The dream of being able to drive across country on alternative fuels started long ago, even before the promise of a “hydrogen highway” by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, or other similar plans throughout the country. Attempts of making this trek in the past have required careful planning to include the exact locations to refill, or carrying along extra fuel for safe measures.
As stated by Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, “what [we] are lacking are clear signals on stations and how drivers will be able to drive long distances. Our industry is committed to offering the vehicles, but the reality is there needs to be a very significant effort to expand the alternative fuel infrastructure.”
As stated by Territo, this infrastructure is critical and one such expansion was completed last fall with the opening of a four-state “biofuels corridor” along Interstate 65. On October 7-9, 2008 a series of special events and promotions in four states officially marked the completion of the two-year project which began with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Indiana Office of Energy Development. This grant funded E85 and B20 stations along I65 in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Indiana worked in leadership capacity with states not currently equipped with biofuel infrastructure to expand the use of E85 and B20 from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. These events were part of the National AFV Day Odyssey celebration, coordinated by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities program and the Indiana Office of Energy Development.
Interstate 65, extending 886 miles between Gary, Indiana, and Mobile, Alabama, is the nation’s first “biofuels corridor.” Today the corridor designation means that a driver is no more than 100 miles from a participating E85 retailer. The project funded 21 E85 and 8 B20 stations with a few more to still come. Matching funds for construction and conversion were provided by individual retailers.
The corridor, spanning the four states, was completed thanks to Julie Howe with the Indiana Office of Energy Development (IOED), who worked with Carl Lisek of Indiana’s South Shore Clean Cities, Kellie Walsh of Central Indiana Clean Cities, Melissa Howell of the Commonwealth Clean Cities Partnership (CCCP) in Kentucky, Mark Bentley of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC), and the State of Tennessee Governor’s Office and Department of Transportation. In addition, support for the events came from General Motors, who donated 6 flex fuel vehicles used for the corridor drive, as well as fuel for the vehicles, and a luncheon in Indiana and a dinner in Alabama; and EPIC who provided advertisement funds for radio spots, for each event.
Recently there was an announcement about plans for an Alternative Energy Highway stretching from the Canadian border to Mexico, creating what has been dubbed a “green freeway.” Governors from three states, California, Oregon, and Washington are working together to find a way to turn Interstate 5, spanning 1,382 miles, into a revamped highway corridor with spots to swap or charge electric vehicle batteries, as well as stations for biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, and compressed natural gas refueling. With the new economic stimulus package putting a tremendous emphasis on alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and the infrastructure to support them, hopefully we will see a tremendous increase in these types of projects throughout the country.
www.I65biofuelscorridor.com, and additional information on the Alternative Energy Highway plans can be found at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008827158_greenfreeway08m.html.