Counting green cars: GWCCA embraces fuel and vehicle alternatives

As the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) prepares to host the 2018 Atlanta International Auto Show this week (Wednesday, March 21 through Sunday, March 25), a jolt of energy can be expected around the industry’s recent shift toward hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs).

Last year, Swedish automaker Volvo announced that by 2019 it will only offer hybrid and electric vehicles as part of its portfolio. General Motors, the largest automaker in the United States, laid out a plan that will introduce two new EVs within 18 months and 20 within five years. Ford claimed a similar goal, as did others, suggesting a paradigm shift in an industry that hasn’t changed all that much in the last century.

But what is sparking the change to this new fuel source? In part, carbon emissions resulting in climate change are playing a role. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation industry emits more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than any other sector aside from power generation. Light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles and trucks account for 83 percent of those emissions. With the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an all-time high and climbing, the pressure is on businesses and governments to actively address the whole scope of their environmental impacts.

For governments, this includes addressing the emissions generated from the transportation industry. Norway is banning the sale of traditional gasoline and diesel-burning cars and vans by 2025. Other governments, including those in the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands are planning to do the same by 2040. Germany and China are considering a ban as well. Automakers have been forced to revisit their strategy and innovate in order to satisfy customer and environmental demands.

EVs still need to run on some sort of power so are they really better for the environment? Well, it depends on where you are. States such as California, where much of the power grid is supported by solar and other renewable energy sources, make driving an EV much better than a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. Georgia, however, where hydroelectric power and renewable energy only make up about six percent of the electricity generated, may not result in fewer GHG emissions per EV. Yet as states continue to move in more support of renewable energy, the disparity between EVs and traditional vehicles will become clearer.

The Tesla Model S.

Tesla,  one of the newest automakers on the scene, reinvented what an EV could be. With its Model S introduced in 2012, the fully-electric luxury vehicle made driving an EV cool and available to the masses (or at least those that could afford the hefty price tag), not just the traditionally crunchy, Birkenstock-wearing drivers. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, has invested heavily in EV infrastructure throughout the country to relieve drivers’ “range anxiety” which is caused by the fear of a car’s battery running out of power without the ability to recharge.

An Electric Vehicle charging station inside the GWCCA’s Gold Deck.

Preparing for the paradigm shift, the GWCCA first installed an EV charging station in its Red Deck parking garage in 2013, adding another the following year, and then one in both the Gold and Green parking decks. Today, the campus parking decks can support up to 30 EVs charging at once and several hundreds of parking spaces are shaded by solar panels that directly power the grid.

For those early adapters planning to set their sights on the next generation of electric vehicles at the 36th Annual Atlanta International Auto Show, there will be some EVs on display in the Georgia World Congress Center Building C Exhibition Halls. These include the Chevy Bolt EV, Chrysler Pacifica PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) and the Honda Clarity PHEV, the latter two which combine an electric motor with a gas engine.

A Karma Automotive Revero on the exhibit floor at the 36th annual Atlanta International Auto Show at the Georgia World Congress Center.

And for the well-heeled environmentalists, Karma Automotive is displaying its Revero, named Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year, with a starting price tag at $130,000. The California-built vehicles are plug-in hybrid electrics that take 24 minutes to charge to 80 percent capacity and feature solar panel roofs that can generate 200 Watts of power, fueling up to 1,000 miles of driving range.

“Leave your car at the airport for a week and drive home on the power of the sun,” reads an excerpt from “Drive 500 to 1,000 miles per year on what Mother Nature provides.”