Posted on March 21, 2013

At ‘Powering the People’ Conference, Earley Says PG&E Embraces Electric Transportation

By Katie Key

With a PG&E/VIA truck at Powering the People were Alan Perriton, VIA’s COO; Tom Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute; and PG&E’s Tony Earley.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Flanked by an innovative utility truck that can run on electricity and provide job-site power, PG&E’s Tony Earley spoke today (March 21) on how the nation’s gas and electric companies are electrifying their fleets.

Earley, PG&E’s chairman, CEO and president, moderated a panel discussion on electric transportation during the “Powering the People: Innovations for a Better World” conference held at the Newseum. The event was sponsored by IEE, an institute of the Edison Foundation.

Not only did the event have an Innovation Avenue of electric vehicles outside, it also had an Innovation Alley inside, which featured interactive displays of the latest in electric innovations.

Kicking off the first panel discussion of the day, Earley spoke of his interest in electric vehicles.

“As the CEO of California energy utility, I appreciate the benefits that vehicle electrification brings to our customers — and the opportunity PG&E has to help make those benefits possible,” said Earley.

VIA Motors, working with PG&E, is creating trucks that run on electricity and provide job-site power. The truck was displayed today at the Powering the People event. (Photo by Katie Key.)

PG&E is a large-scale purchaser of EVs, Earley said, and now has more than 2,000 on- and off-road EVs, plug-in hybrid EVs and hybrids in its fleet.

And the fleet now includes vehicles manufactured in partnership with VIA Motors. VIA’s extended-range electric pickups, which use a technology that’s similar to what’s found in the Chevrolet Volt, provide 40 miles of gasoline-free driving. Then, the vehicle’s small gasoline engine extends the truck’s range, if needed.

Plus, the VIA trucks include outlets for exportable power that let crews run power tools or even provide electricity to a small neighborhood.

“Imagine being able to dispatch extended-range electric utility fleet trucks that could immediately provide emergency power to first responders and those in dire need – instead of having to transport generators,” Earley said. “Eventually, we could see these capabilities playing a role in helping utilities respond in situations like Hurricane Sandy.”

Earley also noted that PG&E’s customers, especially in the Bay Area, were proving to be a strong market for electric vehicles. The result has been that PG&E has had to do occasional system upgrades when several neighbors all had electric vehicles that needed charging. PG&E also has worked to encourage off-peak charging to better balance supply and demand.

Besides discussions with electric-industry leaders, the Powering the People event included a display of electric vehicles and Innovation Alley, above, where companies exhibited new technologies.

PG&E continues to work with other utilities as well as the Edison Electric Institute, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and others to help develop the systems needed to ensure that electric drive technologies are a success.

Earley is on the management committee of the IEE. He was introduced by Thomas R. Kuhn, the president of the Edison Electric Institute. Other panelists included Alan Perriton, president and COO of Via Motors; Dale Bryk, director of the energy and transportation panel at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and Debbie Korenek, division vice president at CenterPoint Energy.

(Click here to see a Currents video story from the 2012 Powering the People event.)

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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