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Alternative Fuels–Changes to the Automotive World

Simon Kvilhaug /
  • Categories: EHS

In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger made the jump from action star to politician when he was officially sworn in to the office of the Governor of California. Of his many policies and initiatives, the “Hydrogen Highway” program, an initiative that endeavored to establish a route of Hydrogen fueling stations to support the main stream use of Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles, set in motion a series of events that are today having a massive impact on the viability of alternative fuels as a mainstream automotive solution. A decade later, in 2013, CA Governor Brown expanded Schwarzenegger’s efforts outside of The Golden State, by joining with 7 other Governors on both coasts of the United States, to sign the “8 State Zero Emissions Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding,” initiating Zero Emissions Vehicle programs in each of their respective jurisdictions.

These programs and initiatives have allowed companies like Toyota to jump into the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle game with the recent commercial release of their Mirai. Hyundai’s Fuel Cell Tucson, Honda’s Clarity, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell are just a few of the other products that either already have, or shortly will, follow suit.

Not to be outdone by the passenger vehicle market, in 2016, Nikola Motor Company unveiled the Nikola One, the first of its kind: a Hydrogen powered semi-truck. The Utah-based truck company complimented this reveal (and quieted some critics) with the announcement of plans to substantially boost available fueling infrastructure, by installing over 300 Hydrogen fueling stations throughout North America. With plans to make them accessible to other fuel cell vehicles, the move is an obvious attempt to increase the practicality of these vehicles across the board.

Not everyone has complete faith in Hydrogen, however. Elon Musk has been a vocal critic of this emerging technology, focusing his efforts on the other front running alternative fuel technology. His significant investments in Tesla, and bringing electric powered vehicles to the market, have been a widely publicized, often praised, and an apparently successful push to reduce carbon emissions by consumers in the transportation sector.

While the environmental benefits of alternative fuels appear to be obvious, the cost of some of these vehicles may seem daunting. As an answer, there are some substantial benefits, financial and otherwise, designed to urge consumers into the world of alternative fuels. Tax breaks, fuel incentives (an offer of several years of free fueling in the case of Toyota), and access to designated travel lanes and parking spaces, are just a few of the combined public and private sector incentives available.

It may not yet be decided which of these power systems will emerge as the new dominant automotive system. But there is one fact on which we do have clarity (no pun intended, Honda): There are unavoidable changes coming to the automotive world. In fact, they are already here. Alternative fuels are no longer something to be thought of as a pipe dream. Both public and private sector entities have made it clear that they intend to bring this technology main stream. And we are officially living in a time where there are cars on the road today employing these systems. We may soon see a time where “alternative” fuels, are no longer thought of as “alternative” at all.

To learn more about what KPA is doing to help support this nationwide shift to alternative fuel sources, contact KPA’s Renewable Energy Project Manager, Simon Kvilhaug, at

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