Diversity is a part of fleet. Women are a huge part of the fleet industry, as evidenced by the growing groups including Women in Fleet Management (WIFM) among others.
The 2019 Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE), held May 21-23 in Tacoma, Wash., featured a session focused on “Women in Driving the Future of Transportation.”
Moderated by Tammie Bostick, VP of Communications for Transportation Energy Partners, the session featured a mix of information and personal background for each of the panelists.
“I grew up in transportation due to my dad. We travelled all around to different oil fields. I look at the world that we are in today and I can say that this is the most exciting and important time ever to be involved in transportation. Today, we need everything on the table to make changes over the next five to 10 years.”
Bostick raised her family in a small town. When her children grew up, both involved in environmental studies, she wanted her son to move to Salt Lake City, but he wanted to move to Boulder, Colo. According to Bostick, his reasoning was the air quality. So, she made him a promise: “I’ll clean up the air.”
She found Clean Cities and has worked hard to keep her promise. Clean air is a problem in Utah. But Bostick sees opportunity for change. “It’s been exciting to see the changes in transportation. We want zero emissions at the tail pipe. One of the coolest things we are working on is biofuels,” Bostick said.
Women Head Multiple Green-Transportation Efforts
The second speaker was Elise Benoit, VP of marketing for eMotorWerks.
According to Benoit, one in three people succumb to motion sickness. Some people fall into a serious category. Benoit is one of these who suffer severe motion sickness, therefore she never thought she’d be involved in transportation.
Benoit grew up in a small town in France, the birthplace of “Laughing Cow” cheese. She studied math and physics in high school, but went to school for business to learn about start ups to start her own children’s book publishing company. She soon moved on to work in marketing for software companies. But she felt something was missing, the need for making change happen. She wanted to do something to make her children proud of her.
When looking about how she could be a part of impacting climate change, she realized, “It’s the carbon, stupid.” So, she started focusing on carbon emissions. That led her to the energy sector, which at the time was the biggest contributor of carbon emissions. As things changed, she moved to the transportation sector, now the biggest contributor.
Benoit discussed the concept of smart vs. “dumb” charging. A smart charging station is connected to the cloud and can be remotely controlled. You can create optimized charging schedules for EVs to reduce the carbon intensity and cost of charging. Focusing on increased electric use and decreased carbon consumption and cost also decreases the cost of electric vehicles to begin with, continuing to increase adoption rates.
“People love driving on cheap fuels,” Benoit said. Her goal is to continue to make electricity a viable, less expensive, and cleaner option for drivers. EV penetration is increasing quickly, even faster than estimates have assumed. Forecasts continue to be revised and increased and are available across the spectrum of fleet vehicle options.
Wendy DaFoe, senior project leader for National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) spoke next.
Before Dafoe was at NREL, she worked in banking for a short time and then oil and gas in Colorado. It was a field job. After that, DaFoe worked at a mine in Central Nevada. She was 13 miles from the nearest gas station. One day, she tried to go to work and the gas pump was frozen. After an interesting experience she learned a little more about small town life, the moved on to asphalt, sand and concrete, before making her way to NREL. DaFoe self-describes her past a blue collar experience.
At NREL, she now helps spread helpful information throughout the industry, resulting in meaningful change in transportation. The people at NREL are strategically hired to help ensure the dissemination of accurate information to Clean Cities groups, among others.
“Finally, we are the cool kids on the clock. We weren’t the wind people, we weren’t the solar people. We never used to talk about transportation. Now, we talk about it all the time,” DaFoe commented. “It’s a marathon that’s getting better.”
DaFoe discussed the increased focus on data and metrics, progress on the ability to understand share lessons learned from grants and projects, and a demonstration of leadership within the organization. Training culture to engage with transportation differently has been positive.
Following DaFoe was Penny McDaniel, director, U.S.-China Green Ports and Vessels Initiative, Lead, West Coast Collaborative & DERA for the U.S. EPA Region 9.
McDaniels is a native of California, originally from the rural San Diego area. She identified with nature from a very early age. This has propelled her life both professionally and personally. She studied environmental studies in school and every job during her career has focused on the environment.
McDaniel wears many hats within the EPA. One is working on a relationship with China on green ports and vessels, in other words the movement of goods around the planet. Additionally, she is the lead for Region 9, which includes California, Nevada, and Arizona.
The West Coast collaborative manages the national clean diesel grants through a competitive program. She also works on a school bus rebate program. She looks to the future about what can be done to help clean up the air quality.
“Nothing beats hard work. Collaboration with your team is important. Never give up and be persistent. We have a lot of old technology still out there, from construction sites to the railways to the oceans. We’ve made a lot of progress but there is still a long way to go,” McDaniels said. “It has to get better, and it can get better, thanks to the technology.”
Finally, Christina Suarez, AutoGas fleet specialist for BlueStar Gas closed out the panel.
BlueStar gas is an Alliance AutoGas member. She assists fleets in Washington and the Portland Metro area transition to clean and renewable fuel. She joined the fleet industry around five years ago. When she began her career, she was asked about how she felt being in a “male-dominated industry” and asked how she might handle if someone didn’t believe her because she was a woman. This blew Suarez away. She came from industries where strong, successful women were the norm. She replied she’d learn everything she needs to know to prove someone wrong then, if she was ever questioned.
“I read everything I could get my hands on. I read about trends in the industry. Learned where Propane Autogas fit in the industry,” Suarez said. “I’ve been very fortunate that in my experience, everyone has been collaborative and kind and respectful.”
Suarez knew it was vital to become an expert in the field and she was bound and determined not to fail. She has been a part of substantial growth in the propane Autogas market in the pacific northwest.