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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).

03.29.16

Bimbo Bakeries USA and Nestlé Waters North America recently deployed new fleets of propane autogas delivery vehicles that will service multiple cities across the U.S.

"Becoming a better steward of our environment is a priority for Nestlé Waters," said Bill Ardis, national fleet manager for Nestlé Waters North America. "We've been running propane autogas vehicles since 2014. Because of the proven emissions reductions and cost savings, we knew it was the right choice to expand our fleet with this domestically produced alternative fuel."

Nestlé Waters added more than 150 new Ford F-650 delivery vehicles to its existing propane autogas fleet. Bimbo Bakeries USA purchased 84 new, clean-burning Ford F-59 trucks.

"This initiative is the latest in our company's continued effort to reduce our carbon footprint," said Gary Maresca, senior director of fleet services for Bimbo Bakeries.

By operating propane autogas delivery trucks equipped with ROUSH CleanTech’s fuel system technology, both companies will cut carbon dioxide emissions in local communities by about 192,000 pounds per truck (compared to gasoline) per year.

In addition to reducing the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, Bimbo Bakeries and Nestlé Waters also anticipate fuel and maintenance savings.

The new Ford F-59 and F-650 delivery vehicles will replace older diesel models.

Propane autogas is a nontoxic, non-carcinogenic and non-corrosive fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies the fuel as a non-contaminant. It is the leading alternative fuel in the United States and the third most commonly used vehicle fuel, following gasoline and diesel. About 23 million vehicles travel worldwide with propane in their fuel tank.

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.

03.03.16

When school districts adopt propane autogas buses, everyone -students, parents, and educators- benefits. More than 500 school districts across North America have deployed school buses fueled by clean, cost-effective autogas in recent years.

Now transit agencies are adding this alternative fuel into their existing fleets. To date, almost 700 propane autogas shuttles transport passengers in 12 states, with the highest concentration in Michigan. This map provides an overview of additional deployments aroud the nation.

The Altoona-approved ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-450 cutaway chassis affords transit agencies the ability to take advantage of Federal Transit Administration funding, which covers 85 percent of the entire alternative fuel vehicle cost, with a 15 percent local match.

Florida's Broward County Transit tops the charts with the largest autogas transit fleet in the U.S., followed by Michigan's Flint Mass Transportation Authority. The Flint agency's autogas shuttles have chalked up over 9 million miles in the past few years. The agency reports $2 million in fuel and maintenance cost savings compared with diesel vehicles.

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

The Southeast Alternative Fuel Demonstration Initiative (SADI) grant is a US Department of Energy project focused on the increased adoption of alternative fuels in the Southeast region of the United States. Project partners for this grant include Alliance Autogas, Enterprise, ICOM, Palmetto Gas, Penske and others.

Clean Cities Coalitions throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee will work with technology partners to provide opportunities for fleets to demonstrate a wide range of alternative fuel vehicles. More information can be found on the SADI website. If you're interested in testing out any of the following alternative fuel vehicles, please contact Erika Ruane at jhill [at] centralina [dot] org or 704.348.2731

Vehicles available for demos

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.

 

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

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