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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 In fact, Georgia repealed its successful tax incentive program.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

01.27.16

Winter is the season of snow. cold, and oddly enough, auto shows. Reporters and consumers alike flock to these showcases of the latest and greatest in vehicles to find out what will be on the road this year and in the future. While low gas prices are driving many people to larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles, there are still a number of alternative fuel and advanced technology ones on display. The hottest vehicles are a mix of those that are available at dealerships now and not for a few more months.

For plug-in electric vehicles, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt nabbed the Green Car of the Year honor at the L.A. Auto Show, with its expanded all-electric range, five passenger capacity, lower price and new ability to use non-premium gasoline. While the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle was versatile before, these new features make more affordable and convenient for a wider range of people. It even sports technology developed as a result of Energy Department investments, with an inverter and battery improved through Energy Department-sponsored research. Similarly, the 2016 all-electric Nissan Leaf offers the option to upgrade to a larger battery pack with a 107 mile range. Another recently announced plug-in electric vehicle is the Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid, which has a 27 mile all-electric range and is available in "select markets." Later this year, the Cehvrolet Bolt could be a major game changer with its 200 mile all-electric range, crossover style, and relatively low price. In addition, Audi, Hyundai, Chevrolet, and BMW have announced new plug-in electric models in the coming years.

On the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle side, the 2016 Toyotta Mirai and Hyundai Tucson are available at select dealers in California, with the Mirai for sale and the Tucson for lease. The Tucson is one of the few advanced technology SUVs on the market and was featured in a video taken at the Department of Energy. In addition to these, Honda is debuting the Clarity Fuel Cell in the U.S. later this year.

Although generally not highlighted at the consumer auto shows, there are also increasing options available in propane and natural gas. Chevrolet now has a bi-fuel CNG Impala that can have more flexibility for fleets than a dedicated vehicle may. In addition, an increasing number of original engine manufacturers are making propane and natural gas prep packages available.

12.23.15

On Friday, December 18th, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029). Division Q, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH Act), retroactively extends many tax credits.

There are several PATH Act provisions with implications for Clean Cities portfolio items: 

Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. Section 182 extends the tax credit for alternative fuel infrastructure through December 31, 2016. Fueling equipment for natural gas, propane, liquefied hydrogen, electricity, E85, and biodiesel are eligible for a tax credit of 30%, up to $30,000. Residential fueling equipment may receive a tax credit up to $1,000. 

Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit. Section 192 extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for alternative fuels, including liquefied hydrogen, through December 31, 2016.

Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Section 192 also extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for alternative fuel used to produce a mixture containing at least 0.1% gasoline, diesel, or kerosene through December 31, 2016. Alternative fuel blenders must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

Qualified Two-wheeled Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit. Section 183 extends the two-wheeled plug-in electric drive motor vehicle tax credit through December 31, 2017. Qualified vehicles are eligible of a tax credit for 10% of the cost of the vehicle, up to $2,500. 

Fuel Cell Motor Vehicle Tax Credit. Section 193 extends the $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of qualified light-duty fuel cell vehicles through December 31, 2016.

Biodiesel Income Tax Credit. Section 185 extends the biodiesel income tax credit through December 31, 2016. A taxpayer that delivers unblended biodiesel (B100) into the tank of a vehicle may be eligible for a $1.00 per gallon of biodiesel, agri-biodiesel, or renewable diesel tax credit. 

Biodiesel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Section 185 also extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel, agri-biodiesel, or renewable diesel used to produce a mixture containing at least 0.1% gasoline, diesel, or kerosene through December 31, 2016. Alternative fuel blenders must be registered with the IRS.

Second Generation Biofuel Production Property Depreciation Allowance. Section 189 extends the 50% special depreciation allowance for second generation biofuel production plants through January 1, 2017. 

Second Generation Producer Tax Credit. Section 184 extends the tax credit for second generation biofuel producers through December 31, 2016. Second generation biofuel producers registered with the IRS may be eligible for a $1.01 per gallon of biodiesel tax credit. 

The changes outlined above are effective immediately. To view the full text of the PATH Act, visit https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr2029enr/pdf/BILLS-114hr2029enr.pdf. See the Alternative Fuels Data Center Federal Laws and Incentives page for descriptions of each incentive.

 

12.23.15

This week's Clean Cities success story takes us to Asheville, North Carolina, to the Biltmore, America's largest home. The Biltmore uses biodiesel produced from the 50 acres of canola on the estate and from the restaurant waste cooking oil processed on site. Propane is also part of the Biltmore's sustainability portfolio. With the assistance of the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, the Biltmore uses eight propane-powered shuttle buses to transport guests around the property.

Produced by Maryland Public Television's MotorWeek program, this episode (#3516) will air on PBS stations nationwide starting Dec. 26, 2015. For show times in your area, check the MotorWeek and Discovery Channel websites. MotorWeek is also available in high definition on Velocity by Discovery.

 

12.16.15

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (N.C. DOT) is continuing to support efforts led by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) at North Carolina State University to reduce transportation related emissions through a two-year $4,494,500 award for the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project. This marks the fourth phase of the CFAT initiative, which began in 2006.

The CFAT project focuses on improving air quality in the 24 North Carolina counties that are in non-attainment or maintenance status with regards to National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The project ccenters around three primary activities: education and outreach, emission reduction sub-awards, and recognition of exemplary efforts among fleets and organizations reducing their transportation-related emissions. The 2016-17 phase includes the following:

  • Expansion of a public education campaign to increase awareness of cleaner transportation options such as walking, biking, transit and alternative fuels. The campaign includes statewide television, radio, and billboard advertising directing users to the consumer-oriented website FuelWhatMatters.org.
  • Collaboration and information exchange at a regional and statewide level, including the N.C. Clean Transportation Coordinating Committee, the N.C. Smart Fleet initiative, and a track at the 2016 State Energy Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina that is dedicated to topics relevant to a wide range of transportation stakeholders.
  • Development of a professional Smart Fleet management training program that will provide tools and information to increase fleet efficiency through the use of low carbon fuels, technologies, practices and policies.
  • Distribution of $3 million for transportation technology-related emission reduction projects. These funds will be allocated through a minimum of two competitive call for project processes.

The beginning of this new CFAT phase coincides with the announcementof a request for proposal period for $1.5 million in funding available to governments, businesses, and/or non-profit applicants for transportation technology emission reduction projects. Eligible projects include biodiesel, E85 ethanol, electric, hybrid electric, natural gas, and propane vehicles and refueling/recharging equipment. Vehicle telematics, diesel retrofits, and idle reduction technologies are also eligible for CFAT grant funding.

Funding assistance is allocated in the form of a reimbursement, which can cover up to 80 percent of the project cost. In order to be eligible, a project must reduce transportation-related emissions within the 24 eligible counties with the exception of natural gas refueling equipment and electric vehicle recharging infrastructure which, in accordance with federal guidelines, can be located anywhere within the state. For education and outreach regarding alternative fuel and fuel conservation technologies and policies, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center has partnered with Triangle J, Centralina, Upper Coastal Plain and Kerr-Tar Councils of Governments, and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council. 

Guidelines and applications available by clicking on Incentives & Funding at: www.cleantransportation.org

12.16.15

Rountable Questions:

  1. What words or images from this slide catch you attention?
  2. What headlines have you been reading or seen in the news this week or month related to crude oil prices?
  3. What do you think of when I say the words "falling oil prices?"
  4. What concerns you?
  5. What is the importance of the price of oil? Why should we care about falling oil prices?
  6. What implications does this have for the national Clean Cities program?
  7. What opportunities could exist?
  8. What does this mean for the next year? Or next 5 years?
  9. What kind of decisions do we need to make as a Clean Cities Coalition?

Items to Consider:

New Realities

  • OEM's and suppliers costs are down leading to cost to do new fuels/technology are more feasible
  • Alternative fuels now available almost everywhere

Focus on

  • Maintenance protocols are improving for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) leading to reduced costs
  • Reliability of AFVs improving leading to proven performance (not an unknown)
  • Communicating value to potential users we need to tap into knowledge gained by early adopters (i.e. learning curves, best practices)
  • Local governments need to augment budget process and mechanisms to better favor innovation shifts to new technology (i.e. allowing departments to keep cost savings)
  • Education and outreach around variety of petroleum reduction programs and technologies (i.e. anti-idling, telematics)
  • Myth busting about various fuels, technolgy and vehicles: making sure dealers are better prepared/knowledgeable on AFVs, providing clarity on source of electricity for EVs (air quality impacts)

Diversification as a strategy

  • Focus on pros of alternative technologies
  • Focus on long-term thinking vs. short term (where will we be in 2020?)
  • Different duty cycles will be met by variety of fuels and vehicles

 

12.14.15

Asheville Outlets announced the installation of a Tesla Motors Superchager station! This Tesla Supercharger station, located at 800 Brevard Road, has eight charging bays suitable for the Tesla Model S and X. They are capable of replenishing approximately 170 miles of range in 20 minutes and charging to full capacity in 40 minutes!

Supercharger

12.07.15

Eastern Carolina Council is working on a Plug-In Electric vehicle corridor plan. The aim is to help counties and municipalities along US-70 create a range anxiety-free route for folks traveling east. This will be done through enabling language in local codes, marketing of the corridor, and potentail charging site locations.

12.02.15

Plug-in NC is now accepting applications. Any organization in North Carolina is welcome to join if they have installed a charging station, purchased an electric fleet vehicle or are working to promote driving electric. By joining Plug-in NC, you will be featured on the website and social media, and have an opportunity to connect with other electric vehicle supporters across the state.

If you would like to learn more about Plug-in NC before joining, there is a recording of the informational webinar available on the website - www.pluginnc.com. If you would like to join the program, you can complete the new online application by clicking here.

plug-in NC

12.02.15

Drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles are accustomed to a feature called “start-stop” that saves fuel by turning the vehicle off when you’re stopped (e.g., waiting in traffic) and restarting it when you’re ready to move. However, if you want a new, conventional automobile or light-duty truck, you might consider buying one that uses the same technology. You can now find it in a range of American automobiles, including Cadillac CT6s, Chevy Malibus, Ford Fusions, and Ford F-150 trucks.

Start-stop (also known as auto start, idle stop, auto start-stop, start/stop, or mild hybrid) technology senses when your foot is on the brake for a predetermined period of time and shuts off the engine. All your auxiliaries remain on while start-stop is engaged. When you release the brake, the engine seamlessly starts up again. The technology underlying start-stop includes a heavy-duty starter that can endure 300,000 cycles instead of 30,000 cycles found in most vehicles.

Europeans have long used this technology, as their fuel prices are as much as three times higher than ours. In addition, start-stop engineering is less complicated for manual-transmission vehicles, which are more common in Europe than here in the States. Finally, current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy test procedures don’t account for much simulated idling, so start-stop–associated savings may not even show up on the label of the new car, although this may change in the near future.

I recently took a few test drives of both American- and German-made automobiles equipped with start-stop. Each of the vehicles had an indicator similar to the one below to show when the feature was in use.

Indicators of start-stop technology in a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu

Indicators of start-stop technology in a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu. The left photo shows the indicator when the vehicle is stationary but not idling; the right photo shows the indicator when the vehicle is stationary and idling. Used with permission of Intertek Testing Services NA.

At first, the silence and lack of vibration at traffic lights were quite noticeable, but it didn’t take long to adjust to the quiet. Then, in the instant that it took for me to move my foot from the brake to the accelerator, the engine came back to life. I was expecting this experience, but if I hadn’t known about it, I would have been quite disconcerted. Automobile manufacturers do allow the start-stop feature to be turned completely turned off.

So how much fuel can you save by having this technology in your car or light truck? To quote EPA, “Your mileage may vary,” and savings depend on traffic and driving style. Fuel savings probably range from about 3% to more than 10% for stop-and-go city traffic. However, your driving habits strongly influence your actual fuel economy.

 

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

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