GE's Johanna Wellington discusses EVs and natural gas vehicles in her keynote at the 2012 Green Fleet Conference.

GE's Johanna Wellington discusses EVs and natural gas vehicles in her keynote at the 2012 Green Fleet Conference.

SCHAUMBURG, IL – At the 2012 Green Fleet Conference, the Tuesday mid-day keynote featured Johanna Wellington, Sustainable Energy Program Leader with GE's Global Research Center. Wellington focused on two alternative-fuel vehicle technology areas, electric vehicles and natural gas.

In starting her talk, she gave an overview of the current state of U.S. oil imports, at 19 million barrels per day, 14 million of which goes to transportation, citing reducing imports as one reason for developing alternative-fuel vehicle technologies. She pointed out that fuel represents 50% of the U.S. trade deficit.

Next, Wellington went on to discuss electric vehicle technologies, discussing advancements in battery technologies and falling costs over the next few years. She said that the number of vehicle choices has expanded dramatically, with only three in 2010 and now nine in 2012. She said there are more than 5,000 publicly available charging stations, and that wireless charging technology is in development (where a vehicle can simply drive over a charging station rather than plugging in directly).

After speaking about EVs, Wellington went on to discuss how new drilling technologies have reduced the price of natural gas in the U.S. She said the megatrend for natural gas is that the U.S. has roughly 100 years of this fuel type available. Global use of natural gas vehicles is expected to rise to 65 million by 2020.

In the context of natural gas fueling, Wellington described GE’s own offering, its “CNG in a Box” technology. She described it as a “plug-and-play” station designed for rapid deployment, and that its fueling rate is 7.5 gallon equivalents per minute. She then went on to talk about the potential for home natural gas refueling stations and said that although home units currently exist, fueling times are very long, at 10-15 hours. She said GE is researching faster-fill home CNG stations.

Next, Wellington discussed GE’s new Vehicle Innovation Center and invited fleet professionals to come visit the facility. She said she has yet to visit but is looking forward to driving alternative-fuel vehicles on the track at the facility.

She closed out her talk saying that drivers in GE’s own fleet are happy with the EVs, with 92% of them having recently been surveyed as having a very favorable opinion of the vehicles they are driving. After ending her talk, she took questions from the audience.

By Greg Basich