March 16th, 2009

Eco-Friendly Fuels Common man and policy makers both are increasingly being made aware of the importance of clean and green fuels in near future. The governors of 3 states have come forward with a plan to transform Interstate 5 from a freeway dotted by gasoline burners to a sanctuary for eco-friendly cars and trucks. The people chalking out this plan are Marty Brown, Gregoire’s legislative liaison, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.

This plan will provide the required boost to the green vehicles. That green freeway will stretch from Canadian to Mexican border. If approved, the project can kick start in this summer itself in Washington. Jeff Doyle, who is the director of public-private partnerships at the Washington State Department of Transportation, states “We originally coined it the B.C.-to-Baja green highway. The three states are trying to find out if we can all march forward together.”

Vehicles powered by alternative fuels face the biggest hurdles in the form of lack of recharge stations. That’s why people hesitate to take the inter-state highways in alternative fuel vehicles. Recharge stations are not mushrooming like gas stations. So alternative fuel drawn vehicles are facing “who came first, chicken or egg” like situation. Enough green vehicles are not mass produced due to lack of infrastructure and enough recharge stations are unavailable because there are not enough vehicles on the roads. But if this plan is implemented, people will be able to pull off at I-5 rest stops for usual cup of coffee and snacks. But they will be able to recharge or exchange their electric vehicle batteries too. Compressed natural gas, ethanol, hydrogen or biodiesel too will be available for respective vehicles. People driving on alternative fuels can take the less traveled road too without much headache.

Doyle encouraged the companies by not charging the rent till they break-even. They are thinking of establishing the fueling stations and battery swap-out docks first in West Coast states. This will not be an easy step. The concerned planners have to cross the bureaucratic hurdles and get the approval of local and federal authorities. But the benefits would be immense. It will generate green jobs and the states will be eligible for some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus money dedicated to energy-related programs.

Jeff Doyle stated that till now no formal contracts were signed with any company but a California-based company, Better Place, that has electric-car service stations in Israel had shown interest. This company is already in the process of setting up recharge stations in Hawaii, the Bay Area, Australia and Ontario, Canada. This company is headed by Shai Agassi, who is a former Silicon Valley software executive. He is touring the world publicizing his dream of a network of electric-vehicle charging stations. Shai Agassi said if the company were hired it would provide charging stations in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. They would also establish battery switch-out stations at rest areas about every 40 miles along the I-5 corridor.

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