By Matt Nauman
SAN FRANCISCO – The International Auto Show has been a Thanksgiving Week tradition for many years. Families from throughout Northern California come to the city to shop, to see the holiday decorations and to check out the new cars.
The show opened over the weekend and runs through next Saturday, Nov. 29. And this year, along with shiny Corvettes and sleek Lamborghinis, they’ll see a bit of blue.
The blue trucks from PG&E are on display on the main floor of the Moscone Center, along with the convertibles and coupes, the sedans and SUVs, from the world’s automakers.
Well, the trucks are blue, but their impact is green, because PG&E is at the forefront of the utility industry when it comes to greening its fleet. And that makes perfect sense considering PG&E’s customer base, said Dave Meisel, the company’s senior director of transportation and aviation services.
“We have one of the highest adoption rates for electric-base vehicles in the Bay Area,” Meisel said. “So we’re going to be impacted more than other utilities sooner. Think about it this way – we generate pretty clean electricity at PG&E, if we can use that clean electricity to power clean transportation, that’s just about as good as it gets.”
That’s why PG&E is showing off two vehicles made in Dixon, California, by EDI. Both vehicles – a full-size pickup and Class 5 utility truck – are plug-in electric hybrids that save gas and reduce emissions. Each also features exportable power – enough to power 100 homes during an outage.
PG&E’s has about 9,000 vehicles in its fleet used for on-road travel; about 3,300 of them, or one-third of the company’s fleet, are alternative-fuel vehicles.
“We’ve got more than 1,100 electric-base vehicles in our fleet,” Meisel said. “That’s everything from plug-in hybrids to electrics to standard hybrids. What you’re going to see a lot more in the future is plug-in hybrids with exportable power.”
That capability would become incredibly useful in restoring power quickly after a large earthquake or a hurricane as permanent repairs are made.
PG&E’s booth also features alternative-fuel passenger and work vehicles in use by PG&E such as Ford Focus EV and the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. Customers can get information on EV charging rates. Show-goers also can see some of the new technology that PG&E is using to boost safety and reliability, including a mini-robot to inspect pipelines that’s no bigger than a Hot Wheels car. PG&E might just have the smallest and largest displays at the show.
On Monday and Tuesday, PG&E sponsored an electric-vehicle test-drive at the show. Vehicles from GM, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Smart and Mercedes-Benz were available for testing.
Dozens of people took advantage of the EV test drive on Monday morning.
That included Joseph Heinz of Orinda, who brought his sons Keenan and Peyton.
“The boys were really excited about getting in the cars and driving. We wanted to see what they felt like,” said Heinz. He would consider buying one “down the road,” he said. “It’s the future, right?”
After the family took a spin in a BMW i3 electric, 8-year-old Keenan gave his quick opinion: “I really like how they drive. They’re really small speedsters that you can zoom around with all-day long.”
And 7-year-old Peyton quickly listed his favorite cars: “A Lamborghini Veneno and Bugatti Veyron, and a Bentley Continental GT Speed and the i3 and that’s all.”
PG&E will be hosting the EV test drive again on Tuesday (Nov. 25) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The San Francisco Auto Show runs through Saturday at Moscone Center.
Email Matt Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org.