Alternative-Fueled Vehicles

Progress Made in Accelerating Federal Purchases, but Benefits and Costs Remain Uncertain Gao ID: RCED-94-161 July 15, 1994

To reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality, federal agencies have pioneered the use of vehicles fueled by ethanol, natural gas, methanol, propane, and electricity. Federal agencies now manage a fleet of about 7,800 cars, trucks, and vans that use alternative fuels. Wider public acceptance of these vehicles, however, has been stymied by a shortage of convenient refueling stations; high costs; and uncertainties surrounding the economic, environmental, and other benefits of alternative fuels. This report (1) identifies uncertainties about the benefits and costs of using alternative fuels; (2) assesses federal efforts to encourage the development of refueling facilities for such fuels; (3) reviews federal efforts to accelerate acquisitions of alternative-fueled vehicles; and (4) evaluates efforts to coordinate federal, state, and local alternative fuels programs.

GAO found that: (1) alternative-fueled vehicles' pollution control, energy security, and economic costs and benefits need to be evaluated further; (2) neither the Department of Energy (DOE) nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conducted a comprehensive life-cycle cost analysis of alternative fuel use; (3) federal encouragement of alternative refueling facilities has met with limited success because the vehicles are not geographically concentrated; (4) DOE and the General Services Administration have a number of options to increase alternative-fueled vehicle use; (5) the DOE Clean Cities Program could encourage more development of refueling facilities, but faces leadership, policy, and funding problems; (6) DOE believes that the federal government will not meet its accelerated targets for acquiring alternative-fueled vehicles and the government will rely on less costly conversion of existing vehicles; (7) federal agencies have had some success in coordinating their alternative-fuels program with state and local programs, but problems remain; and (8) state and local officials would like clearer EPA guidelines on alternative fuels programs credits, DOE technical guidance on alternative-fueled vehicles, and a comprehensive source for financial assistance information.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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