After 16 months of confinement for business travel, I have been traveling for a good part of the last six weeks. At the ACT (Advanced Clean Transportation) exhibition and the ATA Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) fall meeting, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and, to a lesser extent, hydrogen vehicles , were the subject of numerous presentations and panel discussions. At ACT Expo, the focus was on the status and prospects of green technologies.
I went to my first ACT Expo about eight or 10 years ago and most of the talk revolved around natural gas (CNG and LNG), with little mention of battery power or hydrogen. That has certainly changed both at the ACT Expo I attended three years ago and this year. Electric, hydrogen and hybrid batteries now dominate the debate. In addition to people discussing their vehicles that use these technologies, there are a host of other companies involved in the infrastructure, including power companies, charging station providers, truck stops and other providers. related technologies.
Many problems remain. Technologies advance, but there are still many of the same barriers to making these technologies viable for many applications. A constant obstacle is the price of vehicles with alternative propulsion compared to internal combustion vehicles. As more fleets study these technologies, the long-term question remains: will fleets buy if they don’t receive financial incentives to buy?
[RELATED: TMC experts share guidance on preparing a facility for EV service]
Higher volume production should lower prices, and for some companies a strict price comparison (purchase price, operating cost, resale price, etc.) is not the only consideration. If the business owner truly believes this technology is the right decision for the environment, or if a business thinks it will help keep or attract new customers by using green technology, the math can be adjusted. .
Automakers, fleets, and governments have many bold goals for what percentage of green vehicles they’ll sell, buy, and contract for in the not-too-distant future. While price and technology are potential hurdles to these goals, I think infrastructure may be the biggest challenge (which is easy for me to say as it has been repeated by many more knowledgeable people than me. during these meetings). It was also the biggest challenge discussed years ago regarding LNG.
Looking only at the BEV, there is the chicken-and-egg discussion of which comes first – enough vehicles to justify charging stations or charging stations to justify purchasing vehicles by fleets. .
The ACT Expo is held in California. While I was there I saw TV commercials on how to moderate my electricity use to help reduce stress on the power grid, which would appear to conflict with adding a large number of BEV vehicles. Maybe nuclear power should be reconsidered – just an idea.
There is also the obstacle of the inexperience of state, county and local governments in authorizing, authorizing, directing and specifying what can and cannot be done in the construction of charging stations. This will change over time and there are some markets that are leading in this area.
[RELATED: More from MacKay & Company: It’s that time of year]
There are certainly a lot of challenges and different opinions on how to overcome challenges. What has impressed me the most to date are the large financial commitments of companies to these technologies, and similar commitments of private equity and investment banks in this sector. This large number of smart people involved does not guarantee a positive outcome but should improve the chances of success.
John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for over 20 years and is currently Vice President of Sales and Marketing, responsible for customer contact for single and multi-client projects. He can be reached at [email protected]