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Millennials Want A Digital DMV

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DMV.com conducted a study to find out what future generations want their Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to look like. Findings were taken from an 8-month survey on DMV.com. This is what we found:

Privatization – 80% of respondents under the age of 18 were open to outsourcing some DMV services to 3rd parties. The next age bracket (18 – 34) came in at 72%. The older the respondent, the less open they were to privatizing DMV services.

Graph Showing Openness to Outsourcing DMV Services

Source: DMV Customer Satisfaction Survey by DMV.com

Digitization – The view that the DMV should increase their investment in online services was relatively strong and consistent among age groups, except for respondents 65 and older. The millennial generation (age 18-34 in our study) overwhelmingly agreed that online services were a priority, with 90% of them being open to online investments.

Below is specifically what they wanted to see more of online:

Pie chart of wanted online dmv services

Source: DMV Customer Satisfaction Survey by DMV.com

Future generations want to modernize the Department of Motor Vehicles through privatization and online initiatives. Although the message is clear, the feasibility of implementing these demands remains uncertain. Below are some factors that may get in the way.

Issues with Privatization

Political Support – Moving government functions to the private market can meet resistance from the left. When it comes to privatizing the DMV, however, support seems to come from both sides. We found no correlation among respondents from red/blue states and their willingness to outsource DMV services.

Scroll over the map to compare political representation with interest in privatization.

Source: DMV Customer Satisfaction Study by DMV.com / Washington Post

Given the unilateral support, politicians could potentially complicate the process and make it a partisan issue. New Jersey tried to privatize DMV services in 1995 and failed to implement this successfully. The issue has come up again in recent years, where some Democrats opposed privatization for seemingly “political” reasons.

Visibility Concerns – Private industry is less accountable to show how much money they make, and how they make it, to the public. With the reduced visibility, concerns around conflicts of interest and exploitation inevitably arise, as they have at the semi-private Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) system.

Ohio has outsourced some DMV services since the 80s, which has generally seen a favorable response from the public. They ranked as the 1st DMV in the US for customer satisfaction in 2014, according to a previous study by DMV.com. When the state was considering additional privatization, concerns were raised over the visibility of the profits from the private offices.

Issues with Digitization

Identify theft – One disadvantage of online services is it makes it easier for somebody to pretend to be somebody else. Although most DMVs have systems in place to prevent this, the possibility of identity theft is increased as more services move online. This remains a concern for now but with advances in smartphone fingerprint detection and retina scans, the problem does look solvable in the future.

Security breaches – The California DMV has been a leader in offering DMV services online. They have also experienced significant security breaches in their system. Previously this year it was announced that MasterCard data was leaked over a 5-month period (August 2013 to January 2013). The data has then reported to be used in fraudulent charges in 2014.

Adding to this, concerns surrounding the heartbleed bug have not helped when it comes public acceptance of online security.

Final Thoughts

Only 56% of drivers were somewhat satisfied or more with their DMVs. Clearly, there is a need to modernize the DMV. People want a less bureaucratic, more efficient DMV, that doesn’t require taking time off work to complete a common DMV task.

Although there are some tradeoffs in switching to a more privatized and digitized DMV, the benefits outweigh the costs. Private and online DMV services save the state money, increase accessibility, and reduce customer wait times. The concerns listed above do warrant consideration but they are all reasonably solvable if handled correctly.

From their experience with modern corporations, younger generations have come to expect quality customer service and technologically advanced systems. They will demand this when it comes to interacting with their government in the future. The DMV will need to keep up with this societal change or we can expect even lower customer satisfaction ratings in the future.

Jordan Perch at G+

Original Article on DMV.COM

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California’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Infrastructure

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California has traditionally been one of the states that are most willing to adopt and promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles, trying to increase demand for electric and hybrid vehicles through various incentives, investments in infrastructure and creating the necessary legislation. In recent years, it has boosted its efforts for promotion of hydrogen-powered vehicles, which are considered as an even cleaner alternative to conventional cars than plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Now, California is making additional efforts to create the infrastructure and regulations that must be put in place before hydrogen fuel cell cars can become mainstream.

Earlier this April, California Governor’s Office of Business and Development organized an event where the future of hydrogen vehicles
was discussed. The event was held at the Toyota USA Automobile Museum, where about 150 representatives from various technology suppliers, car manufacturers, state and local governments, and fire departments came and joined the discussion on the topic “Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure in Your Neighborhood”.

Hector De La Torre, a member of the California Air Resource Board (CARB), gave a keynote speech that was focused on how the state plans to resolve the infrastructure issue. One of the biggest hurdles for hydrogen-powered vehicles is the lack of supporting infrastructure, and the fact that refuelling stations are scarce. In order for these vehicles to be appealing to consumers, much more stations have to be installed all over the country. But, such stations are very expensive to build, and energy companies and car manufacturers are hesitant to invest in such projects before they can be sure that there will be enough hydrogen vehicles so that the stations can be economically viable.

Considering that it costs about $2 million to build a hydrogen filling station, it’s understandable why energy providers and companies like Toyota or Hyundai, won’t engage in such an endeavor until there are some kind of guaranties that there will be enough demand for hydrogen.

This has resulted in a stalemate, which could further delay the adoption of hydrogen vehicles. That’s why the state has created the California Fuel Cell Partnership, which in addition to the California Energy Commission, includes various energy companies and automakers, and aims to figure out which areas need new hydrogen stations the most, and recommend locations to the companies that would be willing to spend $2 million to build and install such stations.

Furthermore, the California Fuel Cell Partnership will help state authorities create some sort of legislation for these stations and figure out which rules and regulations they should comply with.

At the moment, there are 10 publicly available filling stations in California, and the state has already approved additional funds for more stations, with plans to spend $200 million over the next 20 years to build and install another 100 stations.

Original Article on DMV.COM

In Focus: The Honda Smart Home

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Although Honda is a company that is best known for their cars and motorcycles, the company has started to venture into other, non-vehicle based projects. That’s what the Japanese car maker is trying to do with its latest project, dubbed Honda Smart Home. It’s a smart home concept, that the company claims is one of the most eco-friendly homes ever built, and can produce more energy than it consumes. At first glance, it seems that this house doesn’t have anything to do with manufacturing vehicles, but it’s actually part of Honda’s efforts topromote electric vehicles and help make them more viable.

Charging Electric Vehicles in the Smart Home

In addition to the fact that the Honda Smart Home is a zero-carbon house, that employs various innovative solutions to produce, store and consume energy in the most efficient way possible, it also has an excellent electric vehicle charging infrastructure. There is a garage that is attached to the house, fitted with a standard 240-Volt Level 2 charging station, along with a DC charger, which can recharge an electric car in only two hours. Since there is no need to convert AC to DC power, and vice versa, thanks to the DC fast charger, the recharging process is much faster than what it usually takes to recharge an electric vehicle.

Environmental Impact of Honda Smart Home

There are numerous energy-saving technologies implemented into the house. There is a 9.5-kilowatt solar array on the rooftop, which produces the energy that is needed to power the whole house, including all the appliances, heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and recharge the Honda Fit EV, which is included in the home, and will be at the disposal of the tenants. The house is located in Davis, California, and it will be used by University of California, Davis- staff, who will also use the Fit EV for transportation.

A regular home consumes about 13.3 megawatt hours of electricity over a year, and Honda’s Smart Home’s solar panels can generate 15.9 megawatt-hours of electricity. The excess electricity that will be produced, which is 2.6 megawatt hours, will be stored in a 10-kWh battery pack, so that it can be used in cloudy days, but it can also be sent back to the grid. Honda says that the home achieves over 11 tons of CO2 reduction more than a conventional home and vehicle per year.

With this project, Honda is boosting its efforts to enhance the integration of electric vehicles into homes, in order to help make electric car charging more practical, convenient, faster, environmentally-friendly, and less expensive. Since most electric car owners charge their cars at home overnight, living in a house that can generate its own electricity will definitely help them reduce the total costs of owning an electric vehicle, which are quite high, compared to the costs of owning a conventional car. Honda’s Smart Home is also in line with California’s zero net energy initiative, which mandates all new homes to be able to generate as much energy as they consume by 2020.

Original Article on DMV.COM

Natural Gas Vehicles: More Support Needed

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While natural gas is abundant in the United States, its full potential has yet to be reached. Compared to traditional fuels, it is a more economical and reliable energy source and it is cleaner and safer. But due to the lack of infrastructure, and the high costs associated with extraction, it hasn’t been used as much as it could in certain sectors. This is especially true in the automotive industry, which could benefit a lot from this alternative fuel. Natural gas powered vehicles could be a great alternative to conventional vehicles, but they have to overcome numerous regulatory obstacles, as well as issues with their limited range and long refueling times.

Natural Gas Industry

Even though the natural gas industry has experienced a large expansion over the past few years, the automotive sector has been slow to adopt this alternative fuel. Instead of using natural gas as a replacement for gasoline, automakers are focusing on electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle technology. This is likely due to the absence of policies to encourage the production of natural gas-powered vehicles, which necessary for technology with long development periods.

Incentives to Promote Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles

To help, various lawmakers have proposed bills to a legal framework that would create financial incentive to automakers to build gas-powered vehicles. One such bill was filed recently by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senator Car Levin (D-Mich.), in an effort to get the auto industry to adopt natural gas as a transportation fuel. They are proposing a set of laws that would establish an incentive program for automakers, which will include cutting red tape to make it easier for businesses to build fueling stations. They bill would also reduce the regulations with which car makers have to comply. In addition, this bipartisan bill proposes incentives for consumers, allowing states to extend HOV-lane access for natural gas vehicles. The Federal Government is also taking steps for promotion of natural gas-powered vehicles, with tax credits for car makers that build such vehicles, just like the tax credits for electric and hybrid cars.

However, even if these proposed incentives were to be enacted, they wouldn’t resolve the pressing issue that faces natural gas vehicles– the lack of refueling infrastructure. The existing station network, which consists of less than 1,000 stations, can’t cater to a large fleet of natural gas vehicles. But, there are indications that this may change in the future, as energy companies are planning to build additional stations around the country. Clean Energy Fuels, a company that provides natural gas for transportation, has announced its intent to build 150 stations over the next few years. Hopefully this, and similar corporate commitments, will help overcome the infrastructure challenge and bring natural gas vehicles to the mainstream.

Original Article on DMV.com