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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!

08.11.15

Fellow CCFC Stakeholders,

There is a saying "All good things must come to an end". Well this is the end of my involvement with CCFC. It is true. I will be leaving Duke Energy. My last day in the office will be August 11th. I will be moving to Memphis TN to take the position of Technical Trainer for the Freightliner truck dealer, TAG Truck Center. TAG has 22 dealer locations in 8 states & 240+ techs. They are also the selling dealer for FedEx & several other major national fleets.  

TAG has partnered with Mid-South Community College, Freightliner Corp, & several national truck fleets, to build an industry leading truck technician training program. Attached is copy of poster for the LEED Silver, Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center, in West Memphis AR. I will be employed by TAG Truck Center, but my work space is in this building at the college.     

There is a biodiesel & biomass fuel production training program in this building as well. I could not pass up this opportunity.  

I will surely miss being part of "what's happening" in Charlotte & the Carolinas. CCFC has been a major part of my work & professional life for 9+ years. I have enjoyed being part of this group & really hate to be leaving. Farewell for now.

Dave Navey

 

Thank you for being a great Chair, stakeholder, alt fuel enthusiast, resource, and friend. We wish you the best of luck. You will be missed.

08.03.15

 

Boston Public Schools will operate 11 percent of its bus fleet with Blue Bird propane autogas buses, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The school district, which purchased 86 Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses, hopes to convert more of their diesel fleet to propane buses in the future. 

Like many urban cities, Boston has implemented mandates for reducing tailpipe emissions. The school district, already the city’s largest user of diesel fuel, has enacted a number of emissions-reducing initiatives in the past 15 years through its “Greening Boston Public Schools” program. School buses fueled by propane autogas fit with their mission to choose vehicles with the highest efficiency and the lowest environmental emissions, according to Peter Crossan, fleet and compliance manager of Boston Public Schools. 

“These new Blue Bird Propane Visions mean many students will no longer be exposed to diesel fumes when boarding or disembarking our buses,” said Crossan.

The new Ford V10-powered buses each come equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system. The district’s autogas fleet will emit 66,000 fewer pounds of nitrogen oxide and 2,700 fewer pounds of particulate matter each year, when compared to the diesel buses they are replacing. Vehicles fueled by propane autogas emit 80 percent less smog-producing hydrocarbons and virtually eliminate particulate matter when compared to conventional diesel.

Boston Public Schools started exploring alternative fuels once the city’s outdated tunnel restrictions were lifted. The school district expects to save at least $1 per gallon on fuel as well as lower maintenance costs due to the cleaner burning properties of propane autogas.

To fuel the buses, Boston Public Schools has contracted with a company that performs on-site propane autogas fleet fueling services. “We want other school districts to know that on-site infrastructure isn’t the only option when introducing propane autogas into their fleet,” said Crossan.

 

Boston Public Schools will operate 11 percent of its bus fleet on propane autogas starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The school district is purchasing 86 Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses, with plans to convert its entire fleet to the cleaner operating alternative fuel over the next decade.

 

07.21.15

Question of the Month: What factors affect fuel prices?

Answer:

When gasoline and diesel prices spike, we often want to blame someone for our pain at the pump. The reality is that the oil industry is a complex market. Though there are numerous factors that could ultimately influence the price of fuel, such as weather, government policies, and international relations, there are four factors that have the most significant influence. These factors include the cost of crude oil, refining costs and profits, distribution and marketing costs, and fuel taxes. Alternative fuels, such as natural gas, propane, electricity, and biofuels, can mitigate some price fluctuations attributable to short-term events, like natural disasters, because they diversify the fuel supply; however, some alternative fuel prices are also dependent on similar factors.

In May 2015, the average retail price of regular grade gasoline was $2.72, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Below is a summary of the factors that affect gasoline prices, and the relative percentage of each component. We have also described how each of these factors may affect alternative fuel prices. 

Price difference between gasoline and diesel in May 2015

Crude Oil 

As of May, approximately 51% of the cost of gasoline was related to the price of crude oil. The fluctuation in crude oil price is the biggest factor in the volatility of the price of gasoline, as the other costs (described blow) are relatively static. 

Crude oil prices are largely a product of supply and demand. Global demand has grown in recent years due to world economic growth and increased access to vehicles, particularly in developing nations. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which produced about 40% of the world’s crude oil between 2000 and 2014, also has significant influence on oil prices by setting production limits among members. Part of the reason oil prices have declined significantly since July 2014 is that OPEC nations are not limiting production, resulting in a global ‘glut’ of crude oil. Much of this glut stems from a surge in oil production in the United States and Canada over the last few years from unconventional sources, like shale. This price could change dramatically, however, if there is a major global supply disruption.  

With the exception of electricity and natural gas, alternative fuel prices can also be impacted by the price of crude oil and the price and demand for petroleum products. Higher or lower demand for gasoline also influences ethanol demand, for example, and ethanol is closely linked to the price of gasoline, as shown in the Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report. Biodiesel wholesale costs are largely influenced by the price of diesel. Propane costs historically tend to follow crude oil prices, though not to the same extent as other fuels, and change seasonally because of the demand for propane as heating fuel in the winter. 

Alternative fuel prices are also affected by the applicable commodity price, though the impact varies by fuel. For example, the price of natural gas only comprises 20% of the compressed natural gas (CNG) price at the pump, according to the American Gas Association (AGA). Because the natural gas is a relatively small percentage of the overall fuel price, a swing in the natural gas commodity prices has less of an effect on the CNG price at the pump. In addition, natural gas costs are typically regulated and less expensive than petroleum (on a gasoline gallon equivalent, or GGE, basis) and the infrastructure is independent of oil infrastructure.

Refining Costs and Profits 

Crude oil must be refined into gasoline and diesel so it is compatible with our vehicles. Refining oil takes energy and costs may vary based on the type and origin of the crude oil used in the process. In May, refinery costs and profits represented about 22% of the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 

Alternative fuels, such as propane, natural gas, and biofuels, are also “refined” or otherwise altered before they can be used in vehicles. Propane is a by-product of crude oil refining and is also produced as a liquid from natural gas and oil wells. Propane from natural gas liquids does not require refining; however, it must go through a scrubbing process to remove contaminants, as well as a separation process. Natural gas is produced from natural gas and oil wells, and is also subject to a separation and treatment process to remove contaminants. It must also be compressed in order to be transported in major distribution pipelines. Biofuel production facilities are often called ‘biorefineries’ because they produce and refine crude biofuels at the same location. 

Distribution and Marketing 

Since many of us do not live next to oil refineries, gasoline and diesel must be transported to local fueling stations first through a sophisticated system of pipelines, trucks, or barges to a network of fuel terminals, which can also be referred to as a distribution rack. The distributors, also called jobbers, load and blend the gasoline and diesel with other products (e.g., ethanol, biodiesel) in tanker trucks, which is driven to your local retail outlets and placed in underground storage tanks. In every part of the supply chain there are costs associated with employee salaries and benefits, equipment, taxes, insurance, and other types of overhead. In May, these resulting costs equaled about 10% of the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Taxes 

Finally, motor fuel taxes contribute to the construction and maintenance of the roads we use on a regular basis. In the early 1900s, state governments devised ways to collect taxes on each gallon of fuel to help cover these costs and increase revenue. In May, federal, state, and local taxes accounted for 17% of the average retail price of a gallon of gasoline. Federal excise taxes are currently $0.184 per gallon of gasoline or ethanol and $0.244 per gallon of diesel or biodiesel. Propane and CNG are taxed at $0.183 per gallon of propane or GGE of CNG, and liquefied natural gas is taxed at $0.243 per gallon. The September Question of the Month will delve into this topic in more detail.

State and local fuel taxes vary widely by jurisdiction. Though motor fuel taxes are applied to each gallon of gasoline or diesel sold, alternative fuels can also be taxed on an energy equivalent basis with gasoline and/or diesel. Some states use alternatives to traditional state fuel taxes, such as annual fees for alternative fuel vehicles or taxes based on the number of miles traveled. Look for the August Question of the Month for more information on these alternatives.

Though the alternative fuel supply chain differs slightly from conventional fuels, many of the same factors influencing oil prices also impact alternative fuels. Now when you fill up your vehicle, take a moment to think about all the infrastructure and people required to process and deliver fuel from the field to the pump. 

For more information on fuel prices, please refer to the following websites:

07.21.15

U.S. House Passes Highway Bill with Alt-Fuel Tax Parity Provision

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a highway and transportation funding bill that includes a provision meant to help level the playing field for how certain alternative fuels are taxed in relation to conventional fuels. H.R.3038, legislation to fund and extend the authorization for the country's highway and transit programs through the end of 2015, passed the House in a 312-119 vote.

To read the full story, click here.

07.14.15

Find information about laws and incentives, fueling stations, vehicles, fuel prices, and more.

Have you ever pored over Internet search results on a quest to find information about alternative fuels and advanced vehicles in your state—only to end up frustrated or confused?

Now you can kiss those futile hours spent goodbye, thanks to the revamped State Information pages on the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). Simply select which state you would like to find transportation data for, and you will be presented with information about laws and incentives, fueling stations, vehicles, fuel prices, and more—all in one easily accessible place.

The AFDC's State pages aggregate many different sources of credible data (including the U.S. Energy Information Administration and R. L. Polk & Co.), and are a launching point for state-specific success stories presented through short videos and online case studies. The pages also allow you to quickly identify alternative transportation projects happening around the state, locate your nearest Clean Cities coalition, and find other reliable resources.

Try it for yourself and get the scoop on your state now!

blog post written by
Kendall Septon, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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

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