John Eichberger, executive director of the Transportation Energy Institute, will lead a discussion during Tuesday’s education session The Future of Fuel Retailing.  It takes place 2:30-3:30 in Room A311. Eichberger will be joined by Matthew Dunn of Pilot Travel Centers and Eric Nelsen of AlixPartners.

Chief among industry and consumer concerns, Eichberger said, is reducing and eliminating carbon emissions.

“In response to the overall goals for decarbonization, and specifically to the prohibitions on new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, vehicle manufacturers have invested billions to develop electric vehicles that can satisfy consumer interests and demands,” Eichberger said. “However, while electric vehicles can reduce carbon emissions by more than 40% compared with a similar combustion vehicle, they are not zero emissions, as some claim, and will not achieve the environmental objectives unless paired with a significant reduction in emissions associated with electricity generation.”

To successfully decarbonize, Eichberger added, policies and strategies must consider the entire lifecycle of vehicles and their associated energy.  The government has committed billions to fund charging systems to power the emerging electric vehicle market. However, due to the market size, change remains slow and electric vehicles still represent less than 2% of vehicles in operation in the U.S. It's likely that demand for charging services will continue to increase, he said. However, liquid fuels will remain the dominant source of energy for the transportation sector for decades to come.

“These liquid fuels, however, must evolve to support lower carbon and air pollutant emissions, and policies need to evolve to enable that transition” Eichberger said. “Fuel retailers will increasingly be called upon by their customers to offer liquid fuels and electricity to support mobility, with some markets evolving much more quickly than others.”

The changing commuter is another issue on the minds of fuel retailers. “The definition of workplace has changed... That said, even during the height of COVID, miles traveled recovered quickly after the initial shutdown of the economy. While people may not have been commuting to work, they were still driving.”