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DOT Awards $22.5 Million in Grants for Clean Buses, Infrastructure

by NGT Staff

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced seven project selections for the Low- and No-Emission Vehicle Deployment Program, known as Low-No. The seven transit providers in five states will receive a share of $22.5 million toward transit buses and related facilities that utilize battery-electric, fuel cell and other innovative technologies to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas emissions and improve operating efficiency.

This administration is committed to investing in an economy powered by clean transportation,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The Department of Transportation is proud to build on the successful Low-No program to put more American-made, energy-efficient buses into service across America.”

The FTA awarded the funds after a competitive review process that prioritized transit agencies and bus manufacturers with strong records in building, deploying and operating clean buses and infrastructure.

“Thanks to these grants, more transit riders around the country will be able to enjoy the latest in bus technology, resulting in cleaner air and lower costs in the long run,” say Carolyn Flowers, the FTA’s acting administrator. “By supporting American manufacturing and local workers, FTA’s Low-No grants exemplify Secretary Foxx’s commitment to building Ladders of Opportunity.”

Among the projects selected in this round of Low-No funding was the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which will receive $2,585,075 toward the purchase of 25 zero-emission, all-electric buses and related equipment. These vehicles will be deployed on bus routes in South Philadelphia, and an associated workforce development program will further contribute to the project’s economic impact. SEPTA’s extensive local commitment resulted in efficient leveraging of federal funds, allowing it to purchase many more vehicles than other recipients.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) will receive $4,275,000 toward five battery-electric, zero-emission buses, as well as eight charging stations. This electric bus infrastructure will serve the Metro Orange Line bus rapid transit corridor in the City of Los Angeles. LACMTA will also partner with the Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium to include workforce development in support of zero-emission technology.

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) will receive $4,015,174 toward three zero-emission American Fuel Cell Buses (AFCBs). This project will build on SARTA’s successful, existing fuel cell bus program, which has already established hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure and will soon deploy five additional AFCBs in Stark County, Ohio. SARTA held an event in Columbus, Ohio, today celebrating the launch of the first of those fuel cell buses, along with the FTA regional staff, representatives from the Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research and others.

CAPCOG seeks local emission reduction projects for grant program

The Capital Area Council of Governments opened the application process for a new local emission reduction grant program on Feb. 16, 2016. The grant, which targets commuter emission reduction projects and capital investments projects that reduce emissions, has an application deadline of April 15, 2016.

The grant is available to businesses, local governments, nonprofits and other organizations in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

CAPCOG has allocated about $240,000 from its 2016-17 near-nonattainment area air quality planning grant for the new program. Organizations participating in the region’s Ozone Advance Program Action Plan will have an opportunity to receive more funding per ton of emissions reduced.

CAPCOG Local Emissions Reduction Grants Question and Answer

Request for Grant Addendum

Visit CAPCOG’s website for more details on what is needed and where to submit applications.

The Propane Council of Texas Increases Funding Cap for Propane Mower Incentive Program

The Propane Council of Texas (ProCOT) has made changes to its Propane Mower Incentive Program for 2016. Effective January 1, 2016, ProCOT has increased its perpetual funding cap of $5,000 to $7,000 per qualifying entity.

“This will give landscapers the chance who have participated in the program before to add a couple more propane commercial mowers to their fleet and those who haven’t to make a bigger purchase. More mowers mean more cost-savings for landscapers in the long run,” says Jackie Mason, Education & Marketing Director for the Propane Council of Texas.

ProCOT will cover the incremental cost up to $1,000 per qualifying propane mower with a perpetual cap of $7,000 per qualifying entity. ProCOT’s state incentive can be coupled with the national incentive from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), just as long as it does not supersede the incremental cost .

Additionally, ProCOT has expanded the program now allowing dual-fuel propane mowers. Each propane commercial mower  must commit to consuming at least 500 gallons of propane a year to be eligible.

Landscapers all across the country are switching to cleaner-burning propane, because of reduced maintenance, lower fuel costs, and its greener environmental footprint left behind from its lower emissions to its non-contamination of groundwater and soil.

To learn more about propane commercial mowers and the state and national propane mower incentive program, please visit www.fuelingtexas.com.

Westport and GTI Awarded $900,000 for Natural Gas Combustion Technology

From NGV America News

Westport Innovations, together with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), has been awarded $900,000 towards a program to advance natural gas combustion technology. The work will feature Westport’s enhanced spark ignited (ESI) natural gas engine technology and demonstrate “High Frequency Corona Discharge Ignition” on an OEM partner’s engine. The engine has a displacement of between 1 and 1.5 liters per cylinder and is targeted at medium duty commercial vehicle applications.

“Westport ESI technology allows, for the first time, a spark-ignited natural gas engine to exceed the performance of a comparable state-of-the-art diesel engine,” said Brad Douville, Vice President Business Development for Westport. “Next generation natural gas engines of this class will be smaller, lighter, lower cost and have even higher performance than modern diesel engines because we can exploit the advantages of natural gas as a high performance fuel with naturally lower emissions challenges.”

Of the total program funding, $750,000 is coming from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and $150,000 is being provided by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). Westport will contribute approximately $250,000 in additional funds for a total of $1.15 million. Westport expects that, if this program is successful, Westport ESI systems integrating corona discharge technology could become commercially available in as soon as four years.

“The CEC is committed to supporting the development of advanced transportation technologies that use alternative or renewable fuel sources,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller. “These solutions are essential components of the state’s strategy to address local air quality issues and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The FAST Act

Summary of Relevant Provisions in the Latest Transportation Bill, Public Law 114-94

On Friday, December 4th, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act (Public Law 114-94). Like prior surface transportation legislation, the FAST Act authorizes funds for highway construction, as well as highway safety and public transportation programs.

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

  • National Electric Vehicle Charging and Alternative Fuel Station Corridors. Section 1413 of the bill charges the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) with designating national plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling corridors in strategic locations along major highways by December 2016. DOT will update and re-designate the corridors every five years.
  • PEV Charging on Federal Property. Section 1413 also explicitly authorizes the U.S. General Services Administration or other federal agencies to install electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) that may be used by federal employees and certain others to charge their privately-owned vehicles. Those who use the EVSE to charge vehicles must pay to reimburse the agencies for the EVSE procurement, installation, and maintenance.
  • State High Occupancy Lane (HOV) Exemptions. Section 1411 extends the provisions related to HOV lane exemptions for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles. Only alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and PEVs, however, may access HOV lanes toll-free through September 30, 2025. States are allowed to implement toll-access HOV programs for other low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles through September 30, 2019.
  • Tire Fuel Efficiency Standards. Section 24331 states that DOT, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Energy will develop regulations for passenger car tire fuel efficiency standards by December 2017. Some exemptions apply, including light truck, snow, and spare tires.
  • Natural Gas Vehicle Fuel Economy Calculation. Section 24341 moves up to 2017, from 2020, when natural gas vehicle fuel economy calculation methodology (see 40 Code of Federal Regulations 600.510) will change. Model year 2017 and later vehicles will use the new calculation methodology to better align with the conventional vehicle fuel economy methodology update schedule.

The changes outlined above are effective immediately. To view the full text of the FAST Act, visit https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr22/BILLS-114hr22enr.pdf.

As an additional federal legislation update, Congress is expected to vote on the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act very soon. The PATH Act, now House Amendment #2 to H.R. 2029, could extend AFV refueling property tax credits, cellulosic biofuels production tax credits, and biodiesel and renewable diesel incentives.  Stay tuned for more information!

As always, if you have questions about the FAST Act or other topics, please contact Lone Star Clean Fuels or the Technical Response Service.

 

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

technicalresponse@icfi.com

800-254-6735

Innovative Finance Strategies Summarized in Two New Guides

Switching to natural gas for fleets and taking advantage of favorable conditions for installing EV charging are the topics of two new guides.

Two new publications, released by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) with support from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, detail the findings of a two-year research initiative to develop innovative finance mechanisms aimed at accelerating the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and fueling infrastructure.

Researchers found that public and private fleet operators could save money by switching to natural gas vehicles if they adopted the same business model that energy service companies apply to energy efficiency projects. One of the new publications,Strategic Planning to Enable ESCOs to Accelerate NGV Fleet Deployment: A Guide for Businesses and Policymakers, can help investors and state and local policymakers make decisions about deploying natural gas vehicles in public and private fleets. The guide is an important tool to help investors and policymakers reduce reliance on imported oil, improve air quality, and stimulate economic growth.

The initiative also found that while new business models can make publicly available electric vehicle (EV) charging projects profitable for private businesses, public support is important. Support in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and vehicle purchase incentives is still needed in the near-term to make public charging projects an attractive investment. The comprehensive report, Strategic Planning to Implement Publicly Available EV Charging Stations: A Guide for Businesses and Policymakers, answers questions that private investors and state and local agencies, such as state energy offices, may have when deciding whether—and to what extent—they should invest in publicly available charging infrastructure.

Learn more about the initiative on the C2ES Alternative Fuel Vehicle Finance Initiative page.

  • Kathryn Ruckman, National Renewable Energy Laboratory