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News (Archive)

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

10.13.15

Proterra Electric Bus

The DOT is offering $22.5 million in grants in the latest round of its Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo). Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to transit agencies and state transportation departments working either independently or jointly with bus manufacturers.

The LoNo program is focused on deploying new low- or no-emission production buses that are market-ready or near market-ready (not in development or prototype stages). It gives priority to the buses with the lowest energy consumption and emissions.

The previous round of LoNo funding, announced in February 2015, awarded $55 million in grants to ten US organizations.

All buses proposed for deployment must complete the Federal Transit Administration’s bus testing program, and follow FTA Buy America regulations. Priority will be given to tested zero-emission bus models with proven effectiveness (such as Proterra and BYD models already in service in several US cities).

“The LoNo program has helped deploy environmentally-sound, technologically-advanced vehicles across the country, providing a better riding experience for passengers and improving public health,” said Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan. “By reducing fuel and maintenance costs, these modern vehicles are a great public investment – saving taxpayer money in the long run while powering innovative American enterprises.”

Source: Charged Electric Vehicles Magazine

10.13.15

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded more than $20 million in 10 projects to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies and enable early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

"These projects announced today will continue to make advances in our rapidly expanding portfolio of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies," says Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. "Energy Department-supported projects have helped reduce the modeled cost of transportation fuel cells by 50 percent since 2006, and more than double durability and reduce the amount of platinum necessary by a factor of five."

The DOE says the hydrogen and fuel cell market continues to grow rapidly. According to the department’s newly released 2014 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, the industry grew by almost $1 billion in 2014, reaching $2.2 billion in sales - up from $1.3 billion in 2013. In addition, more than 50,000 fuel cells were shipped worldwide in 2014.

To further develop and advance these clean energy technologies, the DOE has selected seven projects to address the hydrogen and fuel cells research and development area, including hydrogen production via microbial biomass conversion, low platinum group metal catalyst development for fuel cell applications, development of integrated intelligent hydrogen dispensers, and hydrogen delivery pipeline manufacturing.

Three projects were selected to address early market and demonstration. These include the demonstration of mobile hydrogen refueling technology to address the lack of widespread hydrogen fueling stations, as well as fuel-cell-powered range extenders for light-duty hybrid electric vehicles.

In addition, the DOE notes the City of Ithaca, N.Y., has proposed to become home to one of the first commercial hydrogen-electrolyzer fueling stations in the northeastern U.S. and to ramp up outreach through the use of FCEVs.

Source: NGT News

10.13.15

Alliance AutoGas recently held a Law Enforcement Alternative Fuel Training event at its research and technology center in Asheville, N.C., to give local county and municipal fleet managers the opportunity to learn more about how converting fleets to autogas could help lower emissions and save costs.

Attendees of the one-day event heard remarks from Ed Hoffman, president of Blossman Services Inc. (BSI); Bill Eaker, senior environmental planner and coordinator at the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition; Michael Phillips, retired captain of criminal enforcement at the Iredell County, N.C., sheriff’s office; and Steve Hightower, fleet manager for the City of Kingsport.

Three training sessions were led by Alliance AutoGas team members on the topics of safety training, refueling dispenser training, and installation and maintenance training, along with a Q&A session. “Ride and drives” were available in the Dodge Charger, Ford Explorer Interceptor, Ford Taurus, Chevy Tahoe, Chevy Impala and the Crown Victoria.  Onsite fuel analysis and ROI calculations were available throughout the day to all attendees. Attendees were asked to bring their fleet’s vehicle miles, estimated fuel cost and mpg information for a free consultation with the Alliance AutoGas team.

BSI President Ed Hoffman SAYS, “This event is yet another way that Alliance AutoGas is demonstrating our commitment to law enforcement. Our EPA-approved products and after-sales support enable agencies the ability to experience the benefits of autogas.”

He adds, “We plan on hosting this event again, both here in North Carolina and through select markets throughout the U.S.”

Source: NGT News

10.05.15

The NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), Division of Air Quality (DAQ) will provide funding for projects that reduce diesel emissions. Awarded projects will begin (at the earliest) in January 2016 and must be completed by September 20, 2016.

Who is Eligible?

Any private or public sector entity or individual stationed in North Carolina is eligible.

Total Funding Available

Approximately $286,000 is available for all projects funded statewide. The DAQ expects to fund 2 to 5 projects.

Deadline for Applications

Applications must be received by e-mail or postmarked by Friday, December 4, 2015 to be considered.

How Do I Apply?

Select the application type (http://ncair.org/motor/grants/) that best fits your project. If you have questions about which form to use, contact Anne Galamb at 919-707-8423 or anne [dot] galamb [at] ncdenr [dot] gov.

10.01.15

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of approximately $7 million in funding for rebates to public and private school bus fleet owners for the replacement and retrofit of older school buses. Replacing these buses that have older engines will reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality.  

New to this year’s program is the option of implementing retrofit technologies.  Fleet owners can install Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOC)  plus Closed Crankcase Ventilation (CCV) systems to reduce emissions by up to 25 percent, and they can replace older buses with newer ones that meet the latest on-highway emission standards as in previous EPA rebate programs.  EPA will pay up to $3,000 for each DOC plus CCV, and between $15,000 and $25,000 per replacement bus, depending on the size.

Applicants may request up to 10 buses for replacement and up to 10 buses for the retrofit option on each application.  Fleets with more than 101 buses currently in operation may submit two applications.

EPA will accept applications from September 28 to October 30, 2015. 

 

10.01.15

Earlier this month, alternative fuel enthusiasts all over the country celebrated National Drive Electric Week (NDEW). Started in 2011, NDEW , in partnership with Nissan, aims to increase awareness of the availability and benefits of electric vehicles (EVs). This year, the week-long celebration boasted 196 events across 41 states, Canada, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, with over 130,000 attendees!

The Greater Charlotte Region had much to celebrate in 2015 with the grand opening of four Direct Current (DC) Fast Charging locations. The new DC Fast chargers, located in Matthews, Dallas, Salisbury, and Wadesboro, were installed by Brightfield Transportation Solutions and are capable of delivering an 80% charge in as little as 20-30 minutes! These chargers not only allow EV owners in our region a greater availability of chargers, but also bring travelers from other areas to our towns where they can stimulate the local economy, by grabbing a cup of coffee or a bite to eat while waiting for their vehicle to charge.

The Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition (CCFC) organized and hosted, in partnership with the Towns of Matthews, Dallas, and Wadesboro, as well as the City of Salisbury, four grand opening ceremonies for these chargers. These events were well-attended and featured numerous speakers including Senator Tom McInnis and Representative Bill Brawley from the North Carolina State Legislature. Additionally, Envision Charlotte and the City of Charlotte held a public education and exhibition event at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center where numerous EVs from Nissan, Tesla, Smart, BMW, and VIA Motors were available for participants to view and learn about.

 

CCFC would like to thank the numerous participants, attendees, and partners that made these events possible. 2015 was a great year for strengthening the EV infrastructure in the Greater Charlotte Region and we look forward to celebrating the next year’s accomplishments at the 2016 National Drive Electric Week September 10-18!

08.20.15

Each year, the Southeast Diesel Collaborative (SEDC) presents a Leadership Award to one organization in order to recognize outstanding leadership in clean diesel projects. This year, Duke Energy was nominated for the SEDC Leadership Award for the work they have done to address diesel emissions, improve air quality, protect public health, and protect the wellness of their employees. Duke Energy has been invited to attend the SEDC 10th Annual Partner’s Meeting in Atlanta in order to spotlight the nomination and share an account of the clean diesel efforts accomplished.

Congratulations Duke Energy! We are proud to have you as a member of the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition and we look forward to the work you will continue to do in order to reduce diesel emissions!

08.18.15

Question of the Month: What are the alternatives to traditional state fuel taxes?

Answer:

Nearly all of us regularly use and access public roads, infrastructure, or transit services. As you may have read in the July Question of the Month, it’s common practice for federal, state, and local governments to tax motor fuels on a per gallon basis to fund transportation infrastructure and increase revenue. Returns from gasoline and diesel taxes are on the decline due to a number of factors, including rising construction costs, general inflation, and greater vehicle efficiency, which reduces fuel use per mile. To make up for this deficit, a number of states are evaluating and implementing alternatives to traditional motor fuel tax models through the use of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fees, annual fees for vehicles that use certain fuels, such as electricity, or adjusting or establishing fuel taxes for certain alternative fuels. 

VMT Fees

VMT fees are designed to charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive, rather than the fuel they consume. The concept seeks to base taxes on use rather than fuel consumption, which provides a fuel neutral approach and offsets decreasing revenue from increased vehicle efficiency. Concerns have, however, been raised over program administration and individual privacy. Several states, including Vermont and Oregon, have studied or implemented VMT fee pilot programs. In July of 2015, Oregon began a road usage charge program for 5,000 volunteers and is encouraging participation by plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) drivers (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/RUFPP/Pages/index.aspx). The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) collects $0.015 per mile and issues gas tax refunds to participants. Vehicle miles will be monitored through a vehicle transponder. 

Annual Fees

As alternative fuel use has grown, a number of states have established annual fees or decals to recover revenue that would have normally come from motor fuel taxes. These programs also provide a mechanism to collect revenue from those that charge or fuel at home and, in some cases, are used to incentivize alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). Fees have traditionally been imposed on fuels such as natural gas and propane, but are now being considered and implemented for PEVs. Establishing the appropriate level for such fees can be tricky as different vehicle classes use very different amounts of fuel. In addition, some AFVs, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and bi-fuel natural gas vehicles, may already pay motor fuel taxes for their gasoline or diesel use. Examples of fees in place include: 

• Colorado requires a $50 annual fee for a PEV decal. 

• Georgia requires a $200 annual fee for non-commercial PEVs and $300 annual fee for commercial PEVs.

• Louisiana requires an annual fee of $120 or a percentage of the current special fuels tax rate for compressed natural gas (CNG) and propane vehicles.

• Nebraska requires a $75 annual fee for PEVs and other AFVs not covered under state motor fuel tax regulations. 

• North Carolina requires a $100 annual fee for all-electric vehicles. 

Alternative Fuel Taxes

Many states have passed regulations to either tax certain alternative fuels for the first time or to structure motor fuel taxes to account for energy content variations between alternative fuels and gasoline or diesel. For example, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah are among the states that have enacted legislation or regulations in 2015 to define the energy content of CNG and liquefied natural gas on a gasoline gallon equivalent or diesel gallon equivalent basis. Wyoming updated regulations related to alternative fuel excise taxes and dealer license fees for natural gas, propane, electricity, and renewable diesel. Kentucky and Utah enacted excise tax requirements for hydrogen and South Dakota increased excise taxes for certain fuels, including ethanol. Look out for the September Question of the Month for further information on efforts to equalize federal fuel taxes across fuels.

Until motor fuel tax revenue shortfalls can be adequately addressed, states risk underfunding our roads and infrastructure. While no single approach has emerged as the preferred choice, creative solutions, such as those discussed above, may help states adequately adjust for continued sales of AFVs and other fuel-efficient vehicles.  With the exception of VMT fees, these approaches, however, only address a small portion of the nation’s fleet and are not likely to resolve broader funding issues in the near-term. 

Refer to the following for more information on alternatives to traditional state motor fuel taxes:

• Alternative Fuels Data Center’s (AFDC) Laws and Incentives website (http://www.afdc.energy.gov

• AFDC’s Policy Bulletin on State Fees as Transportation Funding Alternatives (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/bulletins/technology_bulletin_2014_03_10.html)

08.18.15

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)  have the potential to electrify our country’s transportation system.  From their quiet ride and potential to save on fuel costs to their lower greenhouse gas emissions, both plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles have a variety of benefits for drivers and the country as a whole.  With 20 different models available, PEVs are practical for a huge number of drivers. That’s why the Energy Department wants to increase the public’s awareness of EV Everywhere, our efforts to increase the use of PEVs. To capture the average driver’s imagination, the Energy Department is launching an EV Everywhere logo contest, which will attract attention to plug-in vehicles.

Through this contest, the Energy Department is seeking a compelling graphic representation of EV Everywhere’s two main points:

1) PEVs are beneficial and a viable choice for consumers today.

2) EV Everywhere is the place for drivers to come for data-driven, objective information about them.

This contest is just part of our larger education and outreach effort around EV Everywhere, which includes a number of collaborative activities with our industry and non-profit partners. To raise awareness of PEVs’ benefits, the winning logo will be featured on a magnetic decal that the Energy Department will work with these partners to distribute to drivers nationwide. 

The Energy Department is offering a $5,000 for the winning design.  It’s a great chance to design a logo for an effort that will help reduce our county’s reliance on imported petroleum, lower fuel costs for drivers, and minimize our contributions to climate change.

Be sure to check out the rules and register on Challenge.gov. This information has also been submitted to be published in the Federal Register. Entries are due on September 25 and the winner will be announced in October.  To find out more about the benefits of PEVs, see the Energy Department’s Alternative Fuels Data Center’s section on electricity.   We look forward to seeing everyone’s creative vision of EV Everywhere!

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

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