Alternative fuel vehicles’ (AFVs) and advanced technology vehicles’ popularity and rate of adoption continued to rise in 2006. Automobile manufacturers, government leaders, consumers, and industry players helped focus interest and the spotlight on this technology. In particular, hybrids and ethanol- and biodiesel-powered vehicles made headlines throughout the past year.
Hybrids continued to be a consumer favorite, and a large number of automakers responded by offering a variety of these vehicles on the market. In addition, hybrids were widely adopted for use as service vehicles. For example, the United Parcel Service, United States Postal Service, taxicab services, Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, and rental car agencies all integrated hybrids into their fleets. Interest in plug-in hybrids also increased. Plug-In Partners, a national campaign requesting automobile manufacturers to accelerate the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, was launched in January. More on the potential of plug-in hybrids can be found in July’s edition of eNews in the Let’s Clear the Air column titled, “Plug-In Hybrids: A Developing Solution to America’s Oil Dependence.” With the rise in hybrid ownership and usage, technicians/engineers who possess the skills and knowledge to work on these vehicles were, and continue to be, in great demand. More information on this story and on the NAFTC’s hybrid course offerings can be found in the July eNews story, “HELP WANTED: Hybrid Engineers.”
Use of alternative fuels, especially ethanol and biodiesel, to power vehicles continued to increase in 2006. In March, the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition and Illinois Senator Barack Obama joined together to call for a more aggressive national ethanol policy in terms of making more ethanol refueling stations available and federal aid for building a stronger and broader fueling infrastructure. More E85-capable vehicles emerged on the market as well, and the total number of E85 stations surpassed the 1,000 mark. To determine if you drive a flexible-fuel vehicle, revisit the Let’s Clear the Air column, “How To Identify E85/Flex Fuel Vehicles,” in the October/November eNews edition.
Biodiesel continued to grow in popularity, and the United States and Canada joined together for the Biodiesel 49 Degrees Border Project, an initiative that seeks to reduce diesel emissions from utility trucks through the use of biodiesel. Also in 2006, several states adopted biodiesel for use in their fleets or were hosts to biodiesel projects or new production facilities. The increased interest in biodiesel led to the word’s inclusion in the 2006 update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh edition)! More information can be found in the August eNews story, “‘Biodiesel’ Makes It into Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary!“
Many types of tools came on the scene in 2006 to help drivers find stations offering alternative fuels. One of these aids, www.mapmuse.com, is an interactive map which tracks fueling stations offering biodiesel and ethanol. Another tool is an alternative fuel station locator and map that displays public and private fueling stations, offered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Also, a toll-free number for assistance in locating biodiesel was launched by the National Biodiesel Board.One of the big exclamation points for AFVs and advanced technology vehicles this year was the celebration of National AFV Day Odyssey 2006, detailed in the October/November eNews story, “National AFV Day Odyssey 2006 – Another Tremendous Success!-” Odyssey’s mission is to relay the importance of AFVs and advanced technology vehicles in creating clean air and energy independence. This year’s event was held at 60 locations nationwide and abroad, with the 2006 National Kickoff Media Event conducted at the Arlington County Courthouse, in Arlington, Virginia. Nearly 40,000 individuals attended Odyssey, and it is estimated that media outlets reached more than 30 million people. The success of Odyssey helped cap a tremendous year for the AFV and advanced technology vehicle industry!