CEO of California’s Pacific Gas and Electric utility and Ford Motor Co. board member Tony Earley is interested in finding ways to convert gasoline vehicles to electric— particularly light duty pick-up trucks.
Earley, who has been collaborating with colleagues and employees at Ford and General Motors on the effort, said at a press conference after a Detroit Economic Club luncheon that the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ford F-150 are currently being considered for conversion.
In the press conference, Earley asserted that specialty converters could do the job and would prevent automakers from having to build electric cars. Manager of Electrification Communications at GM Kevin Kelly says, however, that Earley and his colleagues at Ford and GM have only engaged in informal discussions on the subject and have not yet developed a concrete strategy.
Despite his enthusiasm, Earley does recognize that the task of conversion is accompanied by some significant engineering, policy, and cost challenges. The most pressing challenge, he says, is cost, but financial assistance from the Department of Energy for initial engineering costs should be considered to help ease the way and makes electric vehicles more affordable.
In light of the fact that electric vehicle sales are still modest compared to overall vehicle sales, Earley also emphasizes the need to guide the electric vehicle market in a more sustainable direction, which could include exploring conversion for trucks as well as expanding the charging infrastructure, an effort he has expressed support for in the past.
It seems other utility companies are on the same page as Earley and are ready to lead the push for more electric vehicles and infrastructure. A statement released by Pacific Gas and Electric said that seventy of the country’s largest utilities will increase the use of electric vehicles in their fleets. This commitment would mean an investment of up to $250 million over the next five years and, according to Earley, is an important step in helping lower automakers’ development costs.