DOT to support electric vehicles with national alternate fuel network
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), hoping to spur the electrification of U.S. transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the highways, says it has designated 55 routes that will act as a national “alternative fuel” network, enabling drivers to fuel vehicles without traditional gas and diesel-powered engines.
The network will alert drivers to refueling opportunities for alternative fuel vehicles, including electric, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas. Those corridors designated “sign-ready”, meaning where alternative fuel stations are currently in operation, will be eligible to feature new signs informing drivers where they can find fuel. Though the network is nearly 85,000 miles long and spans 35 states, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says more miles will be added in the future to accommodate growing demand for alternative fuel vehicles.
“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said Foxx. “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”
In July, Secretary Foxx had called on states to nominate national plug-in electric vehicle (EV) charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling stations corridors along major highways, in an effort to promote use of the technology. According to the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. drivers consumed nearly 72 billion gallons of gasoline in the first half of 2016, a 3 percent increase over the same period last year and the largest percentage increase in almost two decades, and drove more than 3.15 trillion miles last year.
The announcement comes as utilities start to expand their adoption of green automobiles. According to the Wall Street Journal, members of the Edison Electric Institute pledged to spend 5 percent of their fleet-vehicle budgets on electrics in 2014. This year, they are expected to spend 13 percent on electrics.
Last week, Duke Energy announced it would be purchasing plug-in electric pickup trucks from Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group. The trucks, which run for about 80 miles in electric mode before tapping into a gasoline engine, will be used to help fix power outages and manage or repair electric distribution lines.
Mike Allison, head of fleet design and technical support at Duke, told the Wall Street Journal the utility plans to buy 500 of the Workhouse models by 2019, provided they meet the company’s expectations.
“If we had to pick two electric vehicles we’d buy in large numbers, it would be four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and small SUVs. But nobody builds anything in that space right now,” he said.
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