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06.22.17

Question of the Month: What's new for Clean Cities mobile tools and resources?

Answer:

Two new mobile tools have recently become available:

  • Station Locator app for Android: Android users can now access the Station Locator app through the Google Play store. As with the original iPhone app version, users can access the Station Locator from their mobile device and find the 20 closest stations within a 30-mile radius. Results display either on a map or in a list with station addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation. Also available for iPhone from the iTunes store.
  • Trip Calculator mobile page: FuelEconomy.gov recently launched a mobile web page version of their popular Trip Calculator tool. This page allows users to easily calculate fuel economy for a trip while on the go.

Other Mobile Resources

  • AFDC Station Locator mobile page: If you’d rather not use an app, the Station Locator mobile page provides an easy way to view alternative fueling station information on your smartphone screen, regardless of the type of mobile device used. Users can access the Station Locator by navigating to this link in an internet browser.
  • Find-a-Car app (Android and iPhone): The Find-a-Car app allows users to view the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy ratings, fuel cost estimates, and safety ratings for new and used cars and trucks. The app also allows users to input driving habits to personalize results, and to scan QR codes on window stickers while car shopping to assist in comparing vehicles. The app is available to download on the Google Play store and download on the iTunes store.
  • Find and Compare Cars mobile page: The Find and Compare Cars mobile page allows users to search for vehicles by year, make, and model. Searches can also filter by vehicle class and combined miles per gallon (MPG).
  • EPA Fuel Economy Label mobile page: The EPA Fuel Economy Label mobile page explains what each piece of information detailed on fuel economy labels for gasoline, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicles means.
  • Calculate My MPG mobile page: On this page, users receive assistance calculating and tracking fuel economy and comparing it with the EPA ratings. To get started, users must first create an account by accessing the tool online. Look for an update to the mobile page later this year.
  • Gas Mileage Tips mobile page: This page provides drivers with quick tips to obtaining better gas mileage and shows how much money per gallon they can save as a result.

 

You can rate and provide feedback on the Google Play and iTunes stores for the Station Locator and Find-a-Car apps. You may also contact the TRS at any time with feedback about these mobile resources, as well as suggestions for new tools.

 

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

technicalresponse [at] icf [dot] com

800-254-6735

03.30.17

What factors do employers need to consider when establishing a workplace charging program?

Answer:
While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for workplace charging, there are a number of resources available to help employers design, implement, and manage the right program for their organization.

Assess Demand
Employers considering whether workplace charging is right for their organization will want to start by assessing employee demand with an employee survey (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/downloads/sample-employee-survey-workplace-charging-planning). Once this assessment is complete, employers may set goals for meeting workplace charging demand, either by planning to meet the entire need (i.e., all drivers that have expressed or will express interest in PEV charging) or by dedicating a percentage of parking spaces to PEV charging. For example, Google has a goal to dedicate 5% of all parking spaces to workplace charging.

Procure and Install
Employers should determine what types of charging stations to purchase. There are a few decisions to make, including the following: 

  • Charging Level: There are benefits and drawbacks to both Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations in the workplace. Employers must evaluate which option is best for their facilities. For more information about the differences between charging levels and their merits for workplace charging, see the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Workplace Charging Station Basics page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-station-basics). 
  • Networking: Charging station networks provide maintenance, customer service, and energy monitoring capabilities, and collect payment on behalf of the station owner. However, networks require a fee, and employers will need to consider whether the convenience of charging networks outweighs the financial cost. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Level 2 page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/level-2-charging-workplace). 

Employers should also be sure to get quotes from a number of charging station providers. For more guidance, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Sample Request for Proposal document (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/downloads/request-proposal-guidance). Employers will work with their electrical contractor to determine charging station placement; station installation can be an expensive process, but employers can minimize costs by siting stations in locations that require minimal trenching, boring, and electrical panel upgrades. For more information about siting and installation, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Equipment and Installation Costs page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-equipment-and-installation-costs).

Manage
A well-managed, well-planned workplace charging program can ensure station access to all employees, promote strong communication between employers and station users, and encourage responsible station use. 

  • Registration and Liability: Many employers require employees to register their PEV, which allows the employer to identify the number of vehicles using their charging stations. For example, employers can give registered vehicles a mirror hangtag or window sticker that identifies the vehicle as having permission to use the charging stations. A registration form may also include language that requires vehicle owners to agree not to hold the employer responsible for any damage to the vehicle that occurs while it is parked at the charging station. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Registration and Liability page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-management-policies-registration-liability). 
  • Station Sharing: It is important to emphasize that workplace charging is a privilege, not a right. Employees may be obligated to share stations with their colleagues and comply with established charging time limits. While an employer can set up systems for sharing stations, such as reserving the station (similar to how an employee would reserve a conference room) or establishing a set schedule for use, most employers allow users to resolve station-sharing conflicts themselves. However, it is important to establish consequences for violating station policies, such as using a station for less than four hours. By framing workplace charging as a privilege, an employer reserves the right to restrict access for employees that routinely violate company policy. For more information about how to establish workplace charging policies and encourage station sharing, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Station Sharing page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-management-policies-sharing). 
  • Pricing: While most employers offer workplace charging for free, charging for station use can be a good way to manage demand. Employers may charge for electricity (e.g., per kilowatt hour) or for time (e.g., per hour), depending on preference and applicable regulations. Employers can motivate employees to move their vehicles and share the stations by charging a nominal fee (or no fee) for the first set number of hours (e.g., four hours) and then raise the fee for subsequent time that the vehicle is parked in the space. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Pricing page (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-management-policies-pricing). 

For more resources about workplace charging, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging website (https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging), explore the Clean Cities’ Workplace Charging Toolkit (https://cleancities.energy.gov/technical-assistance/workplace-charging/), or contact the TRS at technicalresponse [at] icf [dot] com

 

02.28.17

What are state and local governments doing to incentivize alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs)?

Answer:
There are many notable incentive activities at the state and local levels. Many states offer incentives for alternative fuels that advance specific environmental and energy security goals, while cities provide even more localized support.

States are targeting vehicles, infrastructure, and other means to encourage AFV adoption. Below are various types of incentives, as well as hyperlinked examples of each:

  • AFV Purchase Incentives: States offer grants, rebates, and tax credits for the purchase of AFVs. While some states may focus vehicle incentives on a particular fuel type, such as electric vehicles, others are more general in their support. States provide AFV purchase incentives to consumers, commercial fleets, and public fleets, such as schools and government agencies. Different incentive mechanisms tend to be more appropriate for different categories of vehicle purchasers; for example, grants are often limited to certain types of entities. Public fleets may not be liable for taxes, so they usually benefit more from grants than from tax credits. Private fleets can benefit from grants, rebates, and tax credits.
  • Fueling Infrastructure Purchase and Installation Incentives: Similar to AFV incentives, states provide grants, rebates, and tax credits for alternative fueling infrastructure. States usually create incentives for the physical fueling infrastructure, but many programs also support installation costs. Some states also offer a tax credit or tax reduction for the production or purchase of alternative fuel itself. Fueling infrastructure incentives may stipulate that the fueling or charging station must be available to the public, which helps to increase the availability of alternative fuels to a broader range of entities.
  • Other Incentives: In addition to financial support for the purchase of AFVs, states may give special benefits to AFV drivers. For example, some states allow high-occupancy vehicle lane access to AFVs, while others provide reduced registration fees, weight restriction exemptions, and emissions inspections exemptions.

Municipalities are also playing a role in supporting AFV deployment. Cities and counties incentivize AFVs in a number of ways, including by offering free or discounted parking, expediting permitting processes, and providing vehicle and infrastructure grants. For example, New Haven, CT, provides free parking on city streets for AFVs, while Los Angeles, CA, offers instant, online residential electric vehicle supply equipment permitting approval. The Alternative Fuels Data Center’s (AFDC) Local Laws and Incentives page provides more information on these and a greater array of other local options; while the page regarding local laws and incentives is not meant to be comprehensive, it provides users an idea of the different municipal programs and policies that exist (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/local_examples). If you are aware of an innovative way that municipalities are supporting alternative fuels and vehicle acquisition, please contact the Clean Cities Technical Response Service at technicalresponse [at] icf [dot] com to share the details. 

For more information about state and local alternative fuel incentives, see the AFDC Laws and Incentives page (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws). 

 

10.12.16

 

Question of the Month: What are the current and future medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards?

 Answer:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (collectively, HDVs) are expected to surpass light-duty vehicle (LDV) emissions by 2030. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish fuel efficiency standards for HDVs. Then, in 2010, President Obama announced a new national program to implement coordinated fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. As you may have seen last month, EPA and NHSTA recently finalized the most recent set of requirements under this program.
 First promulgated by EPA and NHTSA in 2011, these coordinated standards are being implemented in two separate phases, beginning with Model Year (MY) 2014 to 2018 (Phase 1, which has now been extended through 2020) and followed by MYs 2021 to 2027 (Phase 2), with some exceptions. Under Phase 1, the GHG emissions and fuel efficiency standards generally increase in stringency in MY 2017, then remain steady through MY 2020. GHG emissions and fuel efficiency standards under Phase 2 of the program increase first in MY 2021, and then again in MYs 2024 and 2027. Although the Phase 2 standards do not begin until MY 2021, manufacturers may need to begin compliance measures beforehand in order to be adequately prepared to meet the targets.
Fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards are determined differently for each of five regulated heavy-duty (HD) engine and vehicle categories: combination tractors; vocational vehicles; HD engines used in combination tractors and vocational vehicles; trailers used with combination tractors; and HD pickup trucks and vans. For more information on these categories, please refer to the EPA Phase 2 fact sheet.

 

04.21.16

Question of the Month:

What are the various weight classes and why do they matter?

Answer:

Which Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard applies to my vehicle? What are the state emissions testing requirements for my vehicle? Would a medium-duty vehicle qualify for the plug-in electric drive motor vehicle tax credit? To answer these questions and determine which laws, regulations, and incentives may apply to your vehicle or fleet, you must first understand the specifics of the vehicle weight classifications.

You may recall learning about federal agencies and vehicle classes from our February Question of the Month (http://www.eereblogs.energy.gov/cleancities/post/2016/02/18/clean_cities_acronyms.aspx). However, each agency defines vehicle classes differently. So this month, we will dig deeper into the specific vehicle weight classes set by three federal agencies. This guide will help you identify a Class 1 vehicle to a Heavy-Duty Vehicle 8b, and everything in between.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

The FHWA defines vehicles as Class 1 through 9, the most common categorization used in the fleet industry. The classes are based on a vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is the maximum operating weight of the vehicle, measured in pounds (lbs.). GVWR is set by the manufacturer and includes the total vehicle weight plus fluids, passengers, and cargo. The FHWA's vehicle classes (listed below) are used in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (e.g., as it relates to the National Highway Freight Program). The vehicle classes are also used by certain states to determine vehicle road and fuel taxes, access to roadways, and idle reduction and emissions reduction requirements.

Light-Duty Vehicle: less than (<) 10,000 lbs.

  • Class 1: <6,000 lbs., e.g., sedan or sport-utility vehicle (SUV)
  • Class 2: 6,001-10,000 lbs., e.g., utility van

Medium-Duty Vehicle: 10,001-26,000 lbs.

  • Class 3: 10,001-14,000 lbs., e.g., mini bus
  • Class 4: 14,001-16,000 lbs., e.g., step van
  • Class 5: 16,001-19,500 lbs., e.g., bucket truck
  • Class 6: 19,501-26,000 lbs., e.g., school bus

Heavy-Duty Vehicle: greater than (>) 26,000 lbs.

  • Class 7: 26,001-33,000 lbs., e.g., city transit bus
  • Class 8: >33,000 lbs., e.g., dump truck

For more vehicle examples, see the Types of Vehicles by Weight Class chart (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/10381)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA uses the following categories to certify vehicles based on emissions standards, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's CAFE standards to regulate fuel economy. The light-duty vehicle category is also used in Energy Policy Act vehicle acquisition requirements. Note that there is a distinction between vehicles and engines in the EPA's classification because there are separate emissions standards for each.

Passenger Vehicles

Light-Duty Vehicle: <8,500 lbs.

Medium-Duty Vehicle: 8,501-10,000 lbs.

Heavy-Duty Vehicles and Engines

General Trucks

  • Light-Duty Trucks: <8,500 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle Heavy-Duty Engine: >8,500 lbs.

Heavy-Duty Trucks

  • Light-Duty Truck 1 and 2: <6,000 lbs
  • Light-Duty Truck 3 and 4: 6,001-8,500 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 2b: 8,501-10,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 3: 10,001-14,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 4: 14,001-16,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 5: 16,001-19,500 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 6: 19,501-26,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 7: 26,001-33,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 8a: 33,001-60,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Duty Vehicle 8b: >60,000 lbs.

Heavy-Duty Engines

  • Light Light-Duty Truck: <6,000 lbs.
  • Heavy Light-Duty Truck: 6,001-8,500 lbs.
  • Light Heavy-Duty Engine: 8,501-19,500 lbs.
  • Medium Heavy-Duty Engine: 19,501-33,000 lbs.
  • Heavy Heavy-Duty Engine Urban Bus: >33,000 lbs.

U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the following Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey classes to measure how many private commercial trucks operate within the United States.

  • Light-Duty Vehicle: <10,000 lbs.
  • Medium-Duty Vehicle: 10,000-19,500 lbs.
  • Light Heavy-Duty Vehicle: 19,001-26,000 lbs.
  • Heavy-Dutu Vehicle: >26,000 lbs.

States are not consistent, as some use one of the classifications above and others develop their own classifications for various state laws, regulations, and incentives related to vehicles. Be sure to check your state legislation and program guidance to determine which classifications apply. For example, the California Air Resources Board typically uses "heavy-duty" to describe vehicles with a GVWR greater than 14,000 lbs., which is referenced in the Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Requirements (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/5682). 

Looking for a more visual comparison of the various classifications? Check out the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Vehicle Weight Classes and Categories chart (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/10380).

03.22.16

Question of the Month: It's tax time! What are some common questions related to the federal tax credits for alternative fuels and infrastructure?

Answer:

Tax season is upon us, and the recent federal tax incentive extensions and changes impact the alternative fuel and infrastructure tax credits.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2029/text) retroactively extended several tax credits, including the Alternative Fuel Excise and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credits. It also included updates to the calculation method for the Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit amounts, specifically for propane and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Below we discuss three recent frequently asked questions about these credits.

How have the Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit amounts changed for propane and LNG in 2016 and beyond?

The Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/319) applies to alternative fuel sold or used to operate a motor vehicle. Previously, the excise tax credit amount for propane and LNG was based on a volumetric basis ($0.50 per gallon). For fuel sold or used starting January 1, 2016, however, the excise tax credit amount for propane and LNG is based on an energy equivalent basis. This means the credit for propane is now measured per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) and LNG is measured per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE). Specifically, the updated Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 8849, Schedule 3 (https://www.irs.gove/pub/irs-prior/f8849s3--2016.pdf) defines 2016 tax credit rates for propane and LNG as follows:

  • Propane: One GGE is equal to 5.75 pounds (lbs.) or 1.353 gallons of propane.
  • LNG: One DGE is equal to 6.06 lbs. or 1.71 gallons of LNG.

What does this mean for propane and natural gas retailers and fleets? In short, the tax credit for the same amount of fuel is now less:

  • The propane tax credit was previously $0.50 per gallon and is not $0.50 per GGE (1.353 gallons of propane), which equates to $0.37 per gallon.
  • The LNG tax credit was previously $0.50 per gallon and is now $0.50 per DGE (1.71 gallons of LNG), which equates to $0.29 per gallon.

The tax credit amount for compressed natural gas (CNG) is still based on the GGE, where one GGE is equal to 121 cubic feet.

Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) provides additional information on federal tax incentives for LNG and CNG (https://www.ngvamerica.org/government-policy/federal-incentives/federal-tax-incentives), and highlights the impacts of the recent tax credit changes in the article, New Year Rings in Changes for CNG and LNG in 2016 (http://ngv.com/new-year-rings-in-changes-for-cng-and-lng-in-2016/). The National Propane Gas association explains the excise tax equalization for propane (https://www.npga.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1898).

So, you said the Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit was retroactively extended. Does that mean I can claim it for fuels sold or used in 2015?

Yes! Both the federal Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit and Biodiesel Mixture Excise Tax Credit (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/395) were extended to cover 2015, meaning that propane, CNG, LNG, hydrogen, and biodiesel sold or used in 2015 are eligible for the federal tax credit. To file for the tax credit, registered claimants must submit a single one-time 2015 claim with IRS Form 8849 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8849.pdf), as well as the accompanying Schedule 3 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8849s3.pdf). The deadline to submit a claim for fuels sold or used in 2015 is August 8, 2016. Please note that the tax credit amount for propane and LNG sold or used in 2015 is based on the previous, volumetric rate of $0.50 per gallon.

For additional information on claiming the tax credit for fuels sold or used in 2015, please see IRS Notice 2016-05 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-16-05.pdf).

Are tax-exempt entities eligible for the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit?

While a tax-exempt entity, such as a school or state government fleet, may not be eligible to claim the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/10513) directly, the entity selling the fueling infrastructure to the tax-exempt entity can claim the credit and pass the "discount" along to the fleet. According to Title 26 of the United States Code, Section 30C(e)(3) (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title26/pdf/USCODE-2014-title26-subtitleA-chap1-subchapA-partIV-subpartB-sec30C.pdf), the entity selling the fueling equipment to the tax-exempt entity can be treated as the taxpayer and claim the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, but only if the seller discloses the amount of the credit allowable to the tax-exempt purchaser in writing. In practice, this means the tax-exempt fleet would have the opportunity to use this information to request a discount. However, the infrastructure seller is not required to pass along any savings associated with the tax credit.

For more information on how tax-exempt entities may be eligible for the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, please see the IRS instructions for Form 8911 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8911.pdf).

Please note that the Technical Response Service recommends consulting a qualified tax professional or the IRS before making any tax-related decisions.

03.02.16

Question of the Month: Clean Cities uses a lot of acronyms. What are the most important ones to understand?  

Answer:

Have you ever been on the DOE’s AFDC to learn about EVSE for EVs or PHEVs to meet EPAct requirements? Let’s take a step back. Perhaps you feel like you need a translator just to understand the basics of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles. If this sounds familiar, get in the know with our list of the top Clean Cities acronyms, broken down into 10 categories:

Federal Agencies and National Laboratories

DOE: U.S. Department of Energy: The federal agency with the mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. Clean Cities is part of that overall mission. DOE includes:

EIA: Energy Information Administration: Collects, analyzes, and disseminates impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy.

DOE National Laboratories: Organizations affiliated with DOE, focused on delivering solutions to energy challenges and transforming the way our nation uses energy. There are more than a dozen DOE national laboratories. The labs that contribute to the work of Clean Cities include:

  • ANL: Argonne National Laboratory 
  • INL: Idaho National Laboratory
  • NREL: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • ORNL: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • PNNL: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

DOT: U.S. Department of Transportation: A federal agency with the mission to ensure a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is part of DOT.

EPA: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: A federal agency with the mission to protect human health and the environment. 

AFDC

Alternative Fuels Data Center: A web-based resource that provides information, data, and tools to help fleets and other transportation decision makers find ways to reduce petroleum consumption through the use of alternative and renewable fuels, advanced vehicles, and other fuel-saving measures.

Vehicle Characteristics  

GVWR: Gross vehicle weight rating: A metric that includes total vehicle weight plus fluids, passengers, and cargo. GVWR is used to define vehicle classes.

VMT: Vehicle miles traveled: VMT is the number of miles traveled by a vehicle or set of vehicles over a certain time period. 

Fuel Economy 

MPG: Miles per gallon: The standard for tracking a vehicle’s fuel economy.

MPGe: Miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent: For vehicles that do not use liquid fuels, a measure of fuel economy that allows for a reasonable comparison between vehicles using different fuels. MPGe represents the number of miles the vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. 

GGE: Gasoline gallon equivalent: The amount of fuel it takes to equal the energy content of one liquid gallon of gasoline.

DGE: Diesel gallon equivalent: The amount of fuel it takes to equal the energy content of one liquid gallon of diesel. 

Vehicle Classes

Various agencies and organizations classify vehicles differently. Below are FHWA classifications: 

  • LDV: Light-duty vehicle: A vehicle under 10,000 pounds (lbs.; Class 1-2).
  • MDV: Medium-duty vehicle: A vehicle between 10,000 and 26,000 lbs. (Class 3-6). 
  • HDV: Heavy-duty vehicle: A vehicle over 26,000 lbs. (Class 7-8). 

Vehicle Emissions and Pollutants 

GHG: Greenhouse gas: A global pollutant, meaning it has climate and other impacts globally, no matter where it is emitted. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the most abundant GHG produced by the transportation sector.

Air pollutants:

  • CO: Carbon monoxide: A colorless, odorless gas emitted from combustion processes. In the United States, 56% of CO (up to 95% in cities) is emitted by on-road vehicles.
  • NOx: Oxides of nitrogen: A group of highly reactive gasses emitted from combustion processes that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone.  Approximately 55% of man-made NOx emissions come from motor vehicles.
  • SOx: Oxides of sulfur: A group of highly reactive gasses emitted from combustion processes. SOx is a concern for life cycle analysis of electric vehicle emissions, but not for conventional or other alternative fuel vehicles, because electricity generation is the largest source of SOx.
  • PM: Particulate matter: A complex mixture of acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles, emitted directly from vehicles (especially diesel) and formed through the atmospheric reactions of NOx and SOx. 
  • VOC: Volatile organic compound: Organic compounds that become a gas at room temperature. VOCs are the leading cause of ground-level ozone, also known as smog. 

Alternative Fuels and Alternative Fuel Vehicles 

AFV: Alternative fuel vehicle: Any dedicated, flexible fuel, bi-fuel, or dual-fuel vehicle designed to operate on at least one alternative fuel.

Biodiesel

  • B5: 5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel: Considered diesel fuel and approved for safe operation in any compression-ignition engine designed to operate on petroleum diesel.
  • B20: 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel: The most common biodiesel blend in the United States. 
  • B100: 100% biodiesel: Also referred to as pure biodiesel. 

Electricity

  • HEV: Hybrid electric vehicle: Powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the ICE. 
  • PEV: Plug-in electric vehicle: Derives all or part of their power from electricity supplied by the electric grid. PEVs include: 
  • PHEV: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle: An HEV that can be plugged into an electric power source to charge the battery. 
  • EV: All-electric vehicle: Uses a battery to store the electric energy that powers the motor. Batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. 
  • EVSE: Electric vehicle supply equipment: Deliver electrical energy from an electricity source to charge a PEV’s batteries.

Ethanol

  • E85: A high-level ethanol-gasoline blend containing 51%-83% ethanol, depending on geography and season.
  • FFV: Flexible fuel vehicle: A vehicle with an ICE capable of operating on gasoline, E85, or a mixture of the two. 

Hydrogen 

  • FCEV: Fuel cell electric vehicle: A vehicle that uses electricity to power a motor, but produces its primary electricity using a fuel cell powered by hydrogen.

Natural Gas 

  • CNG: Compressed natural gas
  • LNG: Liquefied natural gas
  • RNG: Renewable natural gas: Also known as biomethane, a fuel produced from organic materials (e.g., waste from landfills, livestock). It can be compressed or liquefied, and is pipeline-quality gas that is compatible with conventional natural gas in vehicles.
  • NGV: Natural gas vehicle: A dedicated, bi-fuel, or dual-fuel vehicle capable of running on CNG or LNG. 

Propane

  • LPG: Liquefied petroleum gas: A term used interchangeably with propane.

Clean Cities Tools and Resources 

GREET: Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation: An ANL model that evaluates the energy and emission impacts of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, the fuel cycle from wells-to-wheels, and the vehicle cycle through material recovery and vehicle disposal.

AFLEET: Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation: An ANL spreadsheet tool that estimates petroleum use, GHG and air pollutant emissions, and cost of ownership of AFVs and conventional vehicles, using simple spreadsheet inputs. 

PREP: Petroleum Reduction Planning: An online tool that helps fleets create a comprehensive plan to reduce petroleum consumption and GHG emissions. 

VICE: Vehicle and Infrastructure Cash-Flow Evaluation: An NREL spreadsheet model for fleet managers to assess the financial soundness of converting their fleets to run on CNG.

Federal Programs 

CAFE: Corporate Average Fuel Economy: DOT standards to improve the fuel efficiency and emissions of new on-road motor vehicles. 

CMAQ: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement: A DOT program that provides funding for projects and programs to reduce transportation-related emissions.

RFS: Renewable Fuel Standard: An EPA program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels to reduce GHG emissions. 

RINs: Renewable Identification Numbers: Credits used for compliance with the RFS.

Key Federal Legislation 

CAA: Clean Air Act of 1970: Defines EPA’s responsibilities for protecting and improving air quality. CAA authorizes the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit both stationary and mobile emissions sources. 

EPAct: Energy Policy Act: EPAct 1992 encourages the use of alternative fuels through both regulatory and voluntary activities that DOE carries out. It was amended several times, including via EPAct 2005.

EISA: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007: Aims to improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce United States dependence on petroleum. EISA includes provisions for the RFS and CAFE standards.

ARRA: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009: Appropriates investments in energy independence and renewable energy technologies, including Clean Cities and other grant programs.

 

01.27.16

Question of the Month: What types of incentives and laws did state legislators and others enact in 2015?

Answer:

State legislators, as well as governors and utilities, were busy in 2015 introducing and enacting new incentives, laws, and regulations related to alternative fuels, advanced vehicles, and other petroleum reduction strategies. Programs related to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and natural gas vehicles (NGVs), along with the associated fueling infrastructure, were most common at the state level.

State Incentives

The most common types of incentives established in 2015 were grants and rebates. States leading the way in these areas include Delaware, most notably for its Clean Trasnportation Program rebates for vehicles and infrastructure. On the other hand, the number of tax incentives introduced at the state level decreased. In fact, Georgia repealed its successful tax incentive program. Aside from political and budgetary drivers, the decrease in new tax incentives may be the result of a call from industry to enact programs that will allow fleets and consumers to see their savings more immediately (e.g., rebates, vouchers). This would take the place of waiting until tax season when the financial benefit may get lost in other expenses and returns from the previous year.

Utility Incentives

Utilities also continue to innovate and establish incentives that go beyond the typical residential charging infrastructure rebate and electricity rate discount programs. For example, Alabama Power offers and incentive to dealerships for each new PEV sale or lease within its service territory. Public Service Electric & Gas in New Jersey provides free electric vehicle supply equipment to qualified companies in its service territory for the purpose of workplace charging.

Laws and Regulations

Registration and licensing was the most common law and regulation topic, in part due to several states introducing fees for PEV registration to account for lost revenue from fuel taxes. Several states also continued to build on a movement that begain in 2014 and changes that took place at the federal level by enacting legislation to tax natural gas and other fuels on an energy (i.e., gasoline-gallon or diesel-gallon) equivalent basis. States also continued to set targets and requirements for their own fleets many of which go above and beyond federal requirements for alternative fuel vehicle acquisition. For example, Colorado Executive Order 2015-013 established fleet purchase and pricing requirements that prioritize NGVs, annual fuel use reduction targets on a vehicle-specific basis, goals for inter-agency coordination on petroleum reduction strategies, and commitments to workplace charging.

For the most up-to-date information on incentives, laws, and regulations, the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) provides a searchable database of state and federal incentives, laws, and regulations related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, vehicle efficiency, and other transportation-related topics. You can find information relevant to your state, and all others at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws

11.24.15

Question of the Month: What is renewable natural gas (RNG) and can it be used to fuel vehicles?

Answer:

RNG is pipeline-quality natural gas made by collecting and purifying biogas, the methane produced from decomposing organic matter. Biogas can be collected from sources such as landfills, livestock operations, wastewater treatement plants, food manufacturing and wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals. Once purified to remove contaminants and increase its heat content, the gas is called RNG and is a "drop-in" fuel that can be transported with conventional natural gas in pipelines, dispensed at the same fueling stations, stored in the same storage tanks, and used in natural gas vehicles without any engine modifications.

Despite its advantages, there are only 60 operational RNG production facilities in the United States. Many more us the biogas to generate electricity. This is due to federal and state programs, such as the federal Investment Tax Credit and state renewable portfolio standards, whic incentivize the use of biogas for power generation rather than for vehicle fuel.

Production

The purification process fo rbiogas is called condition or upgrading, and it involves removing water, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and various contaminants and trace elements. From there, RNG can be compressed to make renewable compressed natural gas (R-CNG) or super-cooled to make renewable liquefied natural gas (R-LNG).

RNG is produced from feedstocks that come from a wide range of industrial sectors, many of which already collect and process biomass as part of their daily operations:

  • Landfills: Landfill gas (LFG) is collected from decomposing waste in landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfills are the third larges source of human-related methan emissions in the United States. Landfills account for 70% of the operational RNG projects in the United States. One of the largest LFG-to-vehicle fuel projects is Waste Management's Altamont Landfill near Livermore, California. This project prudces up to 13,000 gallons of R-LNG each day to fuel 300 refuse trucks.
  • Livestock Operations: Animal manure can be collected and taken to an anaerobic digester for RNG production. A few farms across the country have started to use biogas to produce RNG vehicle fuel, including Hilarides Dairy in California and Fair Oaks Dairy in Indiana.
  • Wastewater Treatment Plants: Approximately 9% of th emore than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States use anaerobic digestion to produce biogas. The Janesville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wisconsin is an example of a plant that uses biogas to produce RNG for use in vehicles.
  • Other Biomass Sources: RNG can also be produced from lignocellulosic material, such as crop residues and dedicated energy crops, through thermochemical conversion, co-digestion, and dry fermentation. These technologies are being used in Europe, but have limited applications in the United States. RNG also can be produced from food waste, either alone or in conjunction with biosolids from livestock operations or wastewater treatment plants. CleanWorld Partners' Sacramento BioDigester and quasar's Central Ohio BioEnergy project convert food waste to RNG for vehicle fueling.

RFS2 Compliance

RNG qualifies as a cellulosic biofuel under the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. In fact, RNG accounted for more than 50 million renewable identification numbers (RINs) in 2014 - 98% of all cellulosic biofuel RINs. According to organizations that track biofuels market data, cellulosic biofuel RINs were valued at $0.70 - 0.85 per diesel gallon equivalent in 2014; this value is expected to increase in the future.

Other Benefits

Like conventional natrual gas, RNG can be produced domestically and can displace the petroleum currently being imported for transportation use. However, RNG offers some additional benefits. RNG has practically a net zero carbon impact. On a lifecycle basis, RNG accounts for fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than most currently available motor fuels. RNG can reduce GHG emissions by 95% compared to conventional gasoline and diesel fuel. This is partially because capturing biogas from landfills and livestock operations can reduce GHG emissions by preventing methane releases that were occurring into the atmosphere. Additionally, RNG produced through anaerobic digestion eliminates odors and results in nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer as a by-product. Also, biogas feedstocks are plentiful, so RNG could make use of the 450 million pounds of municipal solid waste dumped in landfills, 160 billion pounds of food waste generated, or the 500 million tons of animal waste produced each year.

Barriers

Like conventional natural gas, the main barriers to RNG are lack of vehicle availability and fueling infrastructure, though efforts are underway to address both of these obstacles. However, RNG production costs exceed those for conventional natural gas, especially for small-scale operations. Small-scale RNG prodcution can cost around $5.50 - $9 per million British thermal units compared to $4.50 for conventional natural gas. Additional financing and incentive opportunities, as well as state renewable portfolio standards that encourage the investment in biogas for vehicle fuel production, may spur additional production.

10.19.15

Question of the Month: How can I improve my gas mileage while driving this winter?

Answer:

Whether taking that long-awaited ski trip or just commuting to work in the frigid weather, there are several things you can do to improve your fuel economy and save money in the wintertime.

Why You Get Worse Gas Mileage When It's Cold

Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly. On particularly chilly days, when temperatures drop to 20°F or lower, you can expect to see up to a 12% hit on your fuel economy for short city trips. During very quick trips—traveling only three to four miles—your fuel economy could dip even lower (as much as 22%)!

This reduction in fuel economy is due to several factors. First of all, cold temperatures increase the time it takes your vehicle to warm the cabin, engine, drive-line fluids, and other components up to fuel-efficient operating temperatures. Cold fluids increase the friction on your engine and transmission, which can reduce fuel economy.  

Let’s take a moment to address one of the main myths about driving in cold weather: 

  • Myth: To warm up your engine and vehicle cabin in the wintertime, you should let the engine run for several minutes before driving.
  • Truth: Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds of idling. In fact, the engine will warm up faster when driving. Idling can use a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, and even more fuel if the engine is cold or accessories like seat heaters are on.

Also keep in mind that winter gasoline blends in cold climates have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends. This is because refineries alter the chemical makeup of gasoline to allow it to evaporate more easily in low temperatures, ensuring proper engine operation.

Aerodynamic drag is another consideration. In simple terms, cold air is denser than warm air, so when temperatures drop, wind resistance increases slightly. This requires a little more power from your engine to drive at a given speed. The effects of aerodynamic drag on fuel economy are most significant at highway speeds.

Winter Fuel-Saving Tips

The following tips can help you warm your car (and fingers!) more efficiently and improve your fuel economy in the winter:

Park in a warmer place like a garage that traps heat to keep the initial temperature of your engine and cabin higher than it would be outside in the elements.

Avoid idling to warm up the engine and cabin. See more information above.

Avoid using seat warmers more than necessary, as they require additional power.

Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners: Pre-heat your vehicle while still plugged in. Since PEVs use battery power to provide heat to the cabin, cabin and seat heaters can drain the vehicle’s battery and reduce the overall range. If you need to warm up quickly, warm the vehicle while it’s still charging.

PEV owners: Use seat heaters instead of the cabin heater when able. Using seat heaters instead of the cabin heater can save energy. Seat heaters use less energy than cabin heaters and can often be more efficient at warming you up quickly in the winter.

Read the owner’s manual for detailed information on how your vehicle’s cabin and seat heaters work and how to use them efficiently.

Do you live in a place where snow and ice isn't an issue? Check out the May Question of the Month (http://www.eereblogs.energy.gov/cleancities/post/2015/05/19/summer_fuel_...) for year-round warm weather driving tips. 

More Information

For more information on how to improve your fuel economy, please refer to the following FuelEconomy.gov tips:

• Fuel Economy in Cold Weather - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/coldweather.shtml 

• Gas Mileage Tips - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drive.shtml 

• Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.jsp

Centralina Council of Governments
9815 David Taylor Drive
Charlotte, NC 28262

Part of the U.S.
DOE Clean Cities
National Network