slip and trip hazards, and staining of hardscape. From October to December, its workload peaks as the campus sycamores, maples, and hundreds of other species drop their leaves for the year.

When FMS Manager of Logistics and Transportation Jeff Hensley went looking for the right fit for campus needs in a street sweeper, the Dulevo vehicle caught his attention as it was small enough to fit anywhere on campus, can fit two operators comfortably, has the power and capacity to handle the volume of debris collected during the fall and winter months, and is entirely electric. The new sweeper was acquired with FMS vehicle replacement funds and ultimately replaces its diesel-powered predecessor.

Supervisor of Grounds and Landscape Services Mike Alonzo (Agriculture, ’07) noted that there were some initial concerns with a new all-electric vehicle, including long-tenured staff learning a totally new technology. Battery life was also a question—employing a four-phase charging system, the Dulevo requires several hours to attain a full charge—especially with the sheer number of leaves dropped onto campus.

“With this vehicle, we thought, ‘will this thing make it through the day?’” he said. “We put it out there through the end of our leaf season and it did its job. So, if it can handle that, we know it could handle the normal work of cleaning up areas of campus.”

An all-electric street sweeper picks up leaves on a rainy road.
FMS put its new all-electric street sweeper to work in the fall—and it passed the test with flying colors.

Even in the first few months of use, the Dulevo sweeper has reaped measurable benefits. While it will save an average of 475 gallons of diesel fuel the old street sweeper used per year, the new unit will also provide an annual reduction of 860 pounds of carbon dioxide. Additionally, the Dulevo is 13 decibels quieter than its gas-powered predecessor.

“It slides right into that priority of being a sustainability-minded campus,” Alonzo said.

Alonzo said that boasting the CSU’s first electric sweeper has inspired other campuses to pursue similar electric vehicles.

“It’s nice to be a leader in that,” he said. “We put ourselves out there as a leader in substantiality, so it feels good that we can back it up.”

FMS is also responsible for many other campus initiatives related to the environment, from the planning and construction of new buildings with energy and water efficiency at the forefront of design, to solar panel maintenance, to composting of leaves and plant material into mulch that then feeds and benefits landscaping across campus. It also maintains a majority of campus vehicles, including the electric golf carts and mail delivery vehicles, and landscaping equipment.