The NAFTC and the automotive industry had a lot to celebrate in 2009. The industry experienced tremendous new improvements and discoveries in technology, and an outpouring of funding for research and development, deployment and educational and outreach opportunities. The NAFTC was on the receiving end of several federal funding awards to develop new education and outreach materials and programs, as well as seeing an increase in National Training Center membership.
Several of the key industry activities reported in the eNews this year include the following:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) celebrated their 15th anniversary in March, bringing together Clean Cities Coordinators, program staff, and industry and government stakeholders at their Washington, D.C. headquarters. Clean Cities was founded on the belief that reducing dependence on foreign oil can be better accomplished by working together toward a common goal.
The NAFTC had the opportunity to be a part of the U.S. DOE Clean Cities Program team working toward a common goal. Clean Cities informed the NAFTC of a $1.6 million grant as part of their Petroleum Reduction Technologies Projects for the Transportation Sector. The U.S. DOE also awarded the NAFTC with other grants this year, including one for $6.9 million under the Transportation Electrification program. The NAFTC was also thrilled to help with the opening of the first hydrogen production site in West Virginia at Yeager Airport in Charleston. The grants make projects such as this possible.
The NAFTC is grateful that these and other grants will allow the consortium to develop more curricula and training in the coming year, and to work with its members to extend educational outreach across the country. Several new members joined the NAFTC team to help in that mission in 2009, for a total of 42 members, 41 National Training Centers and one Associate Training Center. Some of the members had the opportunity to meet for a Business and Professional Development Meeting in Orlando, Florida in August. The meeting was held at the Disney Yacht Club Resort, where attendees had the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills and learn about AFVs and advanced technologies.
Many of the members worked hard to advance alternative fuel vehicle programs in their communities, and several were recognized for their efforts such as six-year member Ohio Technical College, which was named the 2009 School of the Year out of 170 entries. A newer member, Lawson State Community College, received a grant toward CNG training and a fueling station.
In addition to the many successes that the NAFTC and its members saw in 2009, the automotive industry also saw some successes, and many changes. In February of this year, President Obama signed into law a $789 billion economic stimulus bill, which we now know as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The installation of this bill continues to affect alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles in several ways. It lays out a detailed plan for economic stimulus including the creation of millions of new green jobs. The plan also strives to eliminate our current oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela in 10 years, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
In order to meet these goals, federal, state and local governments across the country are creating incentives for people to reduce their emissions. In Louisiana, a new tax incentive has been implemented to convert vehicles to natural gas. With the incentives came an increased demand for technicians to service the vehicles. The NAFTC helped to set up a special training for new NGV technicians in that area. Another incentive that increased in cities across the country in 2000 was parking priorities for AFVs. While the parking perk has been more prevalent in big cities, many smaller towns’ governments and businesses have also been enforcing it.
New and exciting improvements in technology were also in the headlines for 2009. Toyota partnered with the University of Tohoku in Japan to develop a new technology to improve the storage capacity of lithium ion batteries ten-fold. These improvements could mean much more practical and marketable electric vehicles for consumers. Hybrids are also becoming more efficient than ever with bright minds like Toni Font, a recent graduate of the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Enginyers Industrials de Barcelona (ETSEIB), who discovered a way to reduce fuel consumption by 67 percent.
Businesses also reacted to the changes in government policy and new technology by shifting their energies toward releasing more hybrid vehicles. This does not come as a surprise since we saw natural gas reach a seven year low, as reported by the American Gas Association (AGA) in June. The prices have dropped in part because, as the AGA reported, there is a one hundred years’ supply of natural gas available.
The good news continues as the NAFTC recently announced that the new National AFV Day Odyssey will be held October 15, 2010. This will be the fifth installment of this event and the goal is to reach millions again to further promote the use of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.
Indeed, 2009 was a year of many changes, many improvements, and many successes. As we reflect on this past year, and we learn from our experiences, the NAFTC looks forward to spreading the word about alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles as we progress in the year ahead.