Birmingham hosts global electric transportation conference

Personal electric vehicles are becoming a larger part of the automotive mix and electric transportation is growing in other areas as well. (Katie Bolton / Alabama NewsCenter)

Electric transportation advocates from around the world met at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham March 28-30 to discuss the industry’s progress and ways they can collaborate to continue that growth.

“Electric transportation is an emerging market that has a really broad scope – private, public, big and small businesses, from all different industries – all have an important role,” said Dan Bowermaster, program manager for electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

“The technology is great, people are getting educated on the benefits, and what we are meeting about now is crucial to that growth because no one can solve this by themselves, but together,” Bowermaster said.

The National Electric Transportation Infrastructure Working Council (IWC) meeting brought to Birmingham more than 110 people from eight industries and from countries as far as away as Taiwan and Australia.

The IWC identifies and prioritizes electric transportation issues, works to resolve the issues, and develops consensus to report results and recommendations. Covering both on-road and off-road efforts, the IWC discusses the growth of the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid industries and the electrification of mass transportation that spans truck stops, seaports, airports, rail yards, warehouse/distribution, mining and transit.

“When we started this group 10 years ago we knew we all needed to get on the same page to advocate for certain things to get done,” said Bowermaster. “One big example of something that has come out of this partnership meeting is the universal charging connector for all electric vehicles. When they were first being developed, we understood the need for just one universal connector and we joined all our advocacy efforts to make it happen.”

The meeting is held three times a year in various places around the United States. Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern Company, hosted the meeting.

“Southern Company and Alabama Power have been leading in the research, development and technology space of electric transportation for almost 30 years,” said Randy Johnson, Electric Transportation director for Southern Company. “It is so great to bring this group from all over the world together because it is a great opportunity to talk about the strategy behind electric transportation, and the benefit of having a complete program to move it forward.”

Representatives from electric utilities, vehicle manufacturing industries, component manufacturers, government agencies, infrastructure companies, code and standard organizations and universities were on site.

Topics included high-power DC fast charger options and bus and truck charging connector standards. Attendees experienced the Southern hospitality they had always heard about from the IWC’s members from Southern states.

“I would say about 90 percent of the meeting’s attendees have never been to Alabama, and they have just been blown away by all it has to offer, from our meeting venue at the Barber Motorsports Museum to the great Southern food,” said Cedric Daniels, Electric Transportation manager for Alabama Power. “We are so excited to have the opportunity to host people from all over the world and share with them the elements that really make Birmingham, and the state of Alabama, great.”

“You can feel the energy in downtown Birmingham and that, combined with the Southern hospitality, is truly electric,” said Bowermaster. “I will definitely be back to experience more.”

Republished with permission of Alabama NewsCenter.