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.

1 month ago

National Drive Electric EVent in Birmingham to showcase latest EV technology

(Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition/Contributed, YHN)

Imagine there’s a simple way to save your family money, help the environment and support the creation of American jobs in one simple step.

It’s not science fiction. It’s the reality for motorists who have chosen to drive electric vehicles (EVs) instead of gasoline-powered cars and trucks and explains how EVs have emerged as the fastest-growing transportation vehicle segment.

Anyone wanting to get an up-close look at electric vehicles and learn more about them can visit The Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham (in the parking lot in front of Betolla restaurant on Third Avenue South) on Saturday, Oct. 3. Electric car owners will be on hand from 8 a.m. until noon as part of a National Drive Electric Week EVent co-sponsored by the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC), UAB Sustainability, Alabama Power Company, the City of Birmingham and the Zero Emissions Owners Group (ZEOG).

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Several precautionary measures have been put in place in recognition of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Masks will be required for all participants, and the reserved EV parking spaces in front of Bettola Restaurant have been expanded to promote social distancing.

The electric vehicle movement has gained traction in Alabama – and throughout the country.

In July, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the Alabama Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan, which the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs developed to set short and long-term strategies to guide expansion of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state. Currently, there are approximately 400 EV charging outlets at 149 different public charging stations in Alabama.

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition is working on a collaborative effort with 13 other states to develop branded, state-specific EV programs, launch local EV “chapters,” and expand current stakeholder outreach and education efforts to increase EV adoption rates across consumer and fleet markets.

Alabama has also emerged one of the nation’s leading states for automobile manufacturing. Automobile plants in at least 20 states are now building electric vehicles, creating thousands of new jobs. Mercedes-Benz is leading the charge in Alabama with a $1 billion, 600-job expansion that includes all-electric vehicle production and a state-of-the-art battery factory in Bibb County. DURA Automotive Systems announced in late August an investment of $59 million to open a manufacturing facility in Muscle Shoals that will produce battery trays for electric vehicles.

As major automakers increasingly produce electric vehicles every year, American consumers have taken notice and embraced the new technology. Through July 2020, more than 1.5 million plug-in vehicles have been sold in the United States and the rate is accelerating as more electric cars hit the market.

There are already 50-plus domestic models of electric vehicles, and it’s estimated the number could balloon to 120-plus by 2022.

The U.S. EV market is expanding rapidly, with sales surging 86% in 2018, according to a recent report from the Alabama Transportation Institute, and one estimate suggests there could be 3 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2025. More than 1 million plug-in vehicles have been sold.

It’s easy to see why. Driving on electricity is about five times cheaper than fueling with gasoline, and consumers are finding it’s more convenient to simply plug in when you arrive home than stop at a gas station for a fill-up.

Electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain because there are no oil changes and have 10 times fewer moving parts than a gasoline-powered car.

All-electric vehicles have no tail pipe emissions and, even taking into account the emissions from the electricity produced to charge EVs, the vehicles on average emit significantly less CO2 than conventional vehicles. At the height of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in early 2020, vehicle emissions in the United States and United Kingdom fell by a third due to fewer drivers on the road. As we wrote in a May op-ed, wider use of electric vehicles and the other domestically produced alternative fuels would lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil while also helping our environment.

Not only are EVs good for the environment, but these smooth, quiet vehicles are also fun to drive. EVs possess high torque, even at low speeds, which translates into instant accelerator response.

In response to more Alabamians discovering electric vehicles, the National Drive Electric Week EVent in Birmingham on Oct. 3 provides a prime opportunity for anyone to learn more about EV technology by talking to real EV owners.

Electric vehicles give off zero emissions, are economical to drive and provide good, high-paying jobs for Alabamians. That’s a win-win-win scenario that benefits us all.

Mark C. Bentley has served as the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition since August 2006.

About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition serves as the principal coordinating point for clean, alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle activities in Alabama. ACFC was incorporated in 2002 as an Alabama 501c3 non-profit, received designation U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program in 2009 and was re-designated in 2014. A national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions brings together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements and emerging transportation technologies.

and 5 months ago

Guest: Cleaner air during pandemic shows need for alternative fuels and electric vehicles

(Mark Bentley/Facebook)

Photos of a smogless Los Angeles skyline set against a brilliant blue sky have emerged as an iconic image to showcase the impact of decreased air pollution during America’s COVID-19 quarantine.

Similar photos from around the world, including what are usually smog-filled cities in India, China and Europe, provide a glimpse of a world with improved air quality.

It’s no secret that poor air quality has historically been caused by traffic, but due to tighter regulations by the federal government, industries’ contribution to pollution has decreased significantly. Scientific research is beginning to show how social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders have created an unintended consequence of improving worldwide air quality.

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For nearly two decades, the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has been advocating to improve Alabama’s air quality by increasing the use of cleaner alternative fuels and expanding the market for advanced technology vehicles. Cleaner burning alternative transportation fuel options like biodiesel, ethanol, propane and natural gas also reduce pollution just like electric vehicles.

Air pollution remains a global public health crisis, as the World Health Organization estimates it kills seven million people worldwide annually.

But is the COVID-19 pandemic showing us the wisdom of transitioning to cleaner vehicles, whether electric vehicles with drastically lower emissions or vehicles using cleaner-burning alternative fuels? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Recent research shows global carbon dioxide emission had fallen by 17 percent by early April when compared to mean 2019 levels. In some areas, including the United States and the United Kingdom, emissions have fallen by a third, thanks largely to people driving less, according to research published in Nature Climate Change.

Numerous organizations, including NASA, continue to study the environmental, societal and economic impacts of the pandemic, and researchers view recent air quality gains as promising evidence that the use of alternative vehicles could have long-term positive impacts.

“If I could wave my magic wand and we all had electric cars tomorrow, I think this is what the air would look like,” Ronald Cohen, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at UC Berkeley who studies the effects of the stay-at-home orders on air quality, told the Los Angeles Times.

Wider use of electric vehicles and the other domestically produced alternative fuels would lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil while also helping our environment. Poor air quality already causes negative consequences for millions of Americans.

Alabama could also see economic benefits from increased production of electric vehicles, with Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz operating plants in the state and working hard to produce the next wave of electric vehicles. As part of a $1 billion investment in Alabama, Mercedes began construction of a high-voltage battery plant in Bibb County in 2018 for its all-electric EQ brand of vehicles, as well as batteries for its hybrid plug-ins.

“This is a teaching moment,” Viney Aneja, an air quality professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University, told the Raleigh News and Observer. “We should learn from it. We should promote behavior that will allow air quality to be as good as it is outside right now.”

This is a prime opportunity for America to embrace alternative and cleaner-burning transportation fuels, as well as electric vehicles, while also decreasing reliance on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home.

It could also make those picturesque photos of the big-city skylines become commonplace instead of a rarity.

Mark Bentley has served as the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition since August 2006.

Phillip Wiedmeyer serves as the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition’s chairman of the board of directors and president and is one of the ACFC’s original founders. He also serves as the executive director of the Applied Research Center of Alabama, a non-profit dedicated to public policy issues impacting Alabama’s growth, economic development and business climate.

About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition serves as the principal coordinating point for clean, alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle activities in Alabama. ACFC was incorporated in 2002 as an Alabama 501c3 non-profit, received designation U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program in 2009 and was re-designated in 2014. A national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions brings together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements and emerging transportation technologies. To learn more, visit www.alabamacleanfuels.com.

1 year 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

2 years 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.