With gas prices remaining high, the search for viable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels is garnering more and more attention.

The challenges and opportunities for alternative forms of fuels is the focus of the “Alternative Transportation Fuels Workshop” on Wednesday, May 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Rutgers EcoComplex, 1200 Florence Columbus Road, Bordentown. Cost: $40. Go to www.njtc.org to register.

The event is sponsored by a number of entities, including the state Board of Public Utilities, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the N.J. Clean Cities Coalition, the state Department of Agriculture, the N.J. Business Incubator Network, the state Economic Development Authority, the N.J. Corporation for Advanced Technology, and the N.J. Technology Council.

“This event will feature a full-day program with high-level speakers from the Christie administration as well as panel discussions with nationally known industry experts on gaseous fuels, liquid fuels, and electricity,” says Chuck Feinberg, chairman of the N.J. Clean Cities Coalition, which is a member of the Clean Energy Council.

“This workshop is intended to promote alternative transportation fuel deployment and use in New Jersey by bringing together existing and emerging technology organizations with targeted project developers and the government agencies that will facilitate widespread use,” Feinberg says in an announcement on LinkedIn promoting the event.

Talks scheduled for the workshop include “Alternative Transportation Fuel’s Role in the State Energy Master Plan,” by Bob Hanna, president of the state Board of Public Utilities; “Alternative Transportation Fuel’s Role in Environmental Stewardship,” by Bob Marshal of the state Department of Environmental Protection; and the keynote address by Mark Smith, vehicle technologies deployment manager for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Cities Program.

A session on gaseous fuels moderated by Feinberg, will feature Joe Rende of Trillium on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG); Greg Zilberfarb, of National Propane Education and Research Council on propane/autogas; Leo Cortizo of Clean Energy Fuels on liquefied natural gas (LNG); and Michael Beckman of Linde on Hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

The session on electric fuels moderated by Rob Gibbs, manager of market strategy and planning at PSE&G, will feature Brett Gipe of Smith Electric Vehicles; Wayne Wittman of PSEG; and a speaker to be determined on EV charging stations.

The session on biomass fuels moderated by Serpil Guran, director of the Rutgers EcoComplex, will feature Chris Voell of BioCNG on small scale bio gas to CNG; Joseph Biluck, of the Medford Township Board of Education on biodiesel; Bryan Luftglass, of Linde on landfill gas to LNG; and Bob Simkins of the Burlington County Department of Solid Waste Management.

The event ends with a talk by Richard Magee, technical director of the N.J. Corporation for Advanced Technology on “Where do we go from here?/Next Steps.”

One of the major obstacles for alternative fuels is breaking people of the gas habit and making alternative fuels both affordable and more widely available.

For example, the availability of electric car charging stations although growing, is sparse. According to statistics, there’s about only about 3,200 charging stations nationwide — and about two-thirds of those are in California.

The SunStation — a solar-powered station for charging electric vehicles developed by Princeton Satellite Systems — is one potential solution that the Plainsboro-based company hopes might be used to increase the number of charging stations available to motorists.

According to the company’s website, the SunStation’s “high-efficiency solar panels produce the maximum power with the minimum footprint. All of the SunStation’s power comes directly from the sun, so you no longer have to rely on fossil fuels to provide home electrical backup or to charge electric vehicles. With SunStation, everywhere is a green location.”

The product’s biggest selling point is that it’s independent of the power grid, unlike conventional stations that have to be wired to provide a steady stream of electrical current. “The SunStation is designed to be self-contained. It has solar panels with battery storage and built-in charging equipment,” says Mike Paluszek, president and founder of Princeton Satellite.

Independence from the power grid means the station can be put in places that conventional charging stations cannot. “In shopping centers or businesses it’s difficult to locate charging stations unless they are close to the building,” says Paluszek. Locating a wired charging station in the middle of a parking lot, he says, would require digging an expensive trench into the pavement to run the power lines.

Born and raised mainly in White plains and Rye, New York, Paluszek relocated to Ontario when his father, a mechanical engineer for large construction firms such as Bechtel, was reassigned.

Paluszek enrolled in MIT, where he did his undergraduate and graduate work in the 1970s. After college, as the space shuttle program was working out its last major kinks, Paluszek stayed at MIT. He was working on rocket propulsion at Draper Laboratory there when a recruiter from GE AstroSpace brought Paluszek to GE’s East Windsor facilities. He worked there until starting Princeton Satellite in 1992.

According to Paluszek there has been some interest in the SunStation but so far none have been installed. One issue is the cost. The price tag for a SunStation with eight batteries — enough to store power to fully charge a vehicle for the day — is about $25,000. Paluszek adds that the price will come down as the prices of batteries decrease.

There’s also a “chicken and the egg” problem existing between the number of stations and the number of electric cars. People don’t want to buy electric cars because they don’t see enough stations, and charging stations aren’t getting built because there aren’t enough electric cars.

“There’s not a lot of electric vehicles out there right now,” says Paluszek. “Anxiety of the range of electric vehicles has become part of the mindset. If people saw as many charging stations as gas stations, then it’s likely they would sell more of these cars.”

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