Alt-Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Is Stumbling Block, Honda Tells Lawmakers


  • 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Picture

    2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Picture

    The 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas gives consumers a good alt-fuel choice, but the concern is always where do you find a filling station. | March 06, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Automakers are in an "untenable position" when it comes to selling alternative-fuel vehicles because of a lack of infrastructure in the U.S., a Honda executive said.
  • "We are required to sell alternative fuel vehicles, but there is no assurance that the infrastructure will be there to meet the needs of customers who might be interested in purchasing one of these vehicles," said James Wehrman, senior vice president of manufacturing for Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc.
  • Wehrman said without an infrastructure, "the vehicle of the future will remain just that — the vehicle of the future."

WASHINGTON — Automakers are in an "untenable position" when it comes to selling alternative-fuel vehicles because of a lack of infrastructure in the U.S., a Honda executive said in written Congressional testimony on Wednesday.

"We are required to sell alternative fuel vehicles, but there is no assurance that the infrastructure will be there to meet the needs of customers who might be interested in purchasing one of these vehicles," said James Wehrman, senior vice president of manufacturing for Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc.

Wehrman said without an infrastructure, "the vehicle of the future will remain just that — the vehicle of the future."

Wehrman's testimony before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade of the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee amounted to a dire prediction about the future of alt-fuel vehicles in the U.S. The plea for an alt-fuel infrastructure comes as the effects of sequestration are beginning to be felt, from canceled White House tours to longer security lines at airports.

"Ten states currently require manufacturers to sell a progressively larger number of advanced technology vehicles between now and 2025," said Wehrman. "Together, manufacturers have to place 5 million of these vehicles — battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell electric vehicles — on the road by 2025.

"At the moment, however, the infrastructure simply does not exist to support these vehicles."

Infrastructure concerns are "out of our hands," he noted, adding "government help is needed."

Honda produces six different drivetrains, including battery electric, natural gas and fuel cell electric vehicles.

There are just 566 compressed natural gas stations in the U.S., excluding private stations, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center of the U.S. Department of Energy. There are 5,548 electric-vehicle charging stations in the U.S.

Tesla Motors has responded to the shortage by installing its own Supercharger system in locations on the West Coast and East Coast. The system recharges the Tesla Model S and Tesla Roadster.

Honda, Ford and Toyota were among the participants in the forum entitled "Our Nation of Builders: Powering U.S. Automobile Manufacturing Forward." The forum was postponed due to bad weather, but written testimony by automakers was posted on the subcommittee's Web site.

Edmunds says: It's a chicken-and-egg problem. What comes first? The infrastructure or the alt-fuel vehicles? And who will pay for it?

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