Reaching Georgia Fleet Managers

Original article by Holly Jessen, Ethanol Producers Magazine.

Just recently, I learned about the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Roadshow. The basic goal of the roadshow is to educate fleet managers, city leaders and state legislators about alternative fuel vehicles. Since 2012, 36 events have been held in Georgia, Tennessee and more are planned in other Southeastern states. According to the website, “The mission of the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Roadshow is to serve the alternative energy economy, by advancing ideas about propane, natural gas, biofuels and electric vehicles which drive the transportation industry forward.”

This year, for the first time, there was a biofuels presence at the roadshow, said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. Does that surprise you? It did me. Previous roadshows included information about propane, fuel cell, electric vehicle and natural gas transportation technologies, but nothing about biofuels.

During the last roadshow, which was held June 17-26 in multiple Georgia cities, information about flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) was included as part of the The FlexFuel Awareness Campaign, a program of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and the Clean Fuels Foundation. Additional financial support was provided by Growth Energy and other groups, including some ethanol producers and the corn grower groups from Kansas and Nebraska, Sneller told me.

Clean Fuels Executive Director Doug Durante and Sneller were on hand to talk to hundreds of fleet managers about FFVs and E85. Part of the rally is a visual show, displaying the actual alternative fuel vehicle, and the second part is a series of presentations about the different technologies. Although GM, Ford and Chrysler were all contacted to provide a FFV for the roadshow, all turned the opportunity down, Sneller said. Fortunately, a local dealership provided a 2014 Chevrolet Impala, which was displayed with educational magnetic signs and banners about FFVs and E85 pumps. Now that the event is over, they’ve been busy following up on requests for additional information and assistance, he added.

Participating in the event would not have been possible without the help of Tim Echols, a Georgia public service commissioner who drives an FFV and is a vocal advocate for alternative fuels. Echols connected Durante and Sneller with the dealership and spoke to fleet managers about ethanol and distillers grains production. He also invited other commissioners and legislators to the event. “The messenger was important here,” Sneller said, adding that at Echols’ request, he’s mailing him a magnetic sign about FFVs for Echols to display on his personal vehicle.

In fact, Echols is the reason the Clean Fuels Foundation and the Nebraska Ethanol Board decided to participate in the roadshow in the first place, after he made contact asking for educational materials, Sneller said. The southeast is an important growth market for ethanol where not much has been done to educate consumers about use of the fuel. At this point, E85 is still somewhat of a novelty in Georgia. Many Georgians are driving around in FFVs without even realizing they could fill up with alternative fuel, a fact that Sneller finds ridiculous.

It’s not practical for Durante and Sneller to attend all the upcoming roadshows, nor is there enough funding for that. Sneller appealed for more financial support for the project, as well as local participation in the individual stops. The next series of stops will be held in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.