ALTERNATIVE FUELED VEHICLES: PROGRESS MADE IN ACCELERATING FEDERAL PURCHASES, BUT BENEFITS AND COSTS REMAIN UNCERTAIN

The General Accounting Office (GAO) was requested to (1) identify any uncertainties about the benefits and costs of using alternative fuels, (2) assess federal efforts to encourage the development of refueling facilities for such fuels, (3) review federal efforts to accelerate acquisitions of alternative-fueled vehicles, and (4) evaluate efforts to coordinate federal, state, and local alternative fuels programs. Briefly, GAO found the following: Many believe that alternative fuels have the potential to improve energy security and air quality, while providing economic benefits. However, because of uncertainties, further evaluation is needed to determine the extent to which such benefits can be realized and at what cost. Because alternative-fueled vehicles are often dispersed rather than concentrated in a few locations, federal efforts to encourage the development of refueling facilities have met with limited success. Also, the shortage of convenient refueling facilities has contributed to the low use of alternative fuels: Operators of federal dual-fueled vehicles often chose to use gasoline because of its ready availability. Nevertheless, the ultimate success of alternative fuels programs depends on including nonfederal vehicles. The Department of Energy (DOE) developed its Clean Cities Program for this purpose--to encourage state, local, and commercial interests to participate in alternative fuels projects within selected metropolitan areas. This program could potentially encourage the expansion of refueling facilities if certain problems can be solved. DOE's estimates show that the federal government will fall short of meeting its accelerated targets for acquiring alternative-fueled vehicles. Because of the high cost of some factory-built vehicles, the government plans to convert many existing and new vehicles to operate on natural gas and propane. While conversions may result in more alternative-fueled vehicles and lower prices, they also raise some concerns about safety, emissions, and reliability. Limiting the number of different types of vehicles sought by federal, state, and local fleet operators could increase orders for the selected vehicles, encourage manufacturers to provide such vehicles, and decrease unit costs. Finally, federal agencies have had some success in coordinating their programs on alternative fuels with state and local programs, but several challenges remain.

Language

  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 120 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00666266
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO/RCED-94-161
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 23 1994 12:00AM