Looking back at 2014, it has been an extremely exciting year for the alternative fuel vehicle industry.
Alternative fuel vehicles were supported through several government initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continued the EV Everywhere challenge and invested more than $55 million to advance efficient vehicle technologies as part of the program. The U.S. DOE Clean Cities Initiative and the National Parks Service announced projects at nine parks to cut emissions by deploying alternative fuel vehicles.
Support of cleaner vehicles will continue through next year. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should finalize fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks early next year.
As the benefits of electric vehicles continue to be apparent, large companies and fleets are converting to them. NASCAR and Sprint joined the EV Everywhere workplace charging challenge. Coca-Cola converted a large portion of their fleet to hybrid electric vehicles.
Manufacturers continue to invest time and money in improving their electric vehicle products. General Motors invested $449 million to improve their operations at electric vehicle production plants. Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the long awaited Gigafactory.
Nevada was selected as the site of the TESLA Gigafactory. Credit: EDTA.
Governmental agencies and automotive manufacturers increasingly supported hydrogen vehicle research and development throughout 2014. Toyota unveiled their first fuel cell vehicle for sale and collaborated with FirstElement to create a hydrogen refueling network in California. In November, Toyota announced a partnership to create a “hydrogen highway” on the East Coast as well.
Toyota staged their new fuel cell vehicle North American debut at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June 2014. Credit: Toyota Motor Corp.
Honda prepared for the 2015 introduction of their fuel cell-electric concept vehicle by installing a hydrogen refueling station on its Torrance, California campus.
The U.S. DOE invested $20 million to continue the advancement of hydrogen production and delivery.
Researchers continued to work on more efficient ways to turn biomass into vehicle fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy financed technologies to produce biofuel. Michigan State University studied the potential of both switchgrass and algae. Additionally, researchers from the U. S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest lab found a way to turn algae to crude oil in less than an hour. Researchers at West Virginia University studied ways to turn poplar trees into biofuels.
Jonathan Cumming tends to poplar saplings in his lab at West Virginia University. Credit: West Virginia University.
Interest in natural gas and propane as an automotive fuel continued across the country. To help fleets that are interested in conversions, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) released a suite of cost calculator tools for customers in three of the industry’s fastest-growing markets: agriculture, commercial landscape, and road fleets. Fleet managers are able to use these tools to calculate the benefit of transitioning their fleets to vehicles such as the Chevrolet Impala or Ford F150.
On the other side of the world, the first floating liquefied natural gas project was launched off the coast of Australia.
The past year has shown great growth in the alternative fuel industry. We look forward to 2015 with optimism. National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium Director Bill Davis commented, “The year’s activity in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles shows how committed the people that work in the industry are. The future will be cleaner, safer, and more secure for our children and grandchildren because of the work of these individuals. The success stories of the past year show that together we DO make a difference.”