Scott Schultz, senior associate dean at Mercer University’s College of Engineering, has been working on restoration of a 1957 Ford Thunderbird at home.
“I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t find leaded gas,” he said during remarks at Wednesday’s Clean Energy Roadshow at the Georgia college. “Sixty-five years from now, when our grandkids are restoring 2022 cars, will they be able to find gas?”
Schultz said it’s an exciting and transformative time in the field of energy and transportation.
“A lot of changes are coming quickly,” he said. “I never expected to see so much change happening so fast.”
The roadshow, produced by Event Energy Partners and hosted by Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, started in 2010 as an alternative fuels technology roundtable but grew into a series of energy seminars with ride-and-drive opportunities.
The roadshow events “helped me see we needed to create the public-private partnership,” Echols said. And, he said, it goes beyond the borders of the state of Georgia. “Our target may be one college, one city, one county looking to decide about alternative fuel, but we see more takers on this technology every year.”
Glenn Halliday, electric transportation manager for Georgia Power, noted that growth in the electric vehicle market is undeniable.
“You can’t open a newspaper or look at the internet without seeing people talking about electrification,” he said during a roadshow session. “We can’t wait for when the vehicles get here to put the infrastructure in the ground. We have to prepare now.”
Ian Skelton with Atlanta Gas Light promoted compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. AGL has worked with fleet customers such as the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), DeKalb County, and UPS.
Currently, there are 26 CNG stations distributed throughout Georgia.
“With our infrastructure program, if you have a fleet, you can location a (CNG) station on property, work with a gas station to co-locate, or share with another company,” Skelton said.
Stephen Whaley with Propane AutoGas said that a resource must accomplish four things before it can replace diesel and gasoline:
- Be cleaner
- Be cheaper
- Be as good or better when it comes to performance
- Be abundant
Whaley said the United States exports 20-billion gallons each year while using 10-billion domestically.
“We move (propane) in pipelines, rail cars, transport trucks,” he said. “It’s a very portable fuel.”
Andy Moore, Blue Bird Corporation’s director of electrification and a 2010 graduate of the host university, noted that more than half the buses built by the company these days use alternative fuels such as CNG, propane, and electric. He expects demand for electric buses to keep rising with the passage of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
“Besides being the cleanest way to get to school, buses could be used for storage of renewable energy,” Moore said. “Most of the time, buses sit idle during the school day or in the summer. Using (vehicle-to-grid) technology, buses can store excess power when demand is down, and then at night when the sun goes down, export power as demand comes back up.”
He also envisioned making electric buses available for disaster response.
“I see a future where buses can pull up and plug in, helping power relief operations until crews get the grid up and running again,” Moore said. “Electric school buses can be used for a lot more than safely transporting students to and from school.”
Greg Boike, director of public administration at the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said he’s excited about the opportunities awaiting communities seeking to shift to alternative fuels, not just because it keeps air clean, “but it’s good for your local economy and good for your business’ bottom line.”
He urged school districts and other organizations to build a team and be ready for the federal grant process as the infrastructure funding legislation turns into action.
“If you don’t have a plan, you’re not going to be successful,” Boike said. “The time to be building that team is yesterday. If you didn’t build that team yesterday, today is a great day to be starting on that too.”
The Clean Energy Roadshow makes one final stop Thursday at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Savannah. Registration is free. The event is available for in-person and virtual attendance.