The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

Electric vehicles take spotlight across nation at September showcase at The Market at Pepper Place

(M. Bentley/Contributed, YHN)

This week, gasoline taxes in Alabama went up six cents a gallon. The costs of maintaining cars and trucks, well, they certainly aren’t going down.

How can drivers save money – aside from staying off the highway? One great way is to join the move toward economical, clean electric vehicles.

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More than 1.2 million plug-in electric vehicles (EV) – not including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles – have been purchased in the United States as of June 2019. Major automakers are cranking out thousands of electric vehicles every day, including manufacturers associated with Alabama – Mercedes Benz, Honda and Hyundai. The Mercedes manufacturing plant in Vance has been building plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for years and will begin turning out all-electric vehicles soon.

There are currently 58 EV models on the market, with many more on the way, although not all are available in Alabama yet.

Plug-in electric vehicles, unlike hybrids (which are also better for the environment), do not use any petroleum products. That means there are no emissions, which means the air is not polluted by driving an EV. Driving an electric vehicle costs about 25 percent less than operating a gasoline-powered car or truck. Those costs are even less if drivers are able to charge for free or at discounted rates during off-peak hours – which is the case at homes served by Alabama Power Co. – at their workplaces or at public chargers.

EVs have fewer moving parts than a vehicle fueled by gasoline or diesel. Fewer moving parts means relatively little servicing is necessary and no engine to worry about. There is no starter motor, fuel injection system, spark plugs, transmission, valves, fuel tank, catalytic converter or radiator – just to name a few – parts that potentially break down in petroleum-powered vehicles.

Most manufacturers provide batteries for electric vehicles that have at least an eight-year warranty. Battery life technology is improving every year, too, so we can only imagine what is on the horizon.

The technology for fueling an EV has been around for a couple of centuries. The “fill ’er up” request for an electric vehicle means you merely plug it into an electrical outlet at your home – or one of the thousands of charging stations across the nation. With a home charger, EV owners can save on their electric bill with a rider available in Alabama Power’s service area based on overnight charging.

Non-EV owners often point to a concern over the number of public charging stations available – commonly known as “range anxiety.” Not to worry. Technology in many electric vehicles allows you to plot your trip based on charging stations along your route. Remember, too, the median range for EVs is approaching 250 miles. Plus, the vast majority of your charging (more than 80 percent, nationally) will be done at home.

Electric vehicles are clean and quiet. The transportation sector in the U.S. accounts for almost one-third of our nation’s carbon pollution. Each year in the United States, we burn roughly 133 billion gallons of petroleum products in our passenger cars and trucks. Cars and light trucks on the road account for about 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the nation.

All-electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and, even taking into account the emissions from the electricity produced to charge EVs, these vehicles on average emit significantly less carbon dioxide than conventional vehicles. As we clean up the electric grid, electric vehicles will even get cleaner over time.

Electric vehicles do produce American jobs, including many in Alabama. Advanced technology vehicles and components are being built in at least 20 states, creating thousands of new domestic and well-paying jobs.

These smooth and quiet vehicles are fun to drive, too. EVs have high torque, even at low speeds, providing instant accelerator response.

You can get a hands-on look at new and used electric vehicles from Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, BMW, Toyota and Honda on Sept. 14 at The Market at Pepper Place (in the parking lot in front of Betolla’s restaurant on Third Avenue South) at Birmingham’s celebration of National Drive Electric Week. Talk with EV owners about the fun, excitement and cost savings they get from their choice in vehicles. The NDEW Showcase runs from 8 a.m. until noon.

This event is being facilitated by the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, UAB Sustainability, Alabama Power Co., the City of Birmingham and ZEOG (Zero Emissions Owners Group).

Mark Bentley is the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition

1 year ago

Survey: Electric vehicles make sense for Alabama drivers

(ACFC)

As many as 50 million Americans are about to flip the switch over to electric automobiles with their next purchase, according to the American Automobile Association. A recent survey conducted by the AAA found that popularity of electric cars is trending upwards. With infrastructure and availability all here, Alabama can lead the charge toward electric vehicles.

In its survey, AAA asked Americans if they were considering electric vehicles for their next car purchase. The survey found that 20 percent of Americans say their next vehicle will be an electric car – up 5 percent from 2017.

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The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition encourages Alabamians to make the move to an alternative fuel vehicle, such as an electric car. Electric vehicles offer nothing but benefits, from being more cost-efficient due to cheaper fuel to less expensive maintenance to being environmentally friendly.

Alabama’s relationship with Mercedes-Benz could be a factor in the state’s future with electric vehicles, too. The automaker announced in January it would be rolling out an electric version of each of its vehicles by 2022. With Mercedes – and most other automakers – launching more electric options, there have never been more alternative fuel vehicle options than we have today.

The Tuscaloosa County facility is the only Mercedes plant in the United States, and it will play a central role in the production of these electric vehicles. As these electric vehicles begin to be produced by the people of Alabama, the next logical step is for them to begin driving them as well.

There has never been a better time to switch over to electric. It is a common misconception that it is a hassle to charge your electric car, whether that be at home or on the road. Charging at home can be done through a 120-amp power supply, which is the same three-prong outlet that powers your television.

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition is determined to make driving an electric vehicle in Alabama comfortable by assisting in getting proper infrastructure in place. Alabama currently has 84 electric charging stations, and a total of 198 charging outlets scattered across the state in almost all major cities.

More and more charging stations will continue to pop up across the state as more electric vehicles hit the streets. Current electric charging stations can be found at convenient locations in public, and some residential areas. The new Tesla charging stations in downtown Birmingham are just one prominent example. Several online sites, such as plugshare.com, provide charger locations.

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition serves as the principal coordinating point for clean, alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle activities in Alabama. The ACFC is part of the national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions that bring together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements and emerging technologies.

According to Alabama AAA PR and Marketing Director Clay Ingram, our state is warming up to electric vehicles as the technology and infrastructure begins to develop at a rapid pace.

“We have come a long way in accepting this, in a short number of years,” Ingram said. “We love our vehicles in Alabama, and I think there is a lot of room for (electric vehicles) as the technology continues to develop.”

With an average gas price of $2.91 – its highest cost since 2014. Gas prices are expected to increase over time without any anticipation of dropping. The average American spends $1,400 on gasoline a year, while average electric vehicle charging costs are $540 annually. Unlike gasoline cars, electric vehicles don’t typically require oil changes, fuel filters, spark plug replacements or emission checks. In electric vehicles, even brake pad replacements are rare due to the fact regenerative braking returns energy to the battery.

With all the aforementioned factors in mind, it is no surprise that the AAA estimated a below-average cost of ownership with electric vehicles. Electric cars also are the least expensive when it comes to yearly maintenance.

Since the 1970s, lawmakers in the United States have been putting effort into facilitating the research and growth of electric cars. The urge to reduce carbon emissions has given electric car production a lift. Electric vehicles emit an average of 4,500 pounds of CO2, with gasoline cars emitting more than double that.

This current shift to electric will not only have an environmental impact, but also an economic one. According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States has made progress in importing less oil, but still imports nearly 20 percent of what is consumed. The increasing use of electricity as an alternative fuel will further push the United States toward economic independence from foreign countries.

The benefits to driving an electric car are endless! To learn more about the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and advice on purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle, please visit www.alabamacleanfuels.org.

Mark Bentley is the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition.