2013 EDTA Conference: An Electrifying Meeting of the Minds

This week we spent a couple of days in Washington, D.C. to attend the annual Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) Conference that took place June 10-12.

The synergistic get-together of EDTA’s 110 members is a who’s-who list of key players pushing forward the electrification of transportation, and it is an eye opener.

Here one gets to interact with various stakeholders from industry, government, and other organizations from around the country, and around the world – many of whom are working on technological advancements we at the consumer level only see after they’ve done their job in dreaming ideas up, developing them, and bringing them forth.

Welcome_EDTA

And if anyone had any doubt, progress is definitely happening. While critics may be quick to pan stories such as “only” 100,000 plug-in cars have now been sold in America and other efforts to end the national “addiction to oil,” the show-and-tell writ large in the capitol city proved the electrified cat is nonetheless out of the bag.

We missed last year’s EDTA Conference, but had been there in 2011. For 2013, more production or near-production plug-in cars were on hand from makers including Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, and Honda. Also on display were all sorts of ancillary technologies like home and commercial charging systems, innovative motors, other components, as well as vehicles from start-ups like KLD Energy Technologies, and Green Tech Automotive – which has famously seen much help from Democrat, Terry McAuliffe.

GTA

Not too surprisingly, Tesla Motors’ Model S was fashionably absent. The too-cool-for-school Fremont, Calif.-based start-up is probably too busy building and selling its electric cars, and apparently decided it does not need the exposure EDTA’s conference might have afforded. Everyone at EDTA knows well who Tesla is though, that you can be sure of.

In fact, given this was a gathering of engineers, executives, advocates, and otherwise insiders, there was no worry that if you mentioned some topic that might be arcane to the average person, that they would not likely know more about it than you do.

These people eat, sleep and breath all the subjects that green car publications usually only talk about at a general level. Terms such as “energy density” or “battery management system” or “SAE J1772” or “V2G” or what have you are as familiar to EDTA conference goers as “home run” is to fans at a baseball game.

Value To The Industry

If you are one who’d like to see the shift toward more ecologically friendly electrified cars and trucks – from mild hybrid to all-electric – you should probably be glad EDTA exists.

It’s been at it since 1989, and its mission is to smooth the way in the face of an entrenched culture and technology. It works on creating cooperation between groups, and helps grease the tracks in so many words. Its tact is not adversarial but rather collaborative, and one of its accomplishments has been at the policy and lobbying level.

UQM

The $7,500 plug-in car tax credit was something it was behind from the beginning, and it helped to establish this financial incentive to give EVs a fighting chance in the uphill battle they yet face.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend all the plenary sessions in which industry experts were invited to sit on panel, and offer information from their perspective and knowledge base.

Meetings were staggered three per time slot, so it was sort of a crap shoot. For example, from 3:45-5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, we had to decide what would be more interesting – an expert panel on the subject of “Accelerating the Adoption of Electric Vehicles” or “Fuel Cells” or “Training Tomorrow’s Innovators?”

FCV_mtg

As were all other sessions we sat in on, no doubt they were all good, and possibly revelatory, but we sat in on the last 30 minutes of fuel cells in this case. We missed most of it spending time in an even more valuable way interviewing EDTA President, Brian Wynne at the beginning of the time slot (we’ll have that for you soon).

You can peruse the list of topics and speakers here, but EDTA does not video record these meetings, in part to preserve intellectual property, so one has to take what one can get. The conference thus offers more value than anyone can take in, and what one can learn is still worth the trip, as are contacts that are made, and friendships formed along the way.

Facilitating a Paradigm Shift

The conference also offers an all-important ride, drive, and charge event. Getting people inside of these new plug-in cars who’ve never done so is half the battle to forming new opinions.

And shifting priorities is why EDTA exists. It hits all the angles, and enjoys bipartisan support, being that this is about the future of America and the rest of the world too.

RAV4_EV

EDTA is thus in the trenches on all fronts. It has info and answers for consumers, facilitates issues important to policymakers, fleet managers, utilities, and suppliers as well as the automakers themselves.

Officially, EDTA says of itself:

The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) is the preeminent US industry association dedicated to the promotion of electric drive as the best means to achieve the highly efficient and clean use of secure energy in the transportation sector.

EDTA conducts public policy advocacy, education, industry networking, and international conferences. Our membership includes vehicle and equipment manufacturers, energy companies, technology developers, component suppliers, government agencies and others.

 
Its general goals toward electrification, while substantial, are not set in stone, but EDTA is working with flexibility within the confines of reality – and push-back – of facilitating choices beyond petroleum.

The organization was started just before the Toyota Prius was launched in the U.S. primarily helping pave the way for hybrids, and is still not exclusively all about EVs. As you might have gathered, it’s also open to enabling fuel cell electric vehicles come into their own, and is taking everything one day at a time.

EDTA also happens to use info from HybridCars.com’s Dashboard month after month as a means of tracking sales figures and keeping its members informed.

For more details, its Web site is a good resource and has plenty of links for anyone who wants to know more about the electrification of transportation.