Joy Kramer wants as many people as possible to see the changing face of American transportation.
“We’re here to show what’s available – right now,” said Kramer, the tour director for the third annual Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roadshow, which stopped Friday in Augusta.
Lined up outside the Georgia Regents University Alumni Center were vehicles powered or assisted by propane, biofuels, natural gas, electricity and compressed natural gas.
Newer technology, more cost-effective infrastructure and growing demand are pushing alternative fuel markets forward rapidly, with municipalities often taking the lead.
“Cities and municipalities are looking for ways to save taxpayers some money,” Kramer said. “We take a national conference down to a local level because small municipalities don’t always have the money to travel to large shows.”
In addition to lectures on cost, safety and maintenance, visitors were offered a look at the newest alternative-fuel vehicles that can travel longer distances.
“The performance is already there – absolutely,” Kramer said. “Range anxiety is what keeps people from the technology.”
Exhibitor Whitney Collins, of Georgia-based Force 911, explained the benefits of a Ford F-150 police vehicle outfitted with the company’s propane system, which can switch between gasoline and propane at the push of a button.
Although some cities with alternative-fuel fleets exempt law-enforcement vehicles for performance reasons, propane has a higher octane level than gasoline and has gotten excellent reviews, she said.
“It’s phenomenal how much it saves in fuel costs,” she said, adding that propane is a domestic product – with about 90 percent originating in North America – that can help reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Electric cars and hybrids are growing in popularity and becoming more cost-effective, said Mike Anderson, the sales manager for Efacec USA, which markets the newest generation of “fast chargers” for the electric and hybrid car market.
In addition to providing clean transportation without exhaust emissions, such vehicles are easy to maintain, Anderson said.
“There are no oil changes, no timing belts to replace – you just rotate the tires every 7,500 miles and add a few fluids, and that’s it,” he said, showing a new Nissan Leaf, which has a range of 65-70 miles between charges.
Financial incentives such as a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 Georgia tax credit, he added, have helped make such vehicles more attractive.
Currently, there are about 25,000 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles in use in the U.S. There are about 1,300 Leaf EVs in Georgia.
A U.S. factory for the Leaf was completed recently in Tennessee, which will increase the volume of electric cars available in the U.S.
Although most municipalities are interested in alternative-fuel vehicles, cost is always a primary factor, said Don Francis, the executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta, a partnership linked to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program.
Part of his role is to help municipal fleets shift to alternative fuel as cost-effective as possible.
“It has to be worthwhile financially,” he said. “If the financials don’t work, especially with a local government, it just doesn’t happen.”
There are 8,000 to 9,000 charging stations in the U.S., with as many as 40,000 anticipated by 2016.
The Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roadshow was founded in Georgia by Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols and has spread throughout the Southeast.
Its next stops in Georgia are Valdosta on June 20 and Columbus on June 21.