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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

ICCT study finds state EV incentives playing a significant role in driving sales

October 31, 2014

A study by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) shows that state electric vehicle incentives are playing a significant early role in reducing the effective cost of ownership and driving electric vehicle sales.

As described in their white paper, “Evaluation of state-level US electric vehicle incentives”, the researchers found that some of the states with the largest electric vehicle incentives—i.e., California, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—have electric vehicle sales shares that are approximately 2–4 times the national average. A statistical regression revealed that the total monetary benefit to consumers from state incentives significantly positively correlates with BEV sales when all 50 states and the District of Columbia are included.

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Opinion: The End Of An Era: Is The US Petrodollar Under Threat?

by Andrew Topf of Oilprice.com

Recent trade deals and high-level cooperation between Russia and China have set off alarm bells in the West as policymakers and oil and gas executives watch the balance of power in global energy markets shift to the East.

The reasons for the cozier relationship between the two giant powers are, of course, rooted in the Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia, combined with China’s need to secure long-term energy supplies. However, a consequence of closer economic ties between Russia and China could also mean the beginning of the end of dominance for the US dollar, and that could have a profound impact on energy markets.

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European Council endorses 40% GHG cut by 2030; requests ways to cut transport emissions via efficiency, electrification and renewable fuels

October 24, 2014

On 23 October, leaders of the European Union agreed on the climate and energy policy framework for the EU for the period from 2020 to 2030. During its meeting, the European Council endorsed 4 targets: a binding EU target of at least 40% less greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990; a binding target of at least 27% of renewable energy used at EU level; an energy efficiency increase of at least 27%; and the completion of the EU-internal energy market by reaching an electricity interconnection target of 15% between members states and pushing forward important infrastructure projects.

The Council members also requested further examination by the European Commission on instruments and measures for a comprehensive and technology-neutral approach to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency in transport, for electric transportation and for the use of renewable energy sources in transport after 2020.

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8 ZEV states announce US ZEV sales top 260,000 units

October 23, 2014

Representatives of an eight-state partnership to develop and to support the market for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) joined California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols in Diamond Bar, California to announce that sales figures from around the country now show ZEV sales of more than 260,000 vehicles, with the quarter-million mark reached in September.

In October 2013, the 8 states signed a memorandum of understanding to take specific actions to put 3.3 million ZEVS on the roads in their states by 2025 (earlier post); the partners released a ZEV Action Plan in June 2014 (earlier post). Californians have purchased or leased more than 100,000 ZEVs. The other seven states—Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—account for more than 135,000 vehicles.

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California ARB mods to ZEV regulations for IVMs would result in ~1.9% drop in total ZEV/TZEV units 2018-2025; no impact on air quality requirements

October 20, 2014

Early in September, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) announced it would consider in a 23-24 October meeting amendments to the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation that would modify the requirements for intermediate volume manufacturers (IVMs) selling into the state to allow them more time to come into the market. (Earlier post.)

Among the proposed changes were additional production lead time; a reduced compliance obligation (i.e., lower numbers of ZEVs); an opportunity to pool compliance obligations in ZEV states; and additional time to make up ZEV credit deficits. ARB staff estimated the proposed modifications could reduce total California deliveries of ZEVs (fuel cell and battery-electric vehicles) and TZEVs (Transition Zero Emission Vehicles, i.e., plug-in hybrids) by a total of about 26,000 units in the 2018 through 2025 timeframe out of the originally estimated 1,400,000 ZEVs and TZEVs for that period under the current regulation—i.e., by about 1.9%. (For MY 2026 and following, the reduced compliance obligation goes away.)

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Nissan leads with transfer of California ZEV credits out for year ending 30 Sep 2014

October 17, 2014

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Nissan led with California ZEV credit transfers out during the last report period. Click to enlarge.

Between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014, Nissan transferred out 663.6 ZEV (zero emission vehicle) credits from its balance account, according to the latest report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB)—just edging out Tesla with 650.195 credits. The next closest was Fiat, with 235.2 ZEV credits transferred out; followed by Ford with 38.738.

This latest credit balance report reflects ZEV regulation compliance through model year 2013, representing a total of 3.5 million vehicles including: more than 500 fuel cell vehicles; 38,000 battery electric vehicles; 29,300 neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs); 30,000 plug-in hybrids; 570,000 hybrids; and 3 million gasoline vehicles. As of September 2014, more than 100,000 ZEVs and plug-in hybrids are on California roads.

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UC Davis ITS study suggests hastening consumer adoption of plug-ins will require innovation on the sales side

October 12, 2014

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Ratings of buyer satisfaction with the new vehicle purchase experience by phase of the purchase process from 2013 SSI buyer index scores. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

A study by researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis finds that buyers of plug-in vehicles (PEVs) are substantially less satisfied with the dealer purchase experience than buyers of conventional vehicles—with the notable exception of Tesla buyers. A fundamental problem appears to be divergent expectations regarding the level of support buyers receive from dealerships.

In a new working paper, the team contends that PEVs require innovation in how these products are retailed to customers as well as demanding changes in consumer behavior and relying on new support infrastructure. While the diversity of the dealer community could foster innovation in retail activities, the same diversity could also hinder the quality and pace of diffusion amongst dealers. This, in turn, the team suggests, could—through a sub-par purchase experience—hinder the quality and pace of the adoption of plug-in vehicles by customers. This dynamic may have repercussions for achieving ZEV targets and potentially other regulatory objectives, they note.

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ICCT study finds real-world NOx emissions from Euro 6 diesels ~7x higher than Euro 6 regulatory levels

On-road NOxemission levels of Euro 6 diesel cars in Europe are on average about seven times higher than the NOx limit set by the Euro 6 emission standard, according to a new report published in Berlin by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The study follows another recent ICCT report showing that the gap between official and real-world fuel-economy figures in Europe has risen to about 38%. (Earlier post.)

The latest study—the most comprehensive report on the real-world behavior of the latest generation of diesel cars published to date—found “remarkable” differences among individual vehicle models, indicating that technologies for real-world clean diesels already exist but are not being employed consistently by different vehicle manufacturers.

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UK putting up nearly $18M to establish initial hydrogen refueling network of up to 15 stations

October 09, 2014

UK Business Minister Matthew Hancock announced up to £11 million (US$17.7 million) of funding to help establish an initial network of up to 15 hydrogen refueling stations by the end of 2015. Of the £11 million, £7.5 million (US$12 million) will come from government and £3.5 million (US$5.6 million) from industry. Toyota earlier this month announced that the UK will be one of the first markets for its FCEV when it goes on sale next year.

Of the funding, £2 million (US$3.2 million) will go to upgrade 6 to 8 existing hydrogen refueling stations (already operational or under development in the UK) and take them from demonstrator projects to publicly accessible sites.

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Oregon DEQ seeking public comments on implementing Low Carbon Fuel Standard before sunset in 2015

October 06, 2014

Oregon’s Department on Environmental Quality (DEQ) is inviting public comment on a proposed rulemaking that would fully implement Oregon’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). (Earlier post.) The first phase required Oregon producers and importers of fuels to register with DEQ, keep records and submit reports about the fuels they currently supply. The second phase—the rules for which DEQ is currently seeking comments—require the same parties to meet the low carbon fuel standards by supplying cleaner fuels in Oregon or purchasing credits from clean fuel providers.

The proposed Oregon Clean Fuels Program Phase 2 rules would: implement the enabling legislation of House Bill 2186, originally passed in 2009; establish clean fuel standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Oregon’s transportation fuels by 10% over a 10-year period; and require importers of transportation fuels to reduce the average carbon intensity of fuels they provide in Oregon to meet the annual clean fuel standards.

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Study finds solo hybrid drivers in California HOV lanes amplify congestion, create up to $4,500 per car in adverse social costs annually

September 30, 2014

Allowing single-occupant low-emission cars in California to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on congested highways exacerbates the congestion and causes up to about $4,500 per car in adverse social costs annually, including increased commute times and carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new study in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

The authors, from Cornell University, University of Colorado, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley, calculated that the Clean Air Vehicle Stickers (CAVS) policy results in a best-case cost of $124 per ton of reductions in greenhouse gases; $606,000 per ton of nitrogen oxides reduction; and $505,000 per ton of hydrocarbon reduction—exceeding those of other options readily available to policymakers.

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ICCT: gap between official and real-world fuel economy figures in Europe reaches ~38%; call to implement WLTP ASAP

September 28, 2014

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Divergence of real-world CO2 emissions from manufacturers’ type-approval CO2 emissions for various on-road data sources, including an average estimate for private and company cars as well as all data sources. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

The gap between official and real-world fuel-economy figures in Europe has risen to about 38%, according to a new report published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Ten years ago the discrepancy between these real-world and sales-brochure values was at 10%. The new report—“From Laboratory to Road: 2014 Update”—updates ICCT’s original 2013 report on the growing discrepancy. (Earlier post.)

The new report is based on data from more than half a million private and company vehicles across Europe. The findings come as the European Commission is preparing to adopt an improved test procedure that would produce more realistic vehicle test results.

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DOE to award up to $25M in funding for work on cost-effective algal biofuels

September 23, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $25 million in funding to support the development of cost-effective algal biofuels. (Earlier post.) The Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB) FOA (DE-FOA-0001162) seeks the development of alternative pathways to overcome two of the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae.

The goal is to improve DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) 2019 projected cost of algal biofuels from mature technology of about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) to less than $5 gge through creation of valuable products alongside fuels and achieving increased biomass productivity that leads to higher feedstock yields.

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BIO says EPA inaction on RFS rule causing an increase in GHG emissions

Increased greenhouse gas emissions equal to 4.4 million additional cars on US roads are likely as a result of EPA inaction on finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules, according to a new white paper issued by The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The white paper updates earlier BIO’s March 2014 study, “Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Proposed Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard Through 2022.”

That study demonstrated that if EPA reduced biofuel use under the RFS, as the agency proposed in November 2013, the United States would experience an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and forego an achievable decrease in emissions.

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Canada aligns with US on light-duty vehicle GHGs, Tier 3 regulations and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency

Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced developments on three new regulatory initiatives to further support Canada’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to provide cleaner air through lower air pollutant emissions from cars and trucks. These vehicles and fuels regulatory initiatives are aligned with those of the United States.

GHG regulations. The final Regulations Amending the Passenger Automobile and Light Truck Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations for model year 2017 and beyond will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on 8 October. These regulatory amendments represent further action to reduce GHG emissions while building on the existing Regulations for 2011-2016 model year vehicles.

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California governor signs 6 bills to advance state’s electric vehicle market; HOT and HOV benefits

September 22, 2014

Capping off National Drive Electric Week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law half a dozen bills to strengthen California’s best-in-the-nation electric vehicle market, including free or reduced-rate access to new high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, and more HOV stickers for plug-in hybrids.

The action builds on the state’s efforts to support the growth of the electric vehicle market, including legislation Governor Brown signed last year and the executive order he issued in 2012 to establish a target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025 and a number of other long-term goals. California accounts for 40% of US plug-in electric vehicle sales and earlier this month, surpassed 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold. (Earlier post.)

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UC Davis, ITDP study suggests global shift to public transport, NMT and away from cars could save $100T through 2050 and cut GHGs

September 19, 2014

One of the more affordable ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions is to design cities to give people clean options for using public transportation, walking and cycling and to move away from car-centric development, according to a new report released by the University of California, Davis, and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

The study by Michael Replogle, ITDP, and Lewis M. Fulton, UC Davis, examines how major changes in urban transport investments worldwide would affect urban passenger transport emissions as well as mobility by different income groups.

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California Energy Commission to award $13M to further ZEVs and advanced vehicle technology manufacturing in the state

September 10, 2014

The California Energy Commission has issued two solicitations for a combined $13.3 million to further advanced ZEV and advanced vehicle technologies in the state. The first, Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Readiness (PON-14-603), will award about $3.3 million to support planning efforts for plug-in and fuel cell vehicles.

The second, Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing (PON-14-604), will award about $10 million to support the development of either full advanced vehicles or advanced vehicle components in the state.

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CATARC and UC Davis establish China-US ZEV Policy Lab to accelerate adoption of plug-in and fuel cell cars in US and in China

September 08, 2014

The University of California, Davis, and the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) have entered a new agreement to work together to help speed the commercialization of plug-in and fuel cell electric cars in China. CATARC is China’s the administrative body that oversees and regulates many activities of the auto industry in China, the world’s largest new-car market, and in the US.

The five-year memorandum of understanding, signed on 6 September during the 2014 International Forum on Chinese Automotive Industry Development in Tianjin, China, establishes the China–US ZEV Policy Lab. Primary UC Davis partners are the Institute of Transportation Studies and the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy.

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Study: surface ozone in India in 2005 damaged 6M tonnes of crops, enough to feed 94M people in poverty

September 04, 2014

India-smog-3
Smog in India. Ozone, the main component of smog, is a plant-damaging pollutant formed by emissions from vehicles, cooking stoves and other sources. New research shows that ozone pollution damaged millions of tons of wheat, rice, soybean and cotton crops in India in 2005. Credit: Mark Danielson/Flickr

Surface ozone pollution in India damaged 6 million metric tons (6.7 million US tons) of India’s wheat, rice, soybean and cotton crops in 2005, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

India could feed 94 million people with the lost wheat and rice crops, or about a third of the country’s poor, according to Sachin Ghude, an atmospheric scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, India and lead author of the new study. There are about 270 million Indians that live in poverty, according to the study.

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California ARB considering modifications to ZEV regs to provide more flexibility for intermediate volume manufacturers

September 03, 2014

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a public hearing on 23 October to consider amendments to the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation that would modify the requirements for intermediate volume manufacturers (IVMs) selling into the state to allow them more time to come into the advanced technology vehicle market.

The modifications to the ZEV rule, developed by the ARB staff to be presented to the Board at the meeting, provide additional compliance flexibility to the IVMs by providing additional production lead time; a reduced compliance obligation; an opportunity to pool compliance obligations in ZEV states; and additional time to make up ZEV credit deficits.

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EPA staff policy assessment recommends reduction in ozone standard from 75 ppb to 60-70 ppb

August 31, 2014

The staff of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) has released the final version of the policy assessment (PA) for the review of the ozone (O3) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Among the staff recommendations are to further reduce the primary ozone standard from the current 75 ppb (parts per billion) to a revised level within the range of 70 ppb to 60 ppb—and preferably below 70 ppb.

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Study finds external effects negate Hong Kong local efforts to reduce ozone pollution; multiregional policies needed

August 29, 2014

Researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department and UC Irvine present in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology direct evidence that increasing regional effects have negated local control efforts for O3 (ozone) pollution in Hong Kong over the past decade.

The researchers analyzed the daily maximum 8 h average O3 and Ox (=O3+NO2) concentrations observed during the high O3 season (September–November) at Air Quality Monitoring Stations. They found that the locally produced Ox showed a statistically significant decreasing trend over 2002–2013 in Hong Kong. Analysis by an observation-based model confirmed this decline in in situ Ox production, which the team attributed to a reduction in aromatic hydrocarbons.

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Study: open trash burning worldwide significantly worsening air pollution; unaccounted for in emission inventories

August 28, 2014

Unregulated open trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) estimates that more than 40% of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues. The researchers also estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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MIT study finds air quality co-benefits of US carbon policies can significantly offset costs, depending upon the policy

August 25, 2014

The human health benefits associated with improvements in air quality related to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions improvements can offset 26–1,050% of the cost of US carbon policies, depending upon the type of policy, according to a new study by a team from MIT. (Air quality co-benefits are additional to climate benefits realized from reduced CO2 emissions.)

In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Science, the MIT researchers took a systems-level approach to analyzing how climate policies influence air quality, focusing on US emissions of O3 and PM2.5 precursors through 2030. They assessed the costs and air-quality-related benefits of three potential national-scale climate policies, examining the entire pathway linking climate policies, economic sector responses, emissions, regional air quality, human health and related economic impacts.

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EPA report shows progress in reducing urban air toxics across US; 50% reduction from mobile sources since 1990

August 22, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress—the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics (also referred to as hazardous air pollutants or HAPs). HAPs are defined as those pollutants that cause or may cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental and ecological effects.

Using national emissions and air quality data, the Urban Air Toxics Report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Among the results highlighted is the removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of HAPs from mobile sources, which represents a 50% reduction in mobile source HAP emissions. With additional fleet turnover, EPA expects these reductions to grow to 80% by the year 2030.

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DOE to issue funding solicitation for algal biofuels and bioproducts; targeting <$5 gge by 2019

August 20, 2014

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (DE-FOA-0001162) entitled “Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB)”. The TABB FOA seeks to reduce the cost of algal biofuels.

BETO’s 2019 projected state of technology (SOT) for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) based on a lipid extraction pathway without valuable co-products. The TABB FOA will support work at bench and process development scales to develop valuable co-products, crop protection, and CO2 utilization strategies. BETO expects the TABB FOA to result in modeled mature algal biofuel costs of less than $5 gge by 2019.

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NHTSA releases advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on V2V, supporting research report

August 18, 2014

The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) and a supporting comprehensive research report on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology. NHTSA is working to deliver a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by 2016.

The report will include analysis of the Department’s research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits, while the ANPRM seeks public input on these findings to support the Department’s regulatory work to eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles.

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ORNL researcher suggests that most consumers better off with <100-mile EV range until battery costs drop to $100/kWh

Until battery cost is cut down to $100/kWh, the majority of US consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off by choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles, according to a new study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researcher Zhenhong Lin.

The research, published in Transportation Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), suggests reconsideration of the R&D goal that battery electric vehicles should have a driving range similar to that of conventional vehicles. It also implies that the focus of policy and R&D should be on continued reduction of battery costs to make short-range BEVs more price-competitive.

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UC Davis researchers suggest we may be at the beginning of a real hydrogen transition in transportation

August 15, 2014

Researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies University of California, Davis suggest that a number of positive trends indicate that we may be seeing the beginning of a real hydrogen transition in transportation, despite earlier starts that fizzled.

This is far from certain, they acknowledge in a new NextSTEPS whitepaper, as hydrogen faces a range of challenges, from economic to societal, before it can be implemented as a large-scale transportation fuel. Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are technically ready; what is still to be determined is the required confidence in hydrogen’s future for investors, fuel suppliers, automakers and consumers, they suggest. However, they note, “the trends are encouraging and the hydrogen enterprise has never been more serious and focused. The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades.

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U Mich professor finds fuel cycle analysis for evaluating CO2 impacts of liquid fuels is fatally flawed; calls for focus on CO2 removal

July 28, 2014

Fuel cycle analysis (FCA)—or “well-to-wheels analysis”—is a type of lifecycle analysis (LCA) that examines fuel products and their supply chains, and that has greatly influenced climate-related research priorities and public policies for transportation fuels.

However, in a major review of methods for evaluating the net CO2 impacts of liquid transportation fuels, Professor John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) compared FCA to other methods of analysis, and found “flaws fatal enough to raise serious concerns about the role of FCA in shaping fuel-related CO2 mitigation strategies. Instead, DeCicco proposes “setting the lifecycle paradigm aside” and focusing on the problem of carbon dioxide removal.

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Study finds testing the technology the strongest initial motivation for fleet managers adopting EVs

July 25, 2014

According to a report from Frost and Sullivan (Kumar, 2013), fleet managers adopted more than half of EVs sold globally up to 2013. A new study of factors influencing fleet managers’ adoption of electric vehicles has found that testing new technologies was the strongest driver of initial EV adoption, followed by lowering environmental impacts; government grants; and improving the organization’s public image. Thereafter fleet managers adopted or indicated an intent to adopt a larger number of EVs because of the benefits that they offer.

The study by William Sierzchula at Delft University of Technology, published in the journal Transportation Research Part D, used fleet manager interviews and pilot project report to investigate 14 US and Dutch organizations that adopted EVs from 2010 to 2013 to determine which factors influenced their purchase decisions. In addition, Sierzchula also analyzed the reasons why these same firms did or did not expand their EV fleets.

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EEI encourages utilities to spend at least 5% of fleet acquisition budgets on plug-ins

July 23, 2014

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) released a white paper, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge,” that focuses on the electric power industry’s effort to accelerate the expansion of electric transportation in commercial and retail markets, beginning with electric utility fleets. The paper encourages investor-owned electric utilities to meet an industry-wide goal to spend at least 5% of annual fleet acquisition budgets on plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and technologies.

An analysis of utility fleets by Utilimarc shows only about 1.7% of the vehicles purchased by electric utilities in the last five years were equipped with plug-in technology.

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UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled

July 17, 2014

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Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.

A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.

Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.

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Report finds progress in UK Low Carbon Emissions Bus uptake, but a need to review incentives

July 06, 2014

Despite the recent uptake of low carbon emission buses (LCEBs) in the UK, significant barriers remain to sustained market growth, and there are risks of current progress being disrupted, according to a new report prepared for the UK LowCVP by Transport & Travel Research Ltd, in partnership with TRL.

LCEBs are defined as vehicles producing at least 30% fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than a current Euro-III-equivalent diesel bus of the same total passenger capacity. The well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in grams of carbon dioxide equivalent measured over a standard test, take into account both the production of the fuel and its consumption.

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EPA qualifies new biogas and electricity pathways for cellulosic biofuel requirement under RFS; defers decision on other proposed pathways

July 03, 2014

In a newly released rule, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clarified the number of cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs, earlier post) that may be generated for fuel made with feedstocks of varying cellulosic content; qualified additional fuel pathways to meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the National Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program; and clarified or amended a number of RFS program regulations that define terms or address registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. The final rule also clarifies that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue.

However, the final rule differs in several ways from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking EPA had issued in June 2013 (earlier post):

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Pisa, Deutsche Telekom and Kiunsys launch smart city pilot project to optimize inner city parking as part of ITS; POSSE

June 26, 2014

The Italian city of Pisa and Deutsche Telekom have launched a smart city pilot project to test an intelligent parking system and to analyze historical traffic data via a “big data” service. The system, which will integrate into Pisa’s intelligent transport system (ITS), will help motorists in Pisa find a free parking space more easily and quickly, as well as pay for it via their smart phone.

The city of Pisa worked with Deutsche Telekom and its partner firm Kiunsys to install the new smart city service on Piazza Carrara, located directly on the banks of the river Arno. Wireless Parking Spots Sensors (PSS) on the floor of each parking spot detect whether the spaces are free or occupied. Several data units collect the information and send it over the mobile network to the city’s server infrastructure. The information is then displayed on indication panels which guide drivers to a free space. The solution is also integrated in Pisa’s existing Tap&Park app which drivers can choose to download to take them directly to a free parking space and even pay for it via the app.

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DOE releases report on water-energy nexus

June 19, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.

Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses. Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections.

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Navy fuel solicitation targeting minimum 10% drop-in biofuels component in F-76 and JP-5; at least 39M gallons biofuels

June 11, 2014

The US Navy has posted a Farm-to-Fleet Inland/East/Gulf Coast Solicitation (SP060014R0061) seeking a minimum of about 39 million gallons of drop-in drop-in JP-5 and F-76 biofuels from currently approved pathways—i.e., Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acid (HEFA) or Fischer Tropsch (FT)—for April 2015-March 2016 fuel deliveries.

Under this solicitation, the Navy has a goal that 10% of its total military specification JP-5 aviation turbine fuel and F-76 naval distillate fuel requirements consist of biofuels.

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EPA proposes rule for nationwide 30% cut in GHG from existing power plants by 2030 relative to 2005

June 02, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the already widely-discussed (albeit without much detail) “Clean Power Plan” proposal, which mandates a national average 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants from 2005 levels by 2030. Power plants accounted for 32% (2,064 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent) of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2012, according to the EPA.

Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as emission guidelines for states to use in developing plans to attain the state-specific goals. Each state’s goal is different, because each state has a unique mix of emissions and power sources to plug in to each part of the formula. The Clean Power Plan broadly proposes:

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Japan automakers form joint venture to advance electric charging infrastructure: Nippon Charge Service

May 30, 2014

Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation have jointly established a new company, Nippon Charge Service, LLC, to promote the installation of chargers for plug-in electric vehicles (PHVs, PHEVs, EVs). The goal is to help build a charging network that offers more convenience to drivers in Japan.

The new company will promote the installation of chargers, for the good of society and to expand the use of electric-powered vehicles. Related industries are also expected to benefit. Development Bank of Japan Inc. (DBJ) will support the joint effort of the four automakers by investing in the new company with its “Fund for Japanese Industrial Competitiveness”.

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8-state alliance releases action plan to put 3.3M ZEVs on their roads by 2025

May 29, 2014

ZEV1
Projected ZEV compliance scenario for the eight states. Click to enlarge.

Eight partnering states released their Multi-State ZEV Action Plan as the first promised milestone for the bi-coastal collaboration to pave the way for increasingly large numbers of zero emission vehicles: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The partner states are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Together they represent about a quarter of the nation’s new car sales.

The governors of the 8 states began this latest collaboration with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on 24 October 2013. (Earlier post.) The ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas and smog-causing emissions by transforming the transportation sector over the next 11 years.

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Study for European Parliament assesses options for turning CO2 into methanol for use in transport

May 25, 2014

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Carbon dioxide recycling in the methanol economy Source: Olah et al. 2009, earlier post. Click to enlarge.

A report prepared by ISIS (Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems - Italy) together with Tecnalia (Spain) for the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) discusses the technological, environmental and economic barriers for producing methanol from carbon dioxide, as well as the possible uses of methanol in car transport in Europe.

The study evaluated costs and benefits from a life cycle perspective in order to compare various raw materials for producing methanol and in order to reflect the potential benefits of methanol obtained from CO2. The report concluded that benefits in the medium- and long-term can be anticipated since the obtaining of an alternative fuel using a residual greenhouse gas would allow European dependence on conventional fossil fuels to be cut, and that way the risks in supply security to be minimized.

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OECD: rising air pollution-related deaths taking heavy toll on society; more should be done to reduce transport emissions

May 23, 2014

Air pollution chart
Deaths from outdoor air pollution by region in 2005 and 2010. From 2005 to 2010, the death rate rose by 4% worldwide, by 5% in China and by 12% in India. OECD. Click to enlarge.

Outdoor air pollution kills some 3.5 million people across the world every year, and causes health problems from asthma to heart disease for many more, according to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO). (Earlier post.) This pollution is costing advanced economies plus China and India an estimated US$3.5 trillion a year in premature deaths and ill health; these costs will rise without government action to limit vehicle emissions, according to a new report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): “The Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport”.

In OECD countries, around half the cost is from road transport, according to the report, with diesel vehicles producing the most harmful emissions. Traffic exhaust is a growing threat in fast-expanding cities in China and India, as the steady increase in the number of cars and trucks on the road undermines efforts to curb vehicle emissions.

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DOE to award up to $2M to develop supply chain, manufacturing competitiveness analysis for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

May 22, 2014

The Energy Department announced up to $2 million to develop the domestic supply chain for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and to study the competitiveness of US hydrogen and fuel cell system and component manufacturing. (DE-FOA-0000854) (Earlier post.)

This funding will support projects that focus on scaling-up the production of today’s hydrogen and fuel cell components and systems to commercial scale. Currently, these components and systems are being built using laboratory-scale fabrication technologies, but developing a robust supply chain to support mass production of these systems can enable the market for these technologies to grow. There are two topics of interest: (1) Facilitate the Development and Expansion of a Robust Supply Chain for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Systems and Components; and (2) Analysis of US Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Manufacturing Global Competitiveness.

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EC sets out strategy to cut CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles; short-term focus on measurement and reporting

May 21, 2014

Heavy-duty trucks, buses and coaches would use less fuel and emit lower amounts of carbon dioxide under a strategy adopted by the European Commission. Such heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) are responsible for around a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU. Without action, HDV emissions in 2030-2050 are projected to remain close to current levels.

While light-duty CO2 emissions are already being addressed by recent EU legislation, the new “Strategy for reducing Heavy-Duty Vehicles’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions” marks the European attempt to address emissions from HDVs. The strategy focuses on short-term action to certify, report and monitor HDV emissions as an essential first step towards curbing emissions. The strategy is addressed to the European Parliament and the Council, which are invited to endorse it and help deliver the actions outlined.

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Japanese automobile industry establishes joint Research Association of Automotive Internal Combustion Engines (AICE)

May 20, 2014

Eight Japanese automakers and one automobile research institute—Suzuki Motor; Daihatsu Motor; Toyota Motor; Nissan Motor; Fuji Heavy Industries; Honda R&D; Mazda Moto; Mitsubishi Motors; and Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI)—have jointly established the Research Association of Automotive Internal Combustion Engines (AICE). AICE’s president is Keiji Otsu, Managing Officer, Honda R&D.

The participating automakers will work together to identify and to present research needs that address issues and challenges facing the automakers in the area of more fuel efficient combustion technologies for internal combustion engines and technologies which achieve cleaner tailpipe emissions.

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Ford researchers: global light-duty CO2 regulatory targets broadly consistent with 450 ppm stabilization

May 15, 2014

An analysis by researchers at Ford Motor Company Research and Advanced Engineering in Dearborn and Ford Forschungszentrum in Germany concludes that existing global light-duty vehicle CO2 regulations through 2025 are broadly consistent with the light-duty vehicle (LDV) sector contributing to stabilizing CO2 at an atmospheric concentration of approximately 450 ppm—a target often proposed in the literature as preventing dangerous climate change. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In the study, the Ford team derived regional CO2 targets for new LDVs while still providing an integrated view of the global LDV fleet—a perspective critical to the planning needs for global automotive firms. The teams calls the time-varying LDV targets “CO2 glide paths”.

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California Energy Commission publishes investment plan for alt and renewable fuel and vehicle technology, 2014-2015

May 14, 2014

The California Energy Commission has published the “2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program”. The 2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update covers the sixth year of the program and reflects laws, executive orders, and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum dependence, and criteria emissions. It details how the California Energy Commission, with input from stakeholders and the program Advisory Committee, determines the program’s goal‐driven priorities, coupled with project opportunities for funding.

The Energy Commission held public Advisory Committee workshops to collect feedback on the initial and then revised staff drafts; a lead commissioner report version was released on 8 April 2014, and the Energy Commission adopted this commission report at its Business Meeting on 22 April 2014.

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EIA: China promoting both fuel efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles to curb growing oil use

May 13, 2014

Consumption of gasoline in China grew from 0.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2003 to more than 2 million bbl/d in 2013, according to figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This continues a trend of significant growth in China’s transportation sector since the 1990s.

Increasing oil demand is requiring increasing imports; since 2009, China has been importing more than half of its petroleum needs. To counter this trend triggered by China’s rapid motorization, the Chinese government is adopting a broad range of policies, including improvements in the fuel economy of new vehicles and the promotion of alternative-fuel vehicles, EIA notes.

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DOE issues request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering

May 11, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering (DE-FOA-0001135). The purpose of the RFI is to gather information from industry, academia, national laboratories, and other federal agency stakeholders on critical subsurface knowledge and/or technology gaps that, if filled, will enable significant improvements in the understanding of the character and behavior of the subsurface environment and improve the ability to access, predict, manipulate and monitor the subsurface. Responses to this RFI are due no later than 8:00 PM ET on 23 May 2014.

Background. Subsurface reservoirs account for more than 80% of US primary energy, and also offer potential for the storage of energy, CO2, and nuclear waste. Despite decades of development, DOE notes, current technologies do not allow full utilization of subsurface energy resources; for example, only ~10 to 40% of the oil and gas is recovered from shale and conventional reservoirs, respectively.

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ICCT study details differences in fiscal policies to support uptake of EVs across 11 major markets

May 06, 2014

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2012 and 2013 market share vs. per-vehicle incentive for battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric PHEV (where applicable, only company car market incentives shown here). Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has published a new white paper detailing the differences in the fiscal policies used to support electric vehicle sales across eleven major auto markets. Tax exemptions and subsidies are playing a key role in spurring electric vehicle markets, but in widely divergent ways, the report by Peter Mock and Zifei Yang finds.

The ICCT study is the first to evaluate the response to fiscal incentives in 2013 to incentivize the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles in major vehicle markets worldwide. It offers a synthesis of wide-ranging sales data, national taxation policy information, and direct electric vehicle purchasing rebates to analyze the link between government policy and electric vehicle sales. To do so, it focuses on two representative vehicles, the Renault Zoe battery-electric vehicle (BEV) and the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

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Study finds rising temperatures increase risk of unhealthy ozone levels absent sharp cuts in precursors

May 05, 2014

Ozone pollution across the continental United States will become far more difficult to keep in check as temperatures rise, according to new work led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study shows that Americans face the risk of a 70% increase in unhealthy summertime ozone levels by 2050, assuming continued greenhouse gas emissions with resultant significant warming (IPCC Scenario A2 and RCP (Representative Concentration Pathway) 8.5.)

However, the study also showed that a sharp reduction in the emissions of ozone precursors would lead to significantly decreased levels of ozone even as temperatures warm. Without those cuts, almost all of the continental United States will experience at least a few days with unhealthy air during warmer summers, the research shows. Heavily polluted locations in parts of the East, Midwest, and West Coast in which ozone already frequently exceeds recommended levels could face unhealthy air during most of the summer.

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EIA: US biomass-based diesel imports increased to record levels in 2013; from net exporter to net importer

May 02, 2014

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Monthly US biodiesel and renewable diesel imports. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Total US imports of biomass-based diesel fuel—biodiesel and renewable diesel—reached 525 million gallons in 2013, compared to 61 million gallons in 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a result, the United States switched from being a net exporter of biomass-based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.

Two principal factors drove the increase in US biodiesel imports, EIA said: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries.

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Sandia Labs and NREL leading new DOE hydrogen infrastructure project; H2FIRST

May 01, 2014

H2FIRST Logo

A new project launched by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and led by Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will work in support of H2USA, the public private partnership introduced in 2013 by the Energy Department and industry stakeholders to address the challenge of hydrogen infrastructure. (Earlier post.)

Established by the Energy Department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Sandia- and NREL-led Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project will draw on existing and emerging core capabilities at the national labs and aim to reduce the cost and time of new fueling station construction and improve the stations’ availability and reliability. By focusing on these aspects of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the effort hopes to accelerate and support the widespread deployment of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

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UK to invest $841M from 2015-2020 to boost ultra low emission vehicle industry

April 29, 2014

The UK government announced plans to invest £500 million (US$841 million) between 2015 and 2020 to boost the ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) industry and help drivers both afford and feel confident using electric cars.

The automotive industry is worth £11.2 billion (US$18.8 billion) to the UK economy, the government said. The production of ultra low emissions vehicles is a major part of growth both now and for the future. Full details of the elements of the €500-million plan will be published by autumn 2014; briefly, the different schemes include:

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EPA Report: data show automakers on track in meeting Greenhouse Gas Standards after first year

April 26, 2014

On Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a Manufacturers Performance Report that assesses the automobile industry’s progress toward meeting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks in the 2012 model year—the first year of the 14-year program.

The report shows that automakers’ combined calculated overall GHG performance was, on average, 286 grams of GHG/mile, 9.8 grams of GHG/mile better than what the 2012 standards of 296 grams/mile required. This industry-wide over-compliance means that consumers bought vehicles with lower greenhouse gas emissions than the 2012 model year standards required. Because of the program’s multi-year structure, EPA will not make formal compliance determinations for the 2012 model year until 2015.

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DOE issues draft loan solicitation for up to $4B for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; drop-in biofuels a key area

April 16, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the US that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that will have a catalytic effect on commercial deployment of future projects, are replicable, and are market ready.

When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

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World Bank/ICCT report provides guidance to reducing black carbon emissions from diesels in developing countries

April 14, 2014

Worldbank
Historical Trends in Black Carbon Emissions from Surface Transportation (teragrams of black carbon per year). Source: Minjares et al. Click to enlarge.

The World Bank has published a report, undertaken by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), intended to inform efforts to control black carbon emissions from diesel-based transportation in developing countries. The report proposes approaches for integrating black carbon emission reduction considerations in cost-benefit assessment and applies an analytic framework to four simulated projects to illustrate the associated opportunities and challenges at a project level.

The transportation sector accounted for approximately 19% of global black carbon emissions in the year 2000, according to the report. Road transportation accounted for 9% of global black carbon, with diesel engines responsible for nearly 99% of those emissions. In the near term, black carbon emissions from mobile engines are projected to decline as a consequence of policies implemented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. However, black carbon emissions are projected to increase in the next decade as vehicle activity increases, particularly in East and South Asia.

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European Court of Auditors finds 2/3 of EU-funded transportation projects underutilized

April 11, 2014

A report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA)—the official institution that audits EU finances—found that two-thirds of urban transport projects co-financed by EU structural funds are underutilized. Weaknesses in project design and inadequate mobility policy were two of the main contributory factors identified.

The EU auditors analysed the performance of 26 public urban transport projects in 11 cities in five Member States. For each project, the audit team met the relevant stakeholders involved in implementing the audited projects. The auditors also physically visited the co-financed facilities, and the operating and maintenance centres. They found that overestimation of users and the lack of coordination between modes of transport, parking policy and the absence of urban mobility plans contributed to underutilization.

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DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

April 08, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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California ARB posts final modifications for ZEV rule on fast refueling/battery exchange for public comment

April 05, 2014

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted for public comment current final modifications for the Zero Emission Vehicle Regulation for 15 days. (Earlier post.) Statutorily, depending upon the comments received, ARB staff may either make further modifications and resubmit to Board for further consideration; failing that, the Board will adopt the new regulatory language.

These final tweaks to the ZEV rule involve the allocation of ZEV credits for different types of ZEV vehicles and the handling of the associated fast-refueling accreditation, which includes the possible use of battery-swapping.

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NRC report offers guidance on development of Phase 2 rules to reduce fuel consumption and GHG from medium-and heavy-duty vehicles; more natural gas and aerodyanamics, expanded lifecycle considerations

April 03, 2014

Expanding the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and greater use of aerodynamic devices on trailers are among the 17 overarching strategies recommended by a new National Research Council report for reducing fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, transit buses, commercial vehicles, trucks, and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs).

The report follows a 2010 Research Council report the findings and recommendations of which informed the “Phase I Rule” on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles issued jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency. (Earlier post.) The new report offers guidance for the “Phase II Rule” under development, which is directed at technologies and programs in the post-2018 time frame. (Earlier post.) The committee will expand upon this new work and issue a final report in 2016 that will cover a broader range of technologies and approaches that address the 2025-2030 time frame.

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WHO links 7 million premature deaths annually to air pollution; 12.5% of total global deaths

March 25, 2014

The World Health Organization now estimates that in 2012 around 7 million people died—one in eight (12.5%) of total global deaths—as a result of air pollution exposure. This new estimate more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, according to WHO, which is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.

WHO says that the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischemic heart disease (an insufficient supply of blood—and thus oxygen—to the heart), as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

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Study finds no benefit to delaying or weakening ZEV policies to drive transition to electric drive

March 14, 2014

A study by a team from the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory concludes that starting the California ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandates five years earlier or doubling their intensity increases upfront costs but also increases benefits by a greater amount.

Similarly, the study found, delaying the ZEV mandate is estimated to reduce upfront costs, but cause an even greater reduction in the present value of benefits. Even using pessimistic assumptions about future costs of electric drive technologies, the study showed no net benefit to delaying or weakening ZEV requirements. The simulations also show the important synergies between California and US transition policies, the authors noted.

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California ARB staff posts concept paper on re-adoption and modification of LCFS; possible more stringent post-2020 targets

March 10, 2014

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Re-Adoption Concept Paper, which will be discussed during the LCFS workshop on 11 March 2014. The LCFS regulation mandates a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels used in California by 2020.

In response to a suit brought against ARB and the LCFS, the State of California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (Court) held in 2013 that the LCFS would remain in effect and that ARB can continue to implement and enforce the 2013 regulatory standards while it takes steps to cure California Environmental Quality Act and Administrative Procedure Act issues associated with the original adoption of the regulation. ARB staff is proposing that the Board re-adopt the LCFS regulation in 2014. Additionally, ARB staff is proposing a suite of amendments to provide a stronger signal for investments in and production of the cleanest fuels, offer additional flexibility, update critical technical information, and provide for improved efficiency and enforcement of the regulation.

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Joint Research Centre review concludes no serious risk in use of R1234yf MAC refrigerant under normal and foreseeable conditions

March 07, 2014

A scientific review of research regarding the safety aspects of the use of refrigerant R1234yf in Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) systems, published by the European Commission, concludes that there is no evidence of a serious risk in the use of this refrigerant in MAC systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use.

The review, carried out by Europe’s Joint Research Centre, provided an in-depth analysis of testing and a subsequent report on the refrigerant’s safety by KBA (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt, the German authority responsible for market surveillance and product safety for road vehicles) in order to ascertain whether the results stemming from the tests were well founded and supported by a rigorous and scientific methodology.

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ICCT provides policy update on proposed China Phase 4 fuel economy regulations

March 06, 2014

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Comparison of global passenger vehicle fuel consumption standards normalized to NEDC L/100km. In absolute terms, the new regulations would put China third behind the EU and Japan for fuel consumption and GHG regulations. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

A team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has provided an update on China’s proposed Phase 4 fuel consumption standard for passenger cars. The proposal was published on 21 January 2014 by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The proposed regulations cover passenger cars sold in China from 2016 to 2020, and project an overall fleet-average fuel consumption of 5L/100km (47 mpg US) for new passenger cars in 2020, as measured over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), from an expected fleet average of 6.9L/100km (34 mpg US) in 2015. This works out to an overall reduction of about 28%—6.2% annually—between 2015 and 2020.

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EPA finalizes Tier 3 fuel and emissions standards

March 03, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Tier 3 emission standards for gasoline sulfur content; evaporative emissions; and tailpipe emissions from passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty passenger vehicles, and some heavy-duty vehicles. EPA had issued the proposed standards last March. (Earlier post.)

The Tier 3 standards, which come into effect starting in 2017, consider the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. The gasoline sulfur standard will make emission control systems more effective for both existing and new vehicles, and will enable more stringent vehicle emissions standards since removing sulfur allows the vehicle’s catalyst to work more efficiently. The Tier 3 standards are also closely coordinated with California’s LEV III standards as well as with EPA’s and California’s programs for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from light-duty vehicles.

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President Obama, DOT Secretary Foxx announce $600M for 6th round of TIGER funding for transportation projects

February 27, 2014

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined President Barack Obama to announce that $600 million will be made available to fund transportation projects across the country under a sixth round of the US Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program.

The announcement was made at the Union Depot in St. Paul, Minnesota, which received $35 million in the first round of TIGER funding to renovate the facility and restore tracks. As in previous rounds, the FY 2014 TIGER Discretionary Grants are for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure, and are to be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the US, a metropolitan area, or a region.

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President Obama announces two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes; new manufacturing innovation institute competition

February 25, 2014

President Obama announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Department of Defense supported by a $140-million Federal commitment combined with more than $140 million in non-federal resources: (1) a Detroit-area-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, with a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing; and (2) a Chicago-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.

Obama also launched a competition for a new manufacturing innovation institute to build US strength in manufacturing advanced composites, the first of four new competitions to be launched this year.

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Study finds that EV-specific factors rather than socio-demographic variables better predictors of EV uptake

February 19, 2014

A study by researchers at the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) examining the impact of financial incentives and other socio-economic factors on electric vehicle (both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics) adoption in 30 countries found that financial incentives; the number of charging stations (corrected for population); and the presence of a local manufacturing facility were positive and significant in predicting EV adoption rates for the countries studied.

Of those, charging infrastructure was the best predictor of a country’s EV market share. However, the team cautions in their paper in Energy Policy, descriptive analyses indicated how country-specific factors such as government procurement plans or the target recipient of subsidies can significantly affect the adoption rate. In other words, neither financial incentives nor charging infrastructure ensure high electric vehicle adoption rates. However, on the whole, they conclude, the analysis tentatively endorses financial incentives and charging infrastructure as a way to encourage EV adoption.

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Obama directs EPA and DOT to develop and issue next phase of fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by March 2016

February 18, 2014

President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop and to issue the next phase of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016. Under this timeline, the agencies would issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) by March 2015.

This second round of fuel efficiency standards will build on the phase 1 standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 through 2018) issued in 2011. (Earlier post.) Under the phase 1 program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.

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Chevy buying carbon credits from US colleges; new formula helps fund campus energy-efficient projects

February 12, 2014

Chevrolet is investing in clean energy efficiency initiatives of US colleges and universities through its voluntary carbon-reduction initiative. The funding opportunity is open to all US universities and colleges; a campus determines whether its performance in reducing carbon emissions will qualify based on new methodologies that Chevrolet developed through the Verified Carbon Standard.

To develop the new methodologies, Chevrolet worked with an advisory team led by the Climate Neutral Business Network with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the US Green Building Council and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

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Calif. ARB releases GHG scoping plan update; more ZEVs, “LEV IV”, MD and HD regulations; ZEV for trucks; more LCFS

February 11, 2014

The California Air Resources Board released the draft proposed first update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which guides development and implementation of California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction programs. The Air Resources Board is required to update the Scoping Plan every five years.

Among the actions proposed or considered in the transportation sector include aggressive implementation of the light-duty Zero Emission Vehicle standard; LEV IV emissions regulations for the light-duty fleet post-2025 (GHG reductions of about 5% per year); Phase 2 GHG regulations for medium and heavy-duty (MD and HD) vehicles; a possible ZEV regulation for trucks; more stringent carbon reduction targets for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and others.

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ICCT study concludes no technical barriers to use of higher blends of ethanol

February 05, 2014

ICCT
Two scenarios of US ethanol consumption and projections of original, revised, and repealed RFS2 requirements from the present to 2022. The consumption scenarios are technically achievable but do not reflect significant barriers such as cost, regulation, legality, and consumer acceptance. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

A team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has released a paper assessing technical barriers to the use of higher blends of ethanol. Broadly, the study by Stephanie Searle, Francisco Posada Sanchez, Chris Malins, and John German concludes that (a) technical barriers do not prevent the use of higher blends of ethanol, and (b) slow uptake of blends such as E15 and E85 is due to other factors, including high cost, legal and warranty issues, and consumer awareness and acceptance.

The paper was commissioned by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) as part of a yearlong effort aimed at fostering “constructive dialogue and action” on reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). BPC is convening a diverse RFS advisory group to discuss opportunities for reform, hosting public workshops to solicit broad input, and ultimately publishing viable policy options based, in part, on the advisory group’s deliberations. The ICCT paper is one of five background papers to be released on different aspects of the problem. The others are:

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LCA study finds carbon intensity of corn ethanol decreasing, gasoline rising; ethanol estimated 43-60% lower than oil by 2022

January 30, 2014

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Top: Weighted CI (g CO2 e/MJ) of petroleum fuels and corn ethanol consumed in the US over time. Bottom: Weighted CI of petroleum fuels consumed in the US and California over time. Click to enlarge.

The carbon intensity (CI) of corn ethanol—i.e., the greenhouse gas emissions produced via the production of a volume of the fuel—is declining, while the average CI of gasoline produced from petroleum sources is gradually increasing, according to a recent report prepared by Life Cycle Associates, LLC for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Life Cycle Associates has completed numerous life cycle analysis studies, including those to establish fuel pathway carbon intensities (CI) for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

According to the study, the average corn ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 32% compared to average petroleum gasoline in 2012—including prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to fuel produced from unconventional petroleum sources such tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37% compared to the former and 40% to the latter.

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DNV GL paper suggests near-term success for LNG in shipping; alternative fuel mix to diversify over time

January 29, 2014

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Well-to-Propeller GHG emissions results for marine alternative fuels. Source: DNV GL. Click to enlarge.

DNV GL has released a position paper on the future alternative fuel mix for global shipping. While LNG is expected to be an early success, the picture becomes more diversified over time, as more than 20% of shipping could adopt hybrid propulsion solutions featuring batteries or other energy storage technologies, according to the paper.

DNV and GL merged in September 2013 to form DNV GL—the world’s largest ship and offshore classification society, the leading technical advisor to the global oil and gas industry, and a leading expert for the energy value chain including renewables and energy efficiency. According to DNV GL, the main drivers for the use of alternative fuels in shipping in the future can be classified in two broad categories: (a) Regulatory requirements and environmental concerns, and (b) availability of fossil fuels, cost and energy security.

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Report argues advanced HD natural gas vehicles foundational for California to hit air and climate goals; near zero-emission potential

January 28, 2014

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Five technology paths for very-low-NOx and GHG emissions from heavy-duty natural gas engines. Click to enlarge.

Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), a consulting firm specializing in market development for low emission and alternative fuel vehicle technologies, infrastructure, and fuels for both on- and off-road applications, released a report examining the critical role that ultra-low-emission heavy-duty (HD) natural gas engines can play in helping California achieve its air quality, climate protection and petroleum-displacement goals.

The “Pathways to Near-Zero-Emission Natural Gas Heavy Duty Vehicles” report, authored by GNA on behalf of Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), showcases the technologies currently under development that could deliver near-zero-emission heavy-duty natural gas engines by the end of this decade.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $10.8M in incentives for new natural gas vehicles

The California Energy Commission is soliciting (PON-13-610) applications for a total of $10.8 million in funding for natural gas vehicle incentives to reduce the purchase price of new on-road natural gas vehicles. The incentives are available on a first-come, first-served basis and at varying levels depending on the gross vehicle weight.

The solicitation is open to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). For purposes of the solicitation, an OEM is defined as an entity that manufactures and assembles vehicle chassis or engines, and sells under its name or badge complete light-, medium-, or heavy-duty vehicles or school buses. An OEM may reserve incentives directly for eligible vehicles that are sold through its dealers and distributors. Incentives are available through this solicitation only for vehicles meeting all of the following requirements:

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DOE to award $49.4M for advanced vehicle technologies research; meeting Tier 3 emissions

January 22, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $49.4 million to projects to to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies. The new program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000991) (earlier post), was announced by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Washington Auto Show.

The funding opportunity will contains a total of 13 areas of interest in the general areas of advanced light-weighting; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; advanced powertrains (including the ability to meet proposed EPA Tier 3 tailpipe emissions standards); and fuels and lubricants. These areas of interest apply to light, medium and heavy duty on-road vehicles.

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Japan automakers going slow with biodiesel; JAMA maintains stance on B5 as maximum for now

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JAMA cites the poor oxidation stability of high-level biodiesel blends, highlighted in the JATOP findings, in sticking with B5 levels. PME= palm oil methyl ester, RME = rapeseed methyl ester, SME = soy methyl ester, WME = waste cooking oil methyl ester, FTD = Fischer-Tropsch diesel, HBD = hydrogenated biodiesel. Source: JATOP.Click to enlarge.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is maintaining its stance on B5 (5% biodiesel, i.e., fatty acid methyl ester, blends) as the maximum until further findings and market observations on the use of B7 are reported.

JAMA bases its postion on the results of study from the Japan Auto-Oil Program subsidized by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). JATOP was organized by the Japan Petroleum Energy Center to develop automotive and fuel technologies best suited to simultaneously settle three issues—“Reducing CO2 emissions”; “Fuel diversification” and “Reducing motor vehicle emissions”—and to develop high accuracy air quality simulation models and facilitating their exploitation.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $24M for new biofuel projects

January 17, 2014

The California Energy Commission announced the availability of up to $24 million in grant funds for the development of new, or the modification of existing, California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low-carbon transportation fuels. (PON-13-609) Eligible biofuels are diesel substitutes, gasoline substitutes, and biomethane as defined in the solicitation.

The allocation of funds by fuel category is: Diesel Substitutes – $9.0 million; Gasoline Substitutes – $9.0 million; and Biomethane – $6.0 million. The Energy Commission will conduct two rounds of scoring. The first round of scoring will fund at least $4.027 million in passing projects; remaining funds will be applied to the second round of scoring.

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Mayor of London: all new London taxis will need to be zero-emission capable from 2018

January 16, 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced plans that would require all new taxis presented for licensing in the capital to be zero-emission capable from 1 January 2018, with the expectation that they will automatically operate in zero-emission mode while in areas where the capital’s air quality is at its worst—such as parts of central London.

The Mayor confirmed his plan at Transport for London’s (TfL’s) “New Taxis for London” event, at which he met five manufacturers developing zero emission capable taxis—Frazer-Nash, Nissan, Karsan, London Taxi Company and Mercedes-Benz. The new zero-emission capable taxis being developed include both plug-in full series hybrid vehicles and full electric models.

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President Obama announces new $140M public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on power electronics

President Obama announced the selection of a consortium of businesses and universities, led by North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next-generation power electronics. (Earlier post.)

More specifically, the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute is focused on making wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years. Compared to silicon-based technologies, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have greater durability and reliability at higher voltages and frequencies—ultimately achieving higher performance while using less electricity.

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Comprehensive modeling study finds electric drive vehicle deployment has little observed effect on US system-wide emissions

January 15, 2014

The results of a new, comprehensive modeling study characterizing light-duty electric drive vehicle (EDV) deployment in the US over 108 discrete scenarios do not demonstrate a clear and consistent trend toward lower system-wide emissions of CO2, SO2, and NOx as EDV deployment increases.

As explained in their paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers from North Carolina State Univesity and the University of Minnesota found that, while the scenario parameters can influence EDV deployment—even to a most extreme scenario of adoption—this EDV deployment does not in turn produce a discernible effect on total system-wide emissions. There are three reasons for this lack of observed effect, they concluded: (1) at present the overall share of emissions from the LDV sector is only 20% of US CO2 emissions; (2) EDV charging can still produce comparable emissions to conventional vehicles depending on the grid mix; and (3) the effect of other sectors on emissions is significant.

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FTA to award up to $24.9M to low- or no-emissions transit bus projects

January 10, 2014

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $24.9 million of Fiscal Year 2013 funds (FTA-2014-001-TRI) for the deployment of low- or no-emission (LoNo) transit buses. Of that amount, $21.6 million is available for buses and $3.3 million is available for supporting facilities and related equipment.

The LoNo Program provides funding for transit agencies for capital acquisitions and leases of zero emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities such as recharging, refueling, and maintenance facilities.

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Study finds that suburban sprawl cancels carbon-footprint savings of dense urban cores in US

January 07, 2014

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East Coast metropolitan statistical areas (J), with a larger map of New York metropolitan area (K, outer line) and New York City (K, inner line) highlight the consistent pattern of relatively low GHG urban core cities and high GHG suburbs. Credit: ACS, Jones and Kammen. Click to enlarge.

Although population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse-gas emissions per person than other areas of the country, these cities’ extensive suburbs essentially wipe out the climate benefits, according to a new study by Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen at UC Berkeley. The average carbon footprint of households living in the center of large, population-dense urban cities is about 50% below average, while households in distant suburbs are up to twice the average.

The study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), used local census, weather and other data—37 variables in total—to approximate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the energy, transportation, food, goods and services consumed by US households. A key finding is that suburbs account for half of all household greenhouse gas emissions, even though they account for less than half the US population.

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Researchers call for major change in US policies supporting plug-ins; failure of “mainstream consumer bias”

January 06, 2014

Although sales of plug-in vehicles (plug-in hybrid-electric and battery-electric vehicles, collectively PEVs) in the US climbed more than 80% in 2013 to more than 96,000 units (Tesla has not yet released its final figures) from 52,835 units in 2012 EDTA), the 2013 results still reflect a meagre new light-duty vehicle market share of ~0.6% for PEVs.

In a paper published in the journal Energy Policy, Erin Green of Green Energy Consulting; Steven Skerlos of the University of Michigan; and James Winebrake of the Rochester Institute of Technology argue that current US policies intended to promote the uptake of plug-in electric vehicles haven proven inefficient and ineffective. Suggesting that “mainstream consumer bias” is an explanation for the policy deficiencies that have resulted in slower than expected market penetration of PEVs, they propose an alternative policy agenda including the leveraging of strategic market niches, targeted R&D and incentives, and loans.

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UC Davis report finds LCFS compliance costs may rise rapidly; recommends offsetting measures

December 30, 2013

A recent report prepared by UC Davis researchers for the California Air Resources Board (ARB) found that compliance costs for the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) may increase rapidly in the future if there are large differences in marginal costs between traditional fossil fuels and alternative, low-carbon-intensity fuels; or if there are capacity or technological constraints to deploying alternative fuels, particularly those with low-carbon intensity.

In the absence of readily available, low CI fuel alternatives, the fuel market will adjust along two dimensions to maintain compliance with the LCFS: (i) increase the use of cheaper fuels below the Standard such as ethanol derived from corn starch and sugarcane; or (ii) increase fuel prices and reduce fuel consumption to a level where the Standard is technologically feasible. Both options will be associated with high LCFS credit prices. Because firms are able to bank credits over time, anticipated high costs in the future may lead to higher costs in the present before any constraints bind on the industry.

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California ISO publishes roadmap for integrating EVs into grid

December 28, 2013

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Summary of the path to enable EVs to provide grid services. Source: CA ISO. Click to enlarge.

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) has released a blueprint for integrating electric vehicles (EVs) into the grid: “California Vehicle-Grid Integration Roadmap: Enabling Vehicle-based Grid Services”.

The VGI blueprint outlines three inter-dependent tracks to assess how consumer use of electric vehicles could benefit electric reliability, and to determine policies and technologies necessary to elicit that value through appropriate market signals for a more reliable, sustainable electric grid.

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ICCT suggests minor changes to Fed tax policy to cut higher investment risk of 2nd-gen biofuels and advance the industry

December 22, 2013

Minor changes to an existing Federal tax incentive for second-generation biofuels (i.e., biofuel made from cellulose, algae, duckweed, or cyanobacteria) could mitigate the current elevated risk of investing in the industry that is retarding its advance, according to a new paper by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Johns Hopkins University. Some of the ICCT recommendations are mirrored in the recently released Baucus draft proposal for tax reform (earlier post), notes Dr. Chris Malins of the ICCT, one of the study’s co-authors.

Previous studies have attempted to explain the slow commercialization of cellulosic and algal biofuels qualitatively, however few have presented financial analysis across the sector, the authors observe. Using publicly available financial data, they applied investment analysis tools (the capital assets pricing model, CAPM) that are generally not applied to this space in order to develop a more rigorous understanding of the investment risk in the industry.

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DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement

December 20, 2013

The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.

The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.

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Sen. Baucus draft for energy tax reform focuses on clean production of electricity and fuels; repeals plug-in vehicle credits

December 19, 2013

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced the latest in a series of discussion drafts to overhaul the US tax code. This new staff discussion draft focuses energy tax policy on stimulating domestic, clean production of electricity and transportation fuels, which account for 68% of energy consumed in the US. It also would repeal a number of current tax incentives, including those for plug-in electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

Under current law, there are 42 different energy tax incentives, including more than 12 preferences for fossil fuels; 10 different incentives for renewable fuels and alternative vehicles; and 6 different credits for clean electricity. Of the 42 different energy incentives, 25 are temporary and expire every year or two, and the credits for clean electricity alone have been adjusted 14 times since 1978. If Congress continues to extend current incentives, they will cost nearly $150 billion over 10 years.

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EIA: light duty vehicle energy consumption to drop 25% by 2040; increased oil production, vehicle efficiency reduce US oil and liquid imports

December 16, 2013

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Energy consumption by light-duty vehicles in the United States, AEO2013 and AEO2014, 1995-2040 (quadrillion Btu). LDV energy consumption declines in AEO2014 Reference case from 16.0 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 12.1 quadrillion Btu in 2040, compared with 13.0 quadrillion Btu in 2040 in the AEO2013 Reference case. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Reflecting slow growth in travel and accelerated vehicle efficiency improvements, US light-duty vehicle (LDV, cars and light trucks) energy use will decline sharply between 2012 and 2040, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014) Reference case released today.

AEO2014 includes a new, detailed demographic profile of driving behavior by age and gender as well as new lower population growth rates based on updated Census projections. As a result, annual increases in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in LDVs average 0.9% from 2012 to 2040, compared to 1.2% per year over the same period in AEO2013. The rising fuel economy of LDVs more than offsets the modest growth in VMT, resulting in a 25% decline in LDV energy consumption decline between 2012 and 2040 in the AEO2014 Reference case.

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DOE issues Request for Information on financing strategies for light-duty H2 fueling infrastructure

December 13, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001055) for light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) fueling infrastructure financing strategies within the context of an early market introduction.

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from the financial/investment/business community and light-duty vehicle (LDV) hydrogen transportation stakeholders. This input will augment financing strategies that DOE analyzes for public deployment of infrastructure for supporting FCEV introduction in US markets. Such financing strategies should maximize financing, for example, with debt and equity, while minimizing public incentives.

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USDA and DOE award $8.1M to 7 biomass genomics research projects for biofuel and bioenergy

December 12, 2013

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DOE-BER), and the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA) are jointly awarding $8.1 million in research grants to 7 projects using genomics to develop non-food feedstocks that can be used for bioenergy. The awards continue a commitment by the two agencies begun in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics that will establish a scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel. (Earlier post.)

In 2013, DOE will provide $6.1 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years. Overall, the USDA and DOE projects are designed to improve biomass—including selected trees and grasses—to be grown for biofuels by increasing their yield, quality and ability to adapt to extreme environments. Researchers will rely on the most advanced techniques of modern genomics to develop breeding and other strategies to improve the crops. The research will be conducted on switchgrass, poplar and pine, among other plants.

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DOE awards $98M in tax credits to automakers and suppliers for clean technology manufacturing

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $150 million in clean energy tax credits to 12 businesses to build US capabilities in clean energy manufacturing; $98 million of that goes to five automakers and suppliers towards investments in domestic manufacturing equipment. The awards are made through the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program (48C Program).

The Departments of Energy and the Treasury worked in partnership to develop, launch, and award the funds for this program. The Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit authorized Treasury to provide developers with an investment tax credit of 30% for the manufacture of particular types of energy equipment. Funded at $2.3 billion, the tax credit was made available to 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities during Phase I of the program.

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Honeywell and suppliers to invest ~$300M to boost production of HFO-1234yf low GWP MAC coolant

December 10, 2013

Honeywell and key suppliers will invest approximately $300 million to increase production capacity for HFO-1234yf, its low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant for mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems in automobiles. (Earlier post.) GWP is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide setting the comparison with a GWP of 1. HFO-1234yf’s GWP is 99.9% lower than that of HFC-134a, the current refrigerant in use (GWP = 1,300).

Among these investments, Honeywell will construct a high-volume manufacturing plant using new process technology at the company’s existing Geismar, Louisiana, refrigerants manufacturing site, which is expected to be fully operational in 2016. The exact size of the plant will depend on supply agreements that Honeywell is putting in place with major customers.

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EU agreement pushes full implementation of 95 g/km CO2 target for cars back 1 year to 2021, expands use of supercredits

November 27, 2013

The European Parliament (EP) and member state negotiators reached an informal agreement on new rules to achieve the 2020 CO2 emission target of 95 g/km for new cars. Under the new agreement, which must be approved by both the European Parliament and Council to enter into force, 95% of new cars must meet the 95 g/km mandatory target by 2020, and 100% by 2021.

An earlier agreement (earlier post), set aside after EU ministers failed to endorse a previous informal deal on it with Parliament, had envisioned full implementation of the 95-gram target in 2020. Additionally, the new agreement significantly expands the use of supercredits—favorable weightings to cars that emit less than 50 g/km of CO2 within a manufacturer’s range.

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