A Greener Blue Yonder

Goodbye Alternative, Hello Advanced Clean Transportation

May 02, 2018

For far too long the ACT Expo should have called the Methane Meeting or It's A Gas Conference because the star of the show usually has been natural gas, AKA methane, a climate altering, global warming accelerator. Finally, this year, with a change of name, the focus is shifting to electric drive technologies.

I have had the honor to cover the ACT Expo for EV World for a number of years. When I first started covering ACT Expo in Dallas in 2015, “ACT” stood for ALTERNATIVE Clean Transportation, because the main focus at the time was “alternative” fuels, predominately natural gas, both CNG and LNG...and there were very few battery electric or clean fuel hybrid electric vehicles. After the expo last year, where there were more electric and hybrid electric vehicles on the expo floor than ever, (until this year) the expo organizers changed the meaning of the “A” in ACT to ADVANCED Clean Transportation to which this writer says, “It’s about time”.

Wanting to be a good reporter, I attempted to write an article in 2015, 2016 and 2017, entitled, “It’s Gas, Gas, Gas”, echoing Mick Jagger’s famous lyric from Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but I just couldn’t do it because my deep green heart wasn’t in it. Why? Because I am a zero emission purist, and the only true zero emission vehicles are battery electric and fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles. That said, I realize that Cummins Westport developed and is now manufacturing (and has sold more than 7,000 to date) a near zero emission natural gas engine. The ISL G Near Zero (NZ) NOx natural gas engine is the first MidRange engine in North America to receive emission certifications from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Air Resources Board (ARB) in California for meeting the 0.02 g/bhp-hr optional Near Zero NOx Emissions standards for medium-duty truck, urban bus, school bus, and refuse applications.

While I applaud Cummins Westport for producing and certifying the ISL G Near Zero NOx natural gas engine, which has successfully reduced NOx to the lowest level of any natural gas engine in the world, the engine still uses a fossil fuel and like all fossil fuels, this fuel is extracted from Mother Earth, which is a naturally pollutive process irregardless of how careful and conscientious the extractors try to be, and many extractors are not careful or conscientious, not to mention the military cost incurred by protecting fossil fuel sources in dangerous parts of the world.

I realize that about 80% of the natural gas used in the U.S. comes from domestic wells, but what is more troubling is that two-thirds of all natural gas produced in North America is produced by natural gas fracking, During the fracking process, millions of gallons of fracking fluid – a mixture of water, sand and toxic chemicals – are injected into the ground to break up the shale and release natural gas. In addition, there is more and more evidence that fracking has caused, and is projected to continue to cause, more and more earthquakes.

There is not much discussion about the source of the natural gas being used by the ever increasing natural gas powered over the road vehicles, but I think there will be as people become aware that there is a mass adoption of natural gas in light, medium and heavy duty trucks. This reminds me when I was trying to acquire electric car manufacturer Th!nk in Norway from Ford 18 years ago. The EV naysayers, who were successful in killing the electric car, started talking about driving a clean car powered by dirty electricity, which is surely less the case today in California, where 2/10s of 1% of the state’s electricity comes from coal. It is unlikely any of the large trucking companies, delivery companies or industrial companies that have switched over to natural gas systems, will ask or “really” care about where the natural gas they buy and use is coming from because the customers just want the products they are bringing to be delivered on time irregardless of where the natural gas came from to power the truck that delivered their packages, products, raw materials, and food, although the conscientious consumer will be happy to know that the carbon footprint associated with their delivery was greatly reduced because it was delivered with a natural gas fueled truck and in California, there is even the possibility that the natural gas vehicle was fueled with RNG - Renewable Natural Gas, which has been adopted en masse in Scandinavia and Northern Europe as it makes SO MUCH sense.

Now that I have “come clean” and explained to EV World Editor, Publisher and long time friend, Bill Moore, why I have not submitted articles from ACT Expo for the last three years, over the next few days, I will report what I consider to be game-changers in electric and fuel cell hybrid electric technologies on the expo floor and in the many break-out session I will be attending. In closing, from what I have seen so far, and from the many innovators I have spoken with, I am encouraged that the clean transportation revolution (which EV World has been reporting about since its inception) IS FINALLY HAPPENING. Amen......

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