Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Credit Allocations Under Alternative Fuel Transportation Program

Question of the Month: What are the new credit allocations that were established under the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE)'s Alternative Fuel Transportation Program (Program) earlier this year? How can I help spread the word on these new Energy Policy Act (EPAct) compliance pathways?

Answer: DOE issued a final rule on March 21, 2014, that establishes credit levels for additional means by which covered state and alternative fuel provider fleets operating under the Program's Standard Compliance option may earn credits. These credits may be used toward compliance with a fleet's alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) acquisition requirements. DOE promulgated the rule pursuant Congress' direction, set forth in Section 133 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The new credit allocations address the acquisition of various types of electric drive vehicles and allow covered fleets to earn credits under Standard Compliance for some vehicles that do not meet the EPAct 1992 definition of an AFV. Newly eligible vehicles include the following (with their credit allocations):
  • Certain hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) – one-half credit
  • Plug-in electric vehicles – one-half credit
  • Fuel cell electric vehicles – one-half credit
  • Neighborhood electric vehicles – one-fourth credit

Medium- and heavy-duty HEVs are also eligible for one-half credit after a fleet has met its light-duty AFV acquisition requirements.

Acquiring the electric drive vehicles noted above is not the only new way to earn credits under EPAct Standard Compliance. Fleets may now earn credits for investments of their own funds (not grant funds or other monetary awards) in qualified alternative fuel infrastructure. For every $25,000 invested, a covered fleet may earn one credit, with a limit of five credits available per fleet per model year for private infrastructure investment, and ten credits per fleet per model year for public infrastructure investment.

Other Investments
Fleets may also earn credits for investments in alternative fuel non-road equipment and/or emerging technologies associated with the Section 133-identified vehicles. The credits for non-road equipment are similar to infrastructure – one credit for every $25,000 invested and a maximum of five credits may be earned per fleet per model year. Emerging technologies investments will earn a covered fleet two credits for the initial investment of $50,000 and one credit for every $25,000 invested thereafter, with a limit of five credits per fleet per model year.

Fleets may begin taking advantage of these new credit allocations for their efforts undertaken in model year 2014 and future model years.

How Can You Spread the Word?
Are you aware of any covered utility or state fleets that are building new fueling infrastructure?
  • Inform them they can earn EPAct credits.

Do you have an EPAct covered fleet stakeholder that needs an extra push to buy or lease HEVs?
  • Let them know that certain HEVs are now eligible for EPAct credits.

Do you or your stakeholders have questions regarding EPAct compliance?
  • Contact the Regulatory Information Hotline: or 202-586-9171.

Note that covered fleets are currently compiling their Program reports for model year 2014 (September 1, 2013 to August 31, 2014) activities, which are due by December 31, 2014.

For more information, refer to the following resources:

Pump In Theaters

Author Edwin Black provides a review of Pump along with some history of how we got to where we are today.
As I wrote in my book Internal Combustion and subsequent works, we never needed to be addicted to oil. Never. The electric car was invented in about 1835. Until the run-up to WW I, most of the motor vehicles in America were electric-powered, until Edison's plans were subverted by the car industry and the manufacturers switched to gas-burning internal combustion vehicles.

From the review of Pump in the L.A. Times:
As far as documentaries go, the film is exhaustively researched, interviewed and documented. Its disclosure that General Motors declined multiple interview requests earns the film some credibility where other advocacy docs fall short. It arms advocates with plenty of well-reasoned and compelling talking points, even if its final montage about consumer freedom feels like a quit-smoking aid commercial.

In California Pump can be seen at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles through September 25, 2014; at the Crest in Westwood, September 26-28; and at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena beginning on September 26.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Filling Up the Tank of a CNG Vehicle

From the Clean Cities Blog:
When pulling up to a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station, you may see some distinct similarities to a traditional gasoline station—a nozzle, a dispenser, and maybe even a nearby convenience store selling snacks. At first glance, the act of pumping gas into a natural gas tank is quite similar to that of filling a conventional vehicle with gasoline.

However, there is one very big difference when it comes to the fuel—CNG is a gas, while gasoline is a liquid. This difference means that your tank will fill differently with CNG than it does with gasoline.

For example, when you fill up an empty 20-gallon gasoline tank, you drive away with 20 gallons of liquid fuel no matter what time of year it is or how quickly the pump dispensed your fuel. This is not the case when fueling natural gas vehicles. In contrast, the amount of CNG that ends up in the tank when the dispenser shuts off will vary depending on the outside temperature and the speed at which fuel goes into the tank, among other variables. Lower outside, or ambient, temperatures at the time of fueling combined with a slower fill rate, for example, will result in a higher volume of natural gas in the tank when compared with higher temperatures or a faster fill rate.

It is easy to be confused by the final fill volume in a natural gas tank, because what is happening inside the tank can't be seen and vehicle operators tend to think in terms of the behavior of a liquid fuel. To demonstrate this phenomenon and help drivers and fuel providers understand what is happening, the Alternative Fuel Data Center (AFDC) website has just launched an interactive animation that demonstrates at what temperature and fill speed a driver can safely get the "fullest" fill of compressed natural gas.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Responding to the Wall Street Journal

NGVAmerica writes:

On Monday, August 25, 2014, the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled "Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks." We are in the process of coordinating 300 word responses to the Journal with a couple of our companies. In the meantime, we have prepared for your information and use with local media and customers a more detailed response, which is below. You may also want to send a Letter-to-the Editor to the Wall Street Journal.

In his Aug. 25, 2014, Wall Street Journal article, "Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks," Bob Tita states that North American sales of natural-gas-powered trucks "are just crawling along." Then in the next paragraph, he reports that the market is expected to grow by 20 percent in 2014. That's hardly crawling. In fact, it is extraordinary in a market where change generally comes slowly and the vehicles have a long service life. Some analysts did forecast even faster growth, but their exuberance shouldn't detract from the real, solid expansion of natural gas trucking. It also is important to note that many of those more optimistic forecasts were done two or more years ago, at which time the natural gas engine that represents the vast majority of the heavy-duty market in 2014 (the Cummins Westport ISX12 G 11.9 liter engine) was expected to be introduced in 2012. In fact, trucks with the bigger version of that engine did not begin entering the market until the fall of 2013—less than one year ago.
  • The author's math also is confusing. He states, "A big roadblock remains the premium for a heavy-duty gas truck—$50,000 more than the about $150,000 for a new diesel-powered truck. In theory, the payback for that higher price is recovered from fuel savings of between $1.60 and $1.70 for the gas equivalent of a gallon of diesel. Paybacks can average four years considering the average truck travels 125,000 miles a year." Using seven miles per gallon (which is generous for heavy-duty trucks) and 125,000 miles a year, a truck would use roughly 17,800 gallons of fuel each year. At $1.60 savings per gallon, that's a savings of almost $28,500 per year, or a payback of the $50,000 added cost in less than two years. Truck duty-cycles vary, and not every truck will see this fast a payback, but where they do apply, natural gas vehicle market penetration is expanding rapidly. For example, about 55 percent of all trash trucks purchased in the U.S. last year were natural gas powered, and this year that number is expected to grow to 60 or 65 percent. Similarly, 25 to 30 percent of all public transportation buses on order today are natural gas powered.
  • The author also uses some questionable facts to make his case. For example, he says that natural gas trucks make up only 2 percent of UPS' 100,000 truck fleet. That 100,000 vehicles represents their worldwide fleet of all trucks. In the U.S., UPS has only 17,000 heavy-duty trucks (the focus of this article), of which 1,000 will be natural gas powered by the end of the year. That will be almost 6 percent of its fleet in 2014 – an extraordinary penetration in a few short years.
  • The author also states, "Mileage from a natural-gas-powered truck is about 20% less per energy equivalent than a diesel truck …" Spark-ignition natural gas trucks do experience efficiency losses compared to compression-ignition diesel trucks, but, from all reports we have seen, the efficiency loss is between 5 and 15 percent depending on a truck's duty cycle. In some heavy-duty applications, such as refuse, performance is on par with diesel. It also is important to remember that advances in natural gas engine technology lags slightly behind advances in diesel technology. As diesel engine advances are incorporated into natural gas engines, the efficiency gap will narrow.
  • The article closes with a quote from Freightliner: "Long-haul, over-the-road trucking is not going to adopt natural gas for a long time." Unless you are in the business, this statement is deceptive. "Long-haul, over-the-road trucking" does not mean all interstate, over-the-road trucks. The Freightliner representative was referring to those interstate sleeper trucks where the same driver may travel to a different city from one day to the next—even across the country. These vehicles, which may represent 50 percent of the heavy-duty interstate truck market, would need a national interstate highway natural gas fueling network to be comfortable shifting to natural gas. This network is currently being built by companies such as Blu., Clean Energy, Kwik Trip, Love's, Shell, TrilliumUSA, TruStar and others announcing new truck stations weekly. In the meantime, the natural gas vehicle industry is seeing significant interest from heavy-duty regional, super-regional and the other truck fleets representing the other half of the heavy-duty truck market.
The author states that 10,480 new heavy-duty natural-gas-powered trucks are expected to enter the U.S. market this year. Assuming each truck will use 15,000 diesel gallon equivalents of natural gas per year, this would represent over 157 million diesel gallon equivalents per year—for heavy-duty trucks alone. When you also consider the growing market for natural gas in medium- and light-duty trucks, light-duty vans, SUVs and cars, and now heavy-duty off-road equipment, rail, and marine applications, it may be more accurate to refer to the natural gas vehicle market as "galloping along."