Alternative Fuels and Emergency Response


The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) has produced a series of case studies through its Initiative for Resiliency in Energy through Vehicles (iREV) program. While there is a plethora of economic and environmental incentives to utilizing alternative fuel vehicles, these stories highlight another important aspect AFVs can serve – availability when traditional fuel systems fail.

Biodiesel

In 2004, following a vigorous hurricane season, municipalities throughout Florida experienced prolonged fuel shortages. Without any pipelines, Florida relies on ships to deliver its supply of petroleum. When ports are forced to close because of inclement weather, supply issues are sure to arise. Fortunately, due to a program that began in 1999, Florida Power & Light (FPL) has a fleet of 1850 biodiesel vehicles along with over five million gallons of storage capacity available in times of need.

Throughout the last decade, FPL’s fleet has driven over 100 million miles on biodiesel, loaning out vehicles to assist communities across the state when petroleum was in limited supply. For example, in 2005 during Hurricane Wilma FPL was responsible for pumping nearly 200,000 gallons of biodiesel per night throughout the region.

Compressed Natural Gas

The use of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles has proven crucial in emergency response scenarios. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is responsible for maintaining one of the busiest transportation networks in the country. During Super Storm Sandy in 2012, traditional fuel supplies were cut off due to power outages and other supply interruptions. The large fleet of CNG vehicles insured that essential supplies were able to reach their destinations. Similarly, during the same storm, Atlantic City’s fleet of CNG “Jitney” buses were able to provide crucial evacuation, medical transportation, and emergency supplies throughout and after the storm, when other fuel sources were shut down.

Electric Vehicles

Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) are typically thought as taking energy from the grid in order to charge their internal battery. Increasingly, electricity from PEVs is being exported out of the vehicle and being used as an auxiliary power source. During the wildfires of 2015 in the Sierra Nevada Mountain region, communities were forced to evacuate due to the looming threat of danger. Many individuals took refuge in a shelter in Calaveras County. Unfortunately, the scenario had rendered the shelter powerless. A Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) PEV hybrid vehicle was able to power the shelter for two days, until an alternative dwelling was accessible. This technology has potential to be used in innumerable situations – from powering communications to maintaining traffic control systems.

While alternative fuel vehicles have proven benefits such as reduced emissions, decreased dependence on oil, and life-cycle economic benefits; it’s important to also consider how alternative fuel vehicles function in crisis situations.

Case studies provided by Initiative for Resiliency in Energy through Vehicles (iREV) and National Association of State officials (NASEO).

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