Development of alternative fuel vehicles in the last several years has been spurred in large part by the federal government—through tax credits and exemptions, grants, and mandatory renewable fuel standards.
Join Patt Morrison as she test drives the cars of the future:
Enid Joffe, president of Clean Fuel Connection, told KPCC’s Patt Morrison at the 2011 AltCar Expo that the new question she asks herself is “I’ve got multiple vehicles to choose from. Which one am I going to get next?”
These cars may be only a snapshot of what's to come. In California, AB 32 aims to reduce greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That could mean more cars and buses will run on alternative fuel. Joffe said that under AB 32, California will have a %30 renewable energy standard, which is considerably higher than the state’s current %10 standing.
“We’ll be driving on sunshine,” Joffe added.
This also might mean more options for car buyers, less dependence on volatile gas prices and fewer air pollutants. But that’s all contingent on whether current infrastructure can be updated to support those cars. The power grid’s in a sorry state. You don’t see hydrogen fuel stations on every corner. And how well do plug and play electrics really work?
Rick Teebay, fleet and transportation analyst at Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, also spoke with Patt Morrison, and he said that these sentiments are nothing new.
“100 years ago, when people purchased their first petroleum car, there might not have been a gas station on every corner, as you and I are accustomed to. And so somehow you take this great leap of faith, and you have to realize that there are options,” he said.
Teebay suggested that much of the infrastructure needed to support EVs already exist. Previously abandoned sites that were developed in the 90s can still be used; they just need a little tweaking to fit modern needs.
“If you think about having a plug in a wall—it doesn’t matter what you’re plugging in to that, it matters that the circuit that’s there,” he said.
Joffe said that many builders are starting to include EV-friendly outlets when constructing new homes.
Peter Ward heads the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology program, one that came to existence in California in 2006. The program receives 100 million dollars a year for investment in the production of fuels, vehicles, and the requisite infrastructure required. Ward said they have already committed over 276 million to these projects.
Ward told Patt Morrison at the AltCar Expo that he “think(s) California is very blessed to have this opportunity and, in effect, lead the nation in the development of these alternative fuels.”
Are alternative fuel vehicles here to stay? What changes need to be made for alternative fuel vehicles to enter the mainstream? How do you imagine the future of cars in America? Is sufficient infrastructure the only hurdle, or are there other obstacles that alternative fuel companies need to be wary of?
Rick Teebay, fleet and transportation analyst at Los Angeles County Department of Public Works; program manager at the Office of Sustainability, Los Angeles County
Peter Ward, department head of Alternative Fuels and Vehicles, California Energy Commission
Enid Joffe, president, Clean Fuel Connection, one of the companies installing electric vehicle chargers and natural gas fueling stations across the region; formerly with Edison