May 31, 2018 | Vol. 68, No. 10
Dear PEI Member:
Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the Fuels Institute. If you don’t know much about the Fuels Institute, it’s worth investigating. They consistently generate some of the best research and insight anywhere on the future of vehicles and fuels.
Among the meeting’s highlights were presentations by the three finalists in the Fuels Institute’s 2018 University Case Competition, which PEI helped sponsor. For this year’s competition, the student teams were asked to establish a likely timeline and outlook for the evolution of the light-duty vehicle fueling infrastructure in the U.S. through 2040.
As one of the judges, I had read through and graded all of the teams’ written entries. So, I knew what was coming. Even so, the oral presentations were fascinating. The finalists—from Duke, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Rice, Carnegie-Mellon and other top-tier schools—reached varied conclusions about what the next 22 years will bring. Without exception, however, each saw a future in which electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous technology will play an increasingly important role.
They’re right, of course. EVs and autonomous technologies are coming. Only the pace and extent of the penetration in the U.S. remain uncertain. Four news headlines from the past month give a sense of the advances and obstacles in this country:
● May 3: Anheuser-Busch placed an order for 800 hydrogen-electric powered semis from the Nikola Motor Co. as part of an effort to convert its entire long-haul fleet to renewable power by 2025.
● May 16: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) began an investigation of two recent Tesla EV autopilot crashes.
● May 21: Consumer Reports declined to give Tesla’s much heralded Model 3 its recommendation, citing the vehicle’s unacceptably long stopping distance. Tesla immediately announced that a software fix should solve the problem, and Consumer Reports agreed to a redo.
● May 22: Twelve major auto manufacturers and related trade groups sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) a letter touting the role EVs could play in helping the nation’s light-duty fleet meet future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets.
by e-mail to the editor, Rick Long at email@example.com
or join the discussion in the Petroleum Equipment Forum
But the story that really caught my attention was a lengthy May 23 Fortune article based on an interview with Mary Barra, the innovative CEO of General Motors (GM).
In the past two years, GM has invested $500 million in the ride-sharing service Lyft; spent $1 billion to buy San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle pioneer Cruise; and purchased Strobe, whose laser systems can accurately discern distances and identify objects.
The article described GM’s new Vehicle Engineering Center as a high-tech wonderland that would rival that of any Silicon Valley company and noted that 40 percent of GM’s employees have been with the company less than five years. So, even as Barra is driving change from above, GM's new generation of workers is leading change from below.
If you want a hint of what GM thinks about the future, this quote from Barra is as good as any: “We’re very proud that we’ve been providing mobility to people for over 100 years. Cars changed the way people lived, where they work, how cities came together. It gave people a freedom that they still love. Well, what came with that? Safety issues, crashes, environmental concerns, and the frustration of congestion. With the new technologies, we’re now equipped to solve those problems.” (emphasis added)
Make no mistake. GM isn’t abandoning internal combustion, liquid-fueled vehicles. Equally important corporate initiatives and investments are focused on improving the efficiencies of those models. GM’s challenge is to simultaneously tend to its core business, which currently accounts for nearly all of the company’s revenue and profits, even as it develops the next-generation technologies with which it will face the future.
Sounds a little like the challenge facing PEI members, doesn’t it?
Today, liquid fuels are everything in our industry. But tomorrow (whenever tomorrow comes), the vehicle and vehicle fueling infrastructure mix will look different. Like GM, your job is to maximize current business while positioning yourself to compete in what will be a very different future.
I think our industry is up to that challenge. Members tell me they are actively diversifying their product lines, entering new markets and adjusting their business models. And at last month’s PEI board of directors meeting, three of the 12 distributor members present said they already have begun installing EV charging station equipment.
The future is coming. The time to plan is now.
STRENGTHEN E15, E85 DISPENSER LABELING INTRODUCED
According to the bill’s sponsors, 95 percent of recreational boat owners fill up at vehicle fueling stations rather than marinas, but current labels do not provide adequate information on the risks of misfueling.
If enacted into law, the EPA would have 180 days to issue new labeling requirements.
COMMENTS ON DRAFT TANK CLOSURE DOCUMENT CLOSE JUNE 15
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FROM THE STATES
Dover Fueling Solutions announced a partnership with Kingspan to offer AdBlue retail dispensers and storage tanks to retail and commercial markets in Europe under Dover’s Wayne and Tokheim brand.
Seneca Cos. made two appointments in its Waste Solutions division. Chris Stewart was named outside sales representative for the east region. Stewart was previously with Modern Welding, Schwob Energy and Seneca’s Fuel Systems division. Paul Villa is the new operations manager for Seneca Waste Solutions’ Tulsa, Oklahoma, branch. Villa comes to Seneca after 12 years at Matrix Industrial Services.
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The TulsaLetter (ISSN 0193-9467) is published two or three times each month by the Petroleum Equipment Institute. Richard C. Long, Editor. Opinions expressed are the opinions of the Editor. Basic circulation confined to PEI members.