Alternative Fuel Vehicles Topic of Forum Hosted by the Chicago Clean Energy Alliance - Panelist Discuss Trends, Adoption, and Challenges

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The Chicago Clean Energy Alliance convened a panel of industry professionals to discuss the growing use of alternative fuel vehicles by consumers and fleet operators. Adoption challenges and trends were discussed, including those driving vehicle technology innovation and the impact of the new U.S. fuel economy standards finalized by the Obama Administration in August.

The Chicago Clean Energy Alliance

Despite a number of current and future challenges, the auto industry, consumers, and businesses have made extraordinary investments in these vehicles and it looks like they will continue to do so

On Tuesday, October 23rd, The Chicago Clean Energy Alliance (CCEA) hosted a wide-ranging discussion of the growing use of alternative fuel vehicles, such as those employing hybrid, electric, and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) engines. The event featured a panel of real world users of alternative fuel vehicles including Marc Klein, Vice President at Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and Co-Founder of Vehicle Production Group, Brian Levin, Director, Strategic Accounts at ChargePoint and Richard DeBoer, Executive Vice President, at Ozinga Brothers. Mike Hanley, who is an Editor, at and Jeff Riley, President, Riley Public Affairs, rounded out the panel. Richard Saines, who is a Partner at Baker & McKenzie, hosted the event at their Chicago office and served as moderator.

“This discussion couldn’t come at a better time,” said Saines. “Despite a number of current and future challenges, the auto industry, consumers, and businesses have made extraordinary investments in these vehicles and it looks like they will continue to do so.”

After introductions, the discussion started with an overview of the new fuel economy standards provided by Jeff Riley with Riley Public Affairs. Riley mentioned his involvement with the passage of the new rules when he worked on behalf of Pew Environment Group and went on to detail the new standards finalized by the Obama Administration in August for car and light duty trucks and the new standards for work trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles, which were passed in August 2011. “The combination of these new rules are projected to have a profound impact on consumers and the environment and will undoubtedly serve as the primary driver of new vehicle technologies,” said Riley.

From there the panelist took a closer look at the impact of not only the new fuel economy standards but also a number of trends they are seeing today. For instance, Mike Hanley, who is an Editor, at had this to say about the consumer auto market: “Automakers are already taking steps to improve the fuel economy of their models by reducing vehicle weight, boosting the efficiency of conventional gas engines and introducing more hybrids. It’s a response both to increasing fuel-economy standards and gas prices at the pump.”

Brian Levin with ChargePoint added, “as a provider of charging systems, I see the EV market from a unique perspective so let me say this: electric vehicles are not only here to stay, but businesses, building owners, and corporations are beginning to see the economic potential of installing charging stations and responding positively."

The panel also took time to discuss the benefits of converting fleets to an alternative fuel, with an emphasis on the benefits of natural gas. Marc Klein, who is V.P. at Clean Energy, which is the leading provider of natural gas stations in America with more than 300 locations, said, “natural gas fuel for vehicles is cleaner, cheaper, abundant, and American. It’s critical that your vehicle fleet rolls out every day and on time, and by using natural gas instead of diesel or gasoline, you’ll save about $1.50 per gallon (or more) here in Chicago.”

For trucking fleets, Clean Energy’s natural gas fueling network – called “America’s Natural Gas Highway” -- will enable trucks to operate in key markets and between markets using fueling stations along major interstate trucking corridors. “Of course, Chicago is leading the way with CNG VPG MV-1 taxis already on the streets and that improves transportation for everyone, including people who have mobility issues,” said Klein. In addition, Clean Energy’s vehicle upfit company, called BAF Technologies, is approved by Ford to make CNG E-Series and CNG F-Series vehicles. BAF is the leading U.S. provider of natural gas vehicle systems and conversions, and it recently produced its 20,000th CNG vehicle conversion.

Richard DeBoer, who is Executive Vice President at Ozinga Brothers Ready Mix Concrete, which recently opened Chicago’s first natural gas fueling station to serve its 30 CNG concrete mixers, had this to say: “natural gas is cleaner, more abundant, affordable, and American which makes using CNG as a transportation fuel ideal, especially for local delivery fleets that leave from and return to the same location each day.”

The discussion concluded with the panel taking questions from the audience and was another successful event hosted by the CCEA, which continues to be Chicago’s premier networking organization for clean energy and clean tech professionals.

About the CCEA:
The mission of the Chicago Clean Energy Alliance is to bring together professionals in the Greater Chicago area to make valuable business connections, discuss cutting-edge ideas, and advocate for policies that will enable a productive clean economy. We promote the development of innovative strategies and companies that will lead the world to a clean economy while placing our region in a position of leadership. CCEA attracts experts in wind, solar, biomass, bio fuel, coal, carbon capture & sequestration, energy efficiency, water, electric vehicles, commodities, education, government, and professional services. We bring in corporate leaders, government officials, and other energy experts to educate members on the latest trends and policies.

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