Website of the month: Alternative Fuels Data Center
Consumers looking for more options to save money at the pump while reducing their carbon footprint will find many tools to help them at the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), a website created by the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Launched in 1991 as a repository for alternative fuel performance data, the AFDC has evolved to offer a broad array of unbiased information, data and tools related to alternative fuels and advanced vehicles. The resources here will be valuable to fleet owners who must comply with the Energy Policy Act, businesses, policymakers, government agencies, as well as the general public.
Government and private sector vehicle fleets, including utilities, are the primary users of alternative fuels and vehicles, but there is a growing interest in them among consumers, too. Both residential customers and large accounts might appreciate learning about the AFDC from their power provider or finding a link to the AFDC on their utility's website.
Know your fuels
There are more than a dozen types of alternative fuels in production or under development, but visitors will be looking for information about the most widely used products. “Fuels and vehicles” focuses on biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane. Each fuel page provides links to more details on basics, benefits and considerations, stations, vehicles and laws, and incentives.
In this section you can research fluctuating fuel prices and new fuel technologies, too. At the bottom of the page is a link to "Tools," the page visitors are most likely to bookmark. The top navigation includes a link to the tool collection and to some of the tools, but the tools page is a more user-friendly way to access them.
The tools are grouped under the headings of calculators, interactive maps and data searches, and include a short description of the function next to an icon. Some of the tools, such as the PEV Readiness Scorecard, are located on the AFDC site; while others, like the Biofuels Atlas are on the websites of the national laboratories that developed them.
Visitors can use the calculators to determine things like the overall cost of operating their particular make and model of vehicle, or the carbon footprint of their vehicle fleet. Interactive maps show where alternative fuel stations are located or where to find truck stops with charging stations among other things. The databases allow visitors to compare the properties of different fuels or to search for laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles by jurisdiction, user or technology.
In addition to the searchable database, the AFDC also provides information about federal and state policies and legislation related to alternative fuels, fuel economy and air quality. A summary table lets visitors see all laws and incentives sorted by different criteria.
Not every organization is ready to upgrade its fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. Help your large accounts or your own board of directors recognize the benefits of the technology with case studies from the AFDC.
For those who aren't ready to upgrade to a new generation of vehicle, the good news is that switching fuels is only one way to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you manage a fleet, or just want to squeeze more miles per gallon from personal transportation, AFDC offers tips to conserve fuel. Driving behavior, vehicle maintenance, the size of the fleet and choice of parts and equipment just a few factors that can be managed to reduce fuel consumption.
Of course, drivers on the road just need to know where they can "fill up," and don't have a computer handy to get that information. AFDC addressed that need Nov. 8 with the release of its free Alternative Fuel Station Locator app. After all, choice is important to advanced-vehicle owners, whether they are choosing more environmentally friendly transportation or looking for a place to refuel that vehicle. The Alternative Fuels Data Center is working to ensure that consumers are aware of all of their options.