Electric vehicles and alternative fuels take center stage in Alabama


Buddy Gamel would have claimed the prize for most unusual entrance to the Odyssey Day event last week on the Bessemer campus of Lawson State Community College.

The president of Precision Sales & Service, which specializes in alternative fuel conversions, puttered into the auditorium of the Ethel Hall Center for Automotive Excellence on a red propane-powered scooter.

“I do it whenever I can get away with it,” the Birmingham businessman said. “People tend to remember it when I do that.”

About 60 people had a lot to remember as they were shown the latest advancements in alternative fuels and vehicles.

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition joined Lawson State in sponsoring National Odyssey Day. The event included educational presentations on domestically produced alternative fuels, including compressed natural gas, propane autogas and electric alternative fuels.

“It’s really meant to be the odyssey of growing into a market and using the alternative fuels,” said Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition’s Mark Bentley. “It’s a growth opportunity, or it’s an odyssey moving forward. All these fuels are available today and all of them are domestically produced, which is marvelous.”

Three appealing options

Gamel said propane has been one of the most-used alternative fuels, although it has largely been behind the scenes.

“Any time gasoline starts going up, you start hearing about alternative fuels again,” he said. “I’m just a believer that it’s a good alternative fuel no matter what the cost of gasoline is because you can’t budget for gasoline. You can budget for propane. You know what you’re going to pay for it for the year. You’re not going to have any surprises.”

Jim Roberts is the public information officer with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority in Pensacola, Florida. He cited an unusual complaint the company receives about its CNG-fueled garbage trucks.

“Our customer service department gets calls from customers about missing the garbage collection,” he said. “Why? Because they couldn’t hear the truck coming in the morning. These trucks are very, very quiet, unlike the diesel trucks. That’s a great problem to have.”

Cedric Daniels of Alabama Power said people are always eager to hear him talk about electric-powered cars.

“Cars are like candy,” he said. “You want to see them. You want to see the cool ones. You’re interested, and we all use them, so we can identify with them.”

And, he added, there are many makes and models.

“There are SUVs. There are sports cars, sedans. There are crossovers,” Daniels said. “There are many other types of vehicles that customers have a choice to acquire.”

Go green, save the world

Lawson State President Perry Ward said alternative fuels affect everyone.

“It actually impacts our environment – the air we breathe, the way things are in the community,” he said. “It’s very, very important and will impact every single person in the country and in the world, when you think about smog and all other things like that. We’re trying to go green and save the world.”

Odyssey Day featured a discussion on the $25.5 million from the Volkswagen settlement that will be available to be spent in Alabama. The money is targeted to reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality in the state, via grants that will – for example – replace aging diesel engines with ones that use alternative fuel sources, such as compressed natural gas, propane or electric.

The $2.9 billion Volkswagen settlement was negotiated with the federal government following the company’s attempts to cheat on emissions testing. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management will administer the state’s share.

Visit http://www.alabamacleanfuels.org/ for more information.

Republished with permission of Alabama NewsCenter.