Greening i-94 new effort aims to fill alternative-fuel gaps in busy corridor madison wisconsin business news gas leak los angeles


Ted Barnes, a representative for the institute, said partners, including businesses, community organizations and government agencies, will be needed to develop a plan. Meetings and planning likely will begin later this year with a target to begin implementing a plan by 2019.

“A (goal) will be to ensure that alternative-fuel vehicles have consistent access to fueling options,” Barnes said. “This will remove anxiety and allow light-duty, plug-in electric vehicle owners to travel longer distances, while also expanding commercial fleets’ abilities to utilize (electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles) for regional and long-haul applications.”

Using the Alternative Fuel Data Center’s trip planner to plot the best route where alternative fuels are readily available, the best route today from Port Huron to Billings mostly utilizes I-94, except through Illinois, where it uses I-294 and follows I-90 into Wisconsin.

Along this route, there are 538 alternative fueling sites, with the greatest concentration of stations between Michigan and Fargo, North Dakota. Availability of any alternative fuel greatly tapers off in the sparsely populated plains west of Fargo.

Traveling on I-94 in a plug-in, all-electric vehicle from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Billings, an estimated six hour, 415-mile trip, today may not be possible since there are no publicly accessible charging stations available on that route, according to the Department of Energy. Today’s all-electric vehicles with the best range — the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which can travel up to 238 miles on a full charge and the Tesla S, which can go up to 210 miles — could not complete the journey.

Gary Radloff, director of Midwest energy policy analysis at the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW-Madison, is encouraged that businesses and private groups want more clean fuel vehicles on the road and are proactively seeking ways to make it easier for drivers of alternative-fuel vehicles to fill up or recharge.

“It’s natural that we’re seeing more interest in growing (fueling) networks outside urban centers,” Radloff said. “About 20 years ago, we were in the early stages of corn ethanol development as an alternative fuel and the network at that time was very limited. But now with this current wave of alternative-fuel vehicles on the road, a greater network to support them is needed.”

About 150,000 vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) travel U.S. roads, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, mostly heavy-duty trucks and semis hauling trailers. They have up to 90 percent lower emissions than comparable vehicles that use diesel or gasoline.

All-electric vehicles have no emissions, but they run on batteries charged by electricity that may be generated using coal or other nonrenewable fuels. Driven by improved technology, more brands available and falling prices spurred by manufacturer incentives and government rebates, 159,131 electric vehicles were purchased in the U.S. last year, a 37 percent jump from 2015, according to InsideEvs, an organization which reports on electric vehicles.

Kwik Trip was among the first gasoline retailers in Wisconsin to sell E85, a blend of gasoline made with 85 percent corn-based ethanol in 1997. In 2005, Kwik Trip began selling biodiesel at some of its stores and then in 2012, added CNG at select locations.

“It depends on the fuel that’s needed, whether it’s available and what type of vehicle is pushing the need for the new fuel,” Hirschboeck said. “It’s pretty dynamic how these new products come to be, and from our perspective, we’re making choices based on consumer choices and having what the consumer wants where possible and building in flexibility (at our locations) for the future.”

Hirschboeck said a typical Kwik Trip customer spends about five minutes at a store, and there currently is no technology that can provide an adequate charge in that amount of time. But the company wants to serve those customers, so it installs charging stations where it makes sense and for the time being, they are free to use.

“It’s never just a flip of the switch where one fuel goes away and another comes in,” Hirschboeck said. “There has to be a balance between the existing products with what might be new. We have to be mindful of the infrastructure costs that come along with something new, and we also need to know when and if the volume will come to support that expense.” Driving decisions