Reflections on 2011 remind us what an exciting year it has been for the alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle industry as well as for the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC).
The year has seen an increase in the industry’s roll-out of new alternative fuel vehicles. Honda has made the 2012 Civic Natural Gas available in 35 states, while Ford, Toyota and General Motors have announced new electric drive vehicles.
Two-thousand eleven has also been a time of important collaborations. Bus company, Blue Bird, has paired up with Ford and Roush Clean Technologies to introduce the propane-powered school bus in hopes to increase green solutions to its customers. In September, Toyota and Ford teamed up to begin development on hybrid technology built for light-duty trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Both companies are equal development partners for a new rear-wheel drive hybrid system and component technology.
In addition, many major corporations including AT&T, Coca-Cola, Enterprise Holdings, FedEx, Frito-Lay, General Electric, Osram Sylvania, PepsiCo, Ryder, Schwan’s, Staples, ThyssenKrupp Elevator, UPS and Verizon are now part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Fleets Partnership. The National Clean Fleets Partnership helps broaden efforts to use clean, advanced, energy-efficient vehicles and the infrastructure in communities across the country. Corporate partners achieve greater fuel efficiency and cost savings for their company fleets.
Another important industry development was the May unveiling of new fuel economy labels that incorporate electric drive vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation introduced new fuel economy labels that will educate consumers on a vehicle’s efficiency standards when shopping for new cars. The labels will be available on all 2013 models and will make it easier for the consumer to make comparisons on smog and pollution emissions and overall environmental impact of cars.
As the industry makes progress on products and collaborations, the NAFTC has continued its exciting work on projects, curricula development, training and outreach and education activities.
First Responder Safety Training under both the Clean Cities Learning Program and the Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program has been going on all year, all over the country. Firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and hazard response teams have been participating in these crucial workshops that teach first responders about the differences between alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and their conventional, gasoline-powered counterparts.
Anyone interested in learning about the NAFTC’s various first responder opportunities should visit afvsafetytraining.com, which serves as a portal for its First Responder Safety Training courses, workshops and products, such as the quick reference guide (QRG) and the mobile device app.
A key element when conducting training is to have the appropriate vehicles. Thanks to funding from the Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program, the NAFTC purchased a Chevy Volt in July, and it has already been used as a training tool at several workshops and meetings.
In January, the NAFTC began a partnership with Pittsburgh-based food retailer Giant Eagle to help train its automotive technicians on compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. The company’s distribution unit, Talon Logistics, now has 10 CNG Volvo trucks as well as a public refueling station and a private one.
In June 2011, the NAFTC held a beta Propane Vehicle Training in preparation for the release of the updated course, which is now available. The revised course will give automotive technicians an overview of propane, technology, components and systems. Supported by hands-on experience, the training program features instruction in layout, maintenance, safety and emissions controls.