Monday, September 27, 2010

Fleet Manager Paul Condran on Realistic Range, Propane Problems, and NGV Greatness

Paul Condran disagreed with some of the points I made in a newsletter last week on green car trends and realities. He offered his perspectives on the topic, and certainly has the credentials. Check out a video interview we did with him earlier this year on being recognized for his green fleet management. I met Condran, City of Culver City’s Equipment Maintenance Manager, when he hosted a daylong seminar for municipal fleet managers on how to understand and effectively comply with California’s emissions regulations. Here's what he has to say about range limitations, propane problems, how hybrids should be labeled, and the multiple benefits of natural gas vehicles.

The Chevrolet Volt is not an EV. It’s a version of a plug-in Hybrid using gasoline and battery for is propulsion systems. The Leaf, CODA and others are 100% EV Vehicles as there is no internal combustion engine. The industry still needs to do more in battery and electronics technologies to continue and overcome the range limitations. Albeit, the CODA claims to achieve over 100 miles, (as with all 100% EVs) much depends on the quality of the batteries, state and rate of charge, use of the heating or A/C systems, and vehicle loads. A plug-in Hybrid simply means you can plug in the car anywhere using a standard 115V outlet and recharge the batteries for additional battery power and range, thereby reducing the use of the internal combustion engine wherever possible. On acceleration, heavy loads, traveling up grades, etc., the engine is providing the primary power in these vehicles.

Propane: Propane as been around for 100 years. The auto industry has tried and failed to successfully bring these vehicles to market. Several reasons propane is not a viable option: lack of infrastructure, safety, petroleum based, fuel cost, lack of available vehicle options, tanks are very heavy, and engine technology-reliability has been terrible. Propane is also a very dirty fuel by itself producing considerable amounts of NOx. Although using catalyst technologies can reduce a lot of these bad emissions.

Hybrid vehicles (gasoline or diesel powered) are not alternative fuel vehicles. They all use fossil based petroleum fuels engines, and do little to remove us from oil dependency. They do achieve higher MPG (which is really good for fuel consumption and consumer costs, etc.), which I suppose can equate into moderated tailpipe emissions. I refer to these vehicles as “Fuel Alternates,” not as alternative fuel by any means. They are a pathway for the OEMs to receive federal tax and emissions credits because they help the total manufacturing allotment of all new vehicles produced by the OEM.

Natural gas powered vehicles on the other hand are true alternative fuel vehicles. There are no limitations in range (if properly specified), fuel is abundant, and there are over 2,500 CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) stations throughout California and more in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and many, many other states. Natural gas has been around for over 150 years. It’s safe, viable, cost effective, extremely clean (96% cleaner that gasoline or diesel), and 100% removes us from oil dependency. CNG is also very safe; in fact, the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe have been heating our homes, drying our clothes, and using it to cook on for decades and decades. CNG - the clean, true, alternative fuel.

--Paul Condran

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