Post and Courier
July 29, 2014

Alternative fuel backers get word out in Charleston area about power sources for cars and trucks other than gas and diesel

Posted: 11/23/2013 12:01 a.m.


By Jim Parker

EV celebrations and eco-friendly tours have helped to keep benefits of “clean” fuels such as propane, natural gas, biofuels and electric in the public eye locally.

For instance:

• A group of clean energy businesses and advocates sponsored the Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roadshow. It toured three South Carolina cities including North Charleston on Oct. 30 to promote vehicles powered by non-gasoline or diesel sources.

“Our community is seeing an ever-growing number of cars and trucks on the road, and we must support and bolster the use of alternative fuel sources to power our vehicles,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said.

• As part of the third annual National Plug In Day, Charleston area electric vehicle (EV) drivers and enthusiasts met Sept. 29 at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park to “tell about their life with electric vehicles.” Backers said they aimed to demonstrate the “fun, clean-air benefits and cost savings” of electric cars.

“I endorse any vehicle that has a plug,” said local organizer Richard Williams, who displayed his Tesla S electric vehicle.

The first-time alternative fuel roadshow negotiated its last South Carolina stop at North Charleston Coliseum, having visited Columbia and Greenville the two previous days.

“With North Charleston’s national reputation for sustainable urban revitalization, it is fitting to have the Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roadshow in our city,” Summey said. “From national security to clean air, alternative fuel sources are the demand of the future,” he said.

According to roadshow backers, alternative fuel vehicles consisted of a VIA Electric VTRUX Extended Cab truck, Ford F250 Propane police truck, Peterbilt Liquid Natural Gas tractor cab, Ford Transit Connect Compressed Natural Gas van, Nissan Leaf sedan, BlueBird Vision Propane school bus and a Chevy Volt four-door.

For the past year-and-a-half, the alternative fuel series toured the Southeast, visiting 33 cities.

The trip took place to showcase “the practical impact of clean, alternative fuels in today’s vehicles,” according to organizers. Attendees were able to wrangle close looks at propane, biofuels, natural gas, electric and compressed natural gas vehicles, while company representatives answered questions on cost, safety, maintenance and conversion financing.

The roadshow’s tour director Joy Kramer said trucking fleets benefit from the switch to natural gas fuel. Tractor-trailer trucks fuel with liquefied natural gas at participant Clean Energy’s station in Latta.

“As more shippers and fleets convert to moving America’s freight with natural gas, key markets will continue to open up with new fueling infrastructure,” said Brett Alkins, business development manager at Clean Energy.

New markets, in turn, help America in “reducing our dependence on foreign oil even further,” he said.

Backers promoted propane as the most “plug-and play” ready of all the propane fueled vehicles.

For more information, visit www.AFVRoadshow.com or call 678-810-0929.

A month earlier, the Lowcountry Plugin Drivers organized the EV gathering to parallel National Plug In Day.

Across the country, electric vehicle owners and their neighbors held electric car parades and “tailpipe-free” tailgate parties, recognized leaders promoting EVs and launched new public EV charging stations.

National organizers were Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.

The Mount Pleasant event was “one of more than 60 across the country,” Williams said. EV brands at the Waterfront Park included Tesla, Nissan Leaf and a Toyota Prius plug in. He said the Volt, Ford Fusion, Chevy Spark and Honda Fit are among other electric vehicles and Volvo “is working on one.”

Meanwhile, dealers note that BMW plans to roll out its i3 EV hatchback by spring 2014.

Williams said Tesla, according to its high-tech navigation-information system, intends to build electric “superchargers” across the country. A map shows two fill-up stations planned in South Carolina, one near Interstate 95 and the other closer to Charleston.

The organizer said he expects more events in the future. “We do this to promote EVs,” he said.

For more information on Charleston’s electric community, visit Lowcountry Plug In Drivers on its Facebook page, e-mail EV_driver@me.com or call 843- 633-1607.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.