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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.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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California Energy Commission to award up to $29.9M to hydrogen refueling infrastructure projects

November 24, 2013

The California Energy Commission (CEC) will award up to $29.9 million to projects to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California (PON-13-607).

The solicitation has two goals: 1) to develop infrastructure necessary to dispense hydrogen transportation fuel; and 2) to provide needed Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funding to support hydrogen refueling operations prior to the large—scale roll—out of Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). CEC will provide funding to construct, to upgrade, or to support hydrogen refueling stations that expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations to serve the current population of FCVs and accommodate the planned large—scale roll—out of FCVs beginning in 2015.

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EPA proposes reduction in cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards for 2014

November 15, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a reduction in the cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards (RFS) for 2014. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open to a 60-day public comment period.

Specifically, EPA is proposing a total renewable fuel target of 15.21 billion gallons; the final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons; the original target as specified in the Clean Air Act is 18.15 billion gallons. (Earlier post.) EPA is setting the troublesome cellulosic biofuel target at 17 million gallons—significantly lower than the Clean Air Act (CAA) target of 1.75 billion gallons—but an increase from the 6.0 million gallons specified for 2013. This reflects EPA’s current estimate of the amount of cellulosic biofuel that will actually be produced in 2014, but EPA will consider public comments before setting the final cellulosic standard.

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SAE New Energy Vehicle Forum: China’s focus on NEVs may have profound impact on future of transportation

November 13, 2013

China has a number of critical economic and environmental imperatives driving its pursuit of vehicle electrification, said the roster of plenary speakers at the SAE 2013 New Energy Vehicle Forum held in Shanghai this week. These include the increasingly problematic pollution and haze in cities; China’s projected increased reliance on imported oil; the need for rationalized multimodal transportation systems in ever more congested and space-limited cities; the growing dominance of the China auto market; and the desire to have China become the leader in the next generation of automotive technology, vehicles and mobility systems.

The shift from fossil fuels to electricity—while held in common with other countries—will be based on the “specific situation” in China, making the best use of China’s own advantages and innovations, but also with international cooperation, said Dr. Zhixin Wu, Vice President of the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC). The details of that specific situation may result in an electric vehicle parc somewhat different than in Western countries, other speakers noted, and may indeed—given the obvious scale of the China market—herald a major transformation in transportation, including the type and role of personal vehicles, others suggested.

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Global Commercial Vehicle Industry Meeting endorses harmonized global approach to improve fuel efficiency and reduce GHGs

November 09, 2013

Leading global manufacturers of heavy-duty commercial trucks and engines gathering at the annual Global Commercial Vehicle Industry Meeting endorsed a harmonized global approach as an effective pathway to further improve energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from commercial vehicles. The manufacturers have been pursuing policy cooperation for a number of years. (Earlier post.)

Meeting in Chicago, the chief executives of commercial vehicle and engine manufacturers in Europe, Japan, and the United States discussed fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, diesel fuel specifications, and topics related to heavy-duty engine and vehicle regulation and certification.

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GFEI report suggests $2T savings from fuel economy improvements in ICE vehicles through 2025 can help fund long-term transition to plug-ins

November 08, 2013

Fuel economy improvements from conventional internal combustion engine cars can save an estimated $2 trillion in fuel costs through 2025—and more in years after—according to a new working paper published by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) prepared by Dr. Lew Fulton, Co-Director, NextSTEPS Program at the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California at Davis.

The GFEI, a partnership of international agencies and top energy policy experts, suggests that these cost savings could in part be used to help offset the costs of developing a global market for electric vehicles over this time frame, since the savings are estimated to be at least four times bigger than these costs.

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DOE Inspector General criticizes agency’s handling of disclosures over Ecotality awards

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report concluding that DOE “had not fully disclosed known concerns regarding Ecotality’s ability to meet its EV project obligations” to the Office of Inspector General prior to completion of an earlier audit, and thus prior to Ecotality’s bankruptcy filing in September. (Earlier post.)

The OIG concluded that DOE had not provided information that raised questions about Ecotality’s ability to meet its project goals, including completing planned EV charger installations and the collection of EV usage data—even though the data had a “readily apparent” connection to the OIG audit then underway.

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ICCT report finds global implementation of advanced emissions and fuel-quality regs could cut early deaths from vehicle emissions by 75% in 2030

November 06, 2013

Global trends in vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) and early deaths from vehicle-related fine particle exposure (2000–2030). Chambliss et al. Click to enlarge.

Although many countries have adopted emission control regulations patterned on the European regulations, the significant majority of these have not implemented the latest and most stringent Euro 6/VI stage. A study by a team at the the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) finds that if that lag persists and present trends in vehicle activity continue, early deaths from vehicle-related PM2.5 exposure in urban areas will increase 50% by 2030, compared to 2013.

Conversely, the report finds, if all countries were to follow an accelerated roadmap to Euro 6/VI-level regulations, in tandem with fuel-quality regulations limiting sulfur content to 10 to 15 parts per million (ppm), early deaths globally from road vehicle emissions would fall by 75% (200,000) in the year 2030, representing a cumulative savings of 25 million additional years of life.

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Berkeley Lab modeling study finds California will not meet 2050 GHG targets without additional policy measures

November 05, 2013

Comparison of GHG emissions by study scenario, along with historical and “straight-line” connections between 2020 and 2050 policy targets. 85 MtCO2/yr (red square) is the 2050 target. Greenblatt 2013. Click to enlarge.

California will attain its 2020 statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to a new modeling study by Jeffery Greenblatt at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

However, while all of the three scenarios developed for the study achieved the 2020 target, none were able to achieve the 2050 GHG target of 85 MtCO2/yr, instead yielding emissions ranging from 188 to 444 MtCO2/yr. Therefore, Greenblatt concluded, additional policies will need to be developed for California to meet this stringent future target.

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Brookings analysts recommend against repeating cash for clunkers program in future recession

November 03, 2013

According to a new paper and policy brief by Brookings, the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or “cash for clunkers” program, launched during the height of the recession with the intention of stimulating the economy and reducing emissions, actually resulted in only a small and short-lived impact on GDP; a higher implied cost per job created than alternative fiscal stimulus programs; and a higher cost per ton of CO2 reduced than what would be achieved through a policy such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade.

However, the cost of CO2 reduced was comparable or lower than that achieved through less cost-effective policies such as the tax subsidy for electric vehicles, the analysis concluded. In terms of distributional effects, compared to households that purchased a new or used vehicle in 2009 without a voucher, CARS program participants had a higher before-tax income, were older, more likely to be white, more likely to own a home, and more likely to have a high-school and a college degree.

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MIT study cautions smaller nations on rushing to develop their natural gas resources; Cyprus as model

October 27, 2013

Cyprus offshore hydrocarbon exploration blocks. Paltsev et al. Click to enlarge.

Based on the interim results of a new study, MIT researchers are warning smaller nations to proceed with caution in pursuing the development of their natural gas resources. The study is a part of of a larger report that will further take into account the changing dynamics of the regional and global gas markets, giving a comprehensive view of the implications for the long-term development of natural gas in Cyprus and other like nations.

The interim report analyzed the economics of natural gas project development options in Cyprus with a focus on exports. (The authors noted that Cyprus will have sufficient resources for developing export capabilities regardless of the extent of domestic gas substitution in the coming years, given its rather small energy consumption profile.) The report explored three major options for monetizing the resource: an onshore LNG plant; a transnational undersea pipeline; and the deployment of a CNG marine transport system. The researchers expect to finish the larger report in August 2014; the study is sponsored by The Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation.

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Governors of 8 states sign MoU to put 3.3M zero-emission vehicles on roads by 2025; 15% of new vehicle sales

October 24, 2013

The governors of 8 states—California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to take specific actions to put 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the roads in their states by 2025, along with the refueling infrastructure required to support those vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles include battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles; the technologies can be applied in passenger cars, trucks and transit buses.

The 3.3 million ZEVs would represent a new vehicle market penetration for the group of states of about 15%, said Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), during a conference call announcing the agreement. This multi-state effort is intended to expand consumer awareness and demand for zero-emission vehicles. Collectively, the eight signatory states represent more than 23% of the US car market.

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USDA announces availability of $181M to support development of advanced biofuels projects

October 21, 2013

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $181 million via its Biorefinery Assistance Program to develop commercial-scale biorefineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program was created through the 2008 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. Eligible entities include Indian tribes, State or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.

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Tesla leads with transfer of ZEV credits for year ending 30 Sep 2013

October 17, 2013

Tesla by far dominated the transfer of ZEV credits in California in 2012. Data: ARB. Click to enlarge.

Between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2013, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors transferred out 1,311.520 ZEV (zero emission vehicle) credits, according to the latest report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB)—by far, the largest of any automaker in the state. The next closest was Toyota, with 507.5 credits; Nissan only transferred 25 credits, and those generated from its PZEVs—not from the LEAF EV.

As of 30 September, Tesla still had a balance of 276.080 credits, according to the data; behind the six major automakers, who are mostly banking their credits.

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Ford study suggests GDI engines can meet coming California and US PM emissions standards over 150k miles; more work to be done

October 16, 2013

PM mass emissions rates for the FTP and US06 drive cycles as function of vehicle mileage. Credit: ACS, Maricq et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering group in Dearborn examined how emissions of particulate matter (PM) from two gasoline direct injection engines—a very small set and not representative of the wide variety of gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines currently in production or under future development, they noted—changed over time.

As reported in a paper in ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the results showed that GDI technology has the potential to meet the upcoming California LEV III and US EPA Tier 3 PM mass standard of 3 mg/mi (phasing in over MY2017−2021) over a 150,000-mile vehicle lifetime, but that further work must be done to address achieving the more stringent 1 mg/mi target (LEV III in 2025).

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Univ. of Illinois team argues that renewable fuel standard needs to be modified, not repealed

A policy analysis by two University of Illinois researchers argues that Congress should minimally modify, not repeal, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the study, law professor Jay P. Kesan and Timothy A. Slating, a regulatory associate with the Energy Biosciences Institute, argue that RFS mandates ought to be adjusted to reflect current and predicted biofuel commercialization realities; that its biofuel categories be expanded to encompass all emerging biofuel technologies; and that its biomass sourcing constraints be relaxed.

In the paper, to be published in the NYU Environmental Law Journal, Kesan and Slating contend that the RFS can serve as a “model policy instrument” for the federal support of all types of socially beneficial renewable energy technologies.

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Car Charging Group acquires Blink-related charging assets of ECOtality; Access Control Group and Intertek buyers of other assets

October 11, 2013

Blink Acquisition, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Car Charging Group, Inc., a nationwide provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging services, won the bid to purchase the Blink-related assets of bankrupt ECOtality. (Earlier post.) The assets included in the transaction are all of Blink’s inventory: more than 12,450 installed electric vehicle Level II charging stations; the 110 DC Fast charging station;, and the Blink network, which is the turnkey operating system for EV drivers, commercial businesses, and utilities, that services the Blink stations.

Blink Acquisition is paying $3,335,000 in cash, plus payment or satisfaction of cure costs and the assumption of Assumed Liabilities (i.e., agreements with the US government). The Blink deal does not include Minit-Charger, which manufactures and distributes fast-charging systems for material handling and airport ground support vehicles; this business was acquired for $250,000 by Access Control Group. Nor does it include ETEC LABS, ECOtality’s research and testing resource for governments, automotive OEMs and utilities; this was acquired by Intertek Testing for $750,000.

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Navigant Research projects global market for plug-in charging equipment to grow to 4.3M units and $5.8B in revenue in 2022

October 02, 2013

The market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has expanded in recent years in parallel with the deployment of publicly accessible charging stations, mainly funded by government programs. According to a new report from Navigant Research, there are now almost 64,000 public charging stations installed globally. Overall, Navigant Research expects global sales of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to grow from around 442,000 units in 2013 to 4.3 million in 2022, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.8%. The company expects revenue from the sales of EVSE to grow from $567 million in 2013 to $5.8 billion in 2022 at a CAGR of 29.4%.

Residential EVSE sales are directly driven by the increase in PEV sales, as many drivers purchase a charger for exclusive use at home. Commercial charging, which includes workplace, public and private chargers, is more indirectly tied to PEV growth and is still driven to a great degree by government support, the market research firm observed. However, this dynamic is changing, as government programs in some regions are coming to a close.

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CARB draft of updated AB 32 Scoping Plan for climate change actions post-2020; pushing for greater transportation reductions

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has released the public discussion draft of the required update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan. (Earlier post.) The Scoping Plan describes the comprehensive range of efforts California must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and meet the state’s long-term goals to combat climate change.

AB 32 requires the Scoping Plan to be updated every five years. The original Plan, first released in 2008, was developed on the principle that a balanced mix of strategies is the best way to cut emissions and grow California’s economy in a clean and sustainable direction. This draft update continues with that approach and focuses on three questions:

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DOE proposing $100M in FY2014 for 2nd round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers

October 01, 2013

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a proposed $100 million in FY2014 funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers; research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production and use.

The Department of Energy (DOE) currently funds 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which were selected for five-year funding in 2009. (Earlier post.) With support for those centers set to expire in July 2014, DOE has announced a “re-competition” for a second round of funding (DE-FOA-0001010).

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California Governor signs 6 bills to support burgeoning EV market, including $2B AB 8

September 28, 2013

Marking National Plug-in Day (NPID), California Governor Jerry Brown signed 6 bills to support California’s burgeoning electric vehicle market, including the $2-billion AB 8 (earlier post), which will continue clean vehicle and fuel incentives through 2023.

The legislation builds on the state’s efforts to help California’s electric vehicle market grow, including an Executive Order issued by Governor Brown that established a target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025 and a number of other long-term goals. The newly signed bills are:

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ACEEE recommends steps for enhanced data gathering and analysis essential to developing next phase of heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and GHG regs

September 27, 2013

A newly released working paper from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) outlines the organization’s recommendations to policymakers for developing the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles in the United States expected in 2015.

The focus of the paper is less on the range of technologies that might be applied to deliver the requisite reductions (ACEEE also published a short fact sheet briefly touching on technology approaches) and more on enhanced and improved data gathering, analysis and dissemination that will be required to inform the development of the next phase of the standards.

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U-Mich researcher’s first-principles analysis challenges conventional carbon accounting for biofuels; implications for climate policy

September 24, 2013

System boundaries (red line) schematic for liquid fuel carbon balance. For biofuels, because biogenic carbon is automatically credited within a product lifecycle, the boundary effectively excludes vehicle end-use CO2 emissions. DeCicco 2013. Click to enlarge.

In a paper that could have a significant impact on climate policies for transportation fuels, Dr. John M. DeCicco of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor presents a rigorous first-principles analysis that undermines the common “biofuels recycle carbon” argument.

Published in the journal Climactic Change, the open access paper shows that while the carbon mitigation challenge for liquid fuels has been seen—incorrectly—as a fuel synthesis and substitution problem, it is in reality a net carbon uptake problem. Accordingly, DeCicco concludes, strategies should move away from a downstream focus on replacing fuel products to an upstream focus on achieving additional CO2 uptake through the most cost-effective and least damaging means possible. “All parties with an interest in the issue are advised to rethink their priorities accordingly,” he finishes.

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One way or another, Fisker Automotive may soon be off the market

September 23, 2013

by Keith Patterson

Two German investors, Ingo Voigt and Fritz Nol, announced their intent to buy Fisker Automotive, the failing plug-in hybrid car company, on 11 September. The team submitted a detailed offer to the US Department of Energy (DOE) along with a letter of intent for restructuring Fisker.

The purchase funds for Fisker would in theory go directly to the DOE since the government agency loaned the auto company a large sum of money before it stopped production more than a year ago. Though the Voight/Nol offer amount has not yet been made public, many predict the company will sell for $25 million to $50 million. However, subsequent to the Voight/Nol offer, DOE announced it would auction off the remainder of Fisker’s loan obligation, “after exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that might have protected our entire investment.” [See sidebar.]

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EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants

September 20, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.

The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

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Ford launches electric vehicle charging network for employees; hoping to increase number of all-electric trips

September 16, 2013

Ford Motor Company is installing a new workplace plug-in vehicle charging network at nearly every Ford facility in the US and Canada. Ford will install charging stations at more than 50 company offices, product development campuses and manufacturing facilities. Installation will begin later this year and roll out throughout 2014.

Ford employees will be able to charge the all-electric Focus Electric, as well as Ford’s two plug-in hybrids—the Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi—at the charge stations. The service will initially be free to employees for the first four hours. Ford estimates it will cost the company about $0.50 fully to charge a vehicle.

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FAA launches new Center of Excellence for alternative jet fuels; $40M in funding over 10 years

September 13, 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected a team of universities to lead a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for alternative jet fuels and the environment. Led by Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the COE will explore ways to meet the environmental and energy goals that are part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

Core team partners include Boston University; Oregon State University; Purdue University; the University of Dayton; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Washington; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology; Pennsylvania State University; Stanford University; the University of Hawaii; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Tennessee.

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OIG audit finds DOE has not achieved biorefinery goals despite 7 years and $603 million spent

An audit report released by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that despite more than 7 years of effort and the expenditure of about $603 million, DOE had not yet achieved its biorefinery development and production goals.

Specifically, the audit found, the mandate to demonstrate the commercial application of integrated biorefineries had not been met and DOE was not on target to meet its biofuels production capacity goal. Although DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BTO) reported meeting its goal to demonstrate the successful operation of three integrated biorefineries by 2012, OIG noted that these biorefineries were primarily much smaller pilot projects rather than commercial scale.

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European Parliament backs 6% cap on land-based biofuels, switchover to advanced biofuels; no mandate

September 11, 2013

In a vote on draft legislation, the European Parliament has backed a cap on the use of biofuels produced from starch-rich crops, sugars, oil and other crops grown on land and a speedy switchover to new biofuels from alternative sources such as seaweed and waste. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the turnover of agricultural land to biofuel production.

According to current legislation, member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. In the adopted text, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) say land-based biofuels should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020. (The proposal by the European Commission on which the draft legislation was based had suggested an even lower 5% cap.)

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ARB hosting public hearing on ZEV modifications; battery swapping out for fast refueling of ZEVs

September 10, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a public hearing on 24 October in Sacramento to consider minor proposed amendments to the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation being put forward by ARB staff. (Earlier post.)

In January 2012, the ARB approved the Advanced Clean Cars program, which included increased ZEV requirements through 2025 model year, and the next generation of light duty greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emission standards (LEV III). (Earlier post.) This program combined the control of smog-causing pollutants and GHG emissions into a single coordinated package of requirements for model years 2017 through 2025.

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Georgia Tech study suggests unlinking EVs from CAFE and coordinating with power sector for low-cost benefits

September 08, 2013

Change in total consumer expenditure for EVs and conventional vehicles (CVs) purchased in 2030 over the vehicle lifetime for 20% and 100% EV adoption scenarios. A negative value means the case has a lower TCE than the reference case. Credit: ACS, Choi et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Georgia Tech suggests, based on their modeling of electric vehicle (EV) adoption scenarios in each of six regions of the Eastern Interconnection (containing 70% of the US population), that coordinating EV adoption with the adoption of controlled EV charging, unlinking EVs from consideration in the CAFE fuel economy regulations; and implementing renewable electricity standards would deliver low-cost reductions in emissions and gasoline usage. (For the study, they define EVs as including both battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles.

Only in the case of high EV market share and a high renewable electricity standard (RES) do EVs make a material contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, they found. However, managed EV adoption can reduce the cost of achieving GHG reductions through a RES, they concluded in their paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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UK launches new ultra low emission vehicles strategy; focus on nurturing the industry

September 05, 2013

UK Transport Minister Norman Baker launched the government’s latest strategy—Driving the Future Today: A strategy for ultra low emission vehicles in the UK—to advance the ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) industry with a focus on economic development in the UK. The government’s vision, said Minister Baker, “is that by 2050 almost every car and van will be an ultra low emission vehicle with the UK at the forefront of their design, development and manufacture. This strategy moves us up a gear in pursuing that vision.

The principles behind the strategy include focusing on inward investment and the supply chain; technological neutrality, i.e., specifying the bulk of policies in output rather than technology terms; and addressing market failure. Accordingly, a great deal of effort and funding will flow to programs to incent adoption and to establish plug-in charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructures.

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Study finds power law scaling relationship between urban population and NO2 pollution

August 25, 2013

Log−log relationship between NO2 mixing ratios and the total population of urban areas for the four regions. The approximate linear relationship for each region is notable, suggesting that the dependence of urban NO2 pollution upon population follows a power law scaling with population. Credit: ACS, Lamsal et al. Click to enlarge.

A study by NASA scientists and their colleagues at Dalhousie University (Canada) and NOAA based on satellite data has found a significant correlation of surface nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with population in the three countries and one continent examined: United States (r = 0.71), Europe (r = 0.67), China (r = 0.69), and India (r = 0.59). These regions contain two-thirds of total global anthropogenic NOx emissions. NO2 is released primarily from combustion processes, such as traffic, is a short-lived atmospheric pollutant that serves as an air-quality indicator, and is itself a health concern.

Urban NO2 pollution, they found, like other urban properties, is a power law scaling function of the population size: NO2 concentration increases proportional to population raised to an exponent. (Even though larger cities are typically more energy efficient with lower per-capita emissions, more people still translates to more pollution.) The value of the exponent varies by region from 0.36 for India to 0.66 for China, reflecting regional differences in industrial development and per capita emissions. The study was published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Study explores long-term trends in motor vehicle emissions in US urban areas; targeting high-emitters

August 19, 2013

The study found that the highest-emitting 10% of gasoline vehicles are now responsible for the overwhelming majority of running CO, NMHC, and NOx. Credit: ACS, McDonald et al. Click to enlarge.

A study of motor vehicle emissions by researchers at UC Berkeley found that running CO and evaporative and tailpipe NMHC emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles in three major US urban centers (NY, LA and Houston) have decreased by almost an order of magnitude over the last twenty years, despite increases in fuel use.

However, they also found that decreases in emissions of these pollutants appear to be slowing down and may have leveled off. Their findings show that the success in control of emission from gasoline vehicles has led to greater skew in emission factor distributions, such that the highest-emitting 10% of vehicles are now responsible for the overwhelming majority of running CO and NOx. If progress in reducing emissions is to continue, they concluded, vigorous efforts will be needed to identify and repair or replace high-emitting vehicles. Their study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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NASA rolls out new strategic vision for aeronautics research

August 15, 2013

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden unveiled a new strategic vision better to align the work of the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) to address looming challenges in global air transportation. Bolden shared the strategic vision in a keynote speech at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Aviation 2013 conference in Los Angeles.

The new vision addresses three “mega-drivers” that are expected to alter aviation during the next 20 to 40 years: significant growth in planet-wide demand for air mobility, prompted by Asian market growth and global urbanization; mounting concerns related to climate and energy; and the convergence of technologies ranging from new materials to embedded sensors to ubiquitous networking.

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New York launches $19M truck voucher incentive program; $9M for EVs, $10M for alt fuels

August 09, 2013

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $19-million New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program to encourage the purchase of battery-electric commercial trucks as well as other energy-efficient transportation, including hybrid and CNG (compressed natural gas) trucks. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that this program could encourage the purchase or retrofit of up to 1,000 low-emission trucks in areas of the state with the poorest air quality.

The truck voucher program will include two voucher funds: $9 million for battery-electric truck vouchers offered in 30 counties around the state that did not meet federal clean air standards, primarily downstate New York, the Capital Region and Western New York; and a $10-million alternative fuels voucher fund for New York City, which also includes compressed natural gas, hybrid-electric vehicles and retrofitting diesel engines with emission control devices.

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Interim report from Germany’s KBA finds no sufficient evidence of risk with use of R1234yf refrigerant

Independent testing by Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Motor Transport Authority) has found that there is “no sufficient evidence of a serious risk” as defined by the Product Safety Act (ProdSG) related to the use of the low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant R-1234yf.

The tests were conducted under the auspices of and on behalf of the KBA in cooperation with the Federal Highway Research Institute, Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, and the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the test parameters jointly developed by TÜV Rheinland.

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EPA sets 2013 percentages for Renewable Fuel Standard; anticipating adjustments to 2014 volume requirements

August 06, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply (a 9.74% blend).

The 2013 standard specifically requires: biomass-based diesel (1.28 billion gallons; 1.13%); advanced biofuels (2.75 billion gallons; 1.62%); and cellulosic biofuels (6.00 million gallons; 0.004%). These standards reflect EPA’s updated production projections. All volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel which is actual volume.

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Exploring the adoption of EVs in the US, Europe and China; charging scenarios and infrastructure

Aspirational targets among seven countries participating in the Electric Vehicle Initiative would see growth from just under 2 million EV and PHEVs to just under 20 million by 2020. Source: “Electric Vehicle Grid Integration”. Click to enlarge.

A recently published paper by M.J. Bradley & Associates, commissioned by the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), examines key drivers of EV adoption in the US, Europe and China, with an emphasis on vehicle charging scenarios and infrastructure.

This report examines hurdles to EV adoption in these regions, and identifies critical success factors that should guide policymakers in the transportation and electric sectors. Accelerating the pace of EV market growth requires a coordinated evolution in both sectors, the report argues, from the power plant to the charging station to the vehicle. Supportive policies should work to ensure that EV owners are able to capture the full economic value of their decision to fuel switch from electricity to gasoline, including any benefits to the grid operator, and any emission reduction benefits, in addition to realizing the savings from replacing gasoline or diesel fuel with electricity.

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“Big data” analysis of Beijing taxi fleet suggests maximum electrification subsidy benefit from targeting medium-range plug-in hybrids

August 02, 2013

A pair of researchers at the University of Michigan have used “big data” mining techniques to evaluate the impact of adopting plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the Beijing taxi fleet on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions based on the characterized individual travel patterns.

Although the results are based on a specific public fleet, the study demonstrates the benefit of using large-scale individual-based trajectory data (big data) to better understand environmental implications of fleet electrification and inform better decision making, Hua Cai and Ming Xu suggested in a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. This research represents the first of a series of studies exploring the role of big data in environmental systems analysis for the emerging PHEV/BEV systems.

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Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi agree to joint development of charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles in Japan

July 29, 2013

Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation jointly announced their agreement to work together to promote the installation of chargers for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)—(plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and battery-electric vehicles (EVs)—and to build a charging network service that offers more convenience to drivers in Japan. (Earlier post.)

The partners said the move is in recognition of the need for the swift development of a charging infrastructure facilities to promote the use of electric-powered vehicles. Assisted by subsidies provided by the Japanese government, the four automakers will bear part of the cost to install the charging facilities. They will also work together to build a convenient and accessible charging network in collaboration with companies that are already providing charging services in which each of the four automakers already have a financial stake.

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JRC assesses EU RD&D investments in electric-drive vehicles; controls and energy storage top the list

July 20, 2013

Distribution of total investments and public co-funding in publicly co-funded R&D projects. Controls and energy storage top the list. Source: JRC. Click to enlarge.

A report from the JRC on research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects on electric drive vehicles (not including fuel cell vehicles) in the EU finds that increased exchange of information and more coordination between projects would result in a better leverage of the investments—at this point, some €1.9 billion (US$2.5 billion), 65% from public funding. The JRC (Joint Research Centre) is the European Commission’s (EC’s) in-house science service.

The report is the third in a series that deals with aspects of electromobility in Europe. Its goal was to collect the information on all on-going or recently concluded RD&D projects on electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which received EU or national public funding with a budget of more than €1 million (US$1.3 million), in order to assess which of the electric drive vehicles (EDV) challenges are addressed by these projects and to identify potential gaps in the RD&D landscape in Europe.

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New MECA report calls for implementation of particle number (PN) limits by North American regulators

July 19, 2013

Particle number vs. particle mass for various LDV engine technologies. Source: MECA, Ford Motor Company. Click to enlarge.

North American environmental regulators should consider taking action on particle number (PN) limits as a complement to their already world-best PM mass standards, according to a new report released by the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA).

The report, “Ultrafine Particulate Matter and the Benefits of Reducing Particle Numbers in the United States”, first summarizes the current understanding of the potential adverse health impacts of ultrafine particles (UFPs, particles that are finer than 0.1 microns in diameter); then outlines various control strategies and technologies that can be used to meet current and upcoming EPA standards; documents the successful use of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) to meet and exceed US and European emission standards; and then makes the argument for PN limits.

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IEA report finds “avoid, shift and improve” policies for urban transport could deliver up to $70T in savings through 2050

July 18, 2013

Expected urban private motorized travel (in passenger kilometers). Source: IEA. Click to enlarge.

Policies that improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems could help save as much as US$70 trillion in spending on vehicles, fuel and transportation infrastructure between now and 2050, according to a recently released report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Among the three broad categories of policies recommended in the report and policy guide, “A Tale of Renewed Cities”, are those that allow travel to be avoided; those that shift travel to more efficient modes; and those that improve the efficiency of vehicle and fuel technologies. The report notes that if fully implemented across the transportation sector, this “avoid, shift and improve” approach could deliver the up to US$70 trillion in savings.

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UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas

July 12, 2013

The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.

The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

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European Commission launches new $1.8-billion fuel cell and hydrogen research initiative

July 10, 2013

The European Commission is launching a second phase of the first Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) set up in 2008. The new Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 Initiative—with a proposed combined 50:50 EU-industry budget of €1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion)—will continue to develop a portfolio of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies to the point of market introduction. The new FCH 2 JTI is expected to start in 2014 and will end in 2024.

The JTI is one of five announced as part of a new EU-industry investment of €22 billion (US$28 billion) in research and innovation. The other JTIs address innovative medicines; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics.

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ARB researchers evaluate in-use heavy-duty NOx aftertreatment systems, find elevated levels during certain lower-temperature operations

July 09, 2013

A team from the California Air Resources Board (ARB) reports on their evaluation of the in-use emissions performance of four different heavy-duty diesel engines certified to the MY 2010 or interim MY 2010 NOx standards over a wide range of driving conditions in California in a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

One of the trucks was equipped with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR); three were equipped with EGR and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) device. The results indicated that brake-specific NOx emissions for the truck equipped only with an EGR were independent of the driving conditions—and exceeded the certification value over each segment of the entire test route. Results also showed that for typical highway driving conditions, the SCR technology is proving to be effective in controlling NOx emissions. However, they also found that under operations where the SCR systems do not reach minimum operating temperature—e.g., cold starts and some low-load/slow-speed driving conditions—NOx emissions are still elevated.

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Navigant forecasts US military spending on non-tactical alt drive vehicles to more than double to $926M by 2020 from 2013; 11.4% CAGR

July 05, 2013

Non-tactical vehicle spending by alternative drive type, US Department of Defense: 2013-2020. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that US military spending on alternative drive vehicles (ADVs—including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), and ethanol-powered vehicles—for the non-tactical fleet will increase from more than $435 million in 2013 to $926 million by 2020, a CAGR of 11.4%. A majority of the growth will be made through spending on HEVs and PEVs, Navigant projects.

Navigant forecasts that annual fuel consumption in the non-tactical fleet will decrease by a 2.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) almost from more than 81 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) in 2013 to just fewer than 70 million GGEs in 2020 due in part to increased use of alternative fuel vehicles.

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DOE releases draft of $8B loan guarantee solicitation for advanced fossil energy projects

July 03, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a draft for comment of an $8-billion loan guarantee solicitation for innovative and advanced fossil energy projects and facilities that substantially reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. The program is part of President Obama’s climate action plan. (Earlier post.)

The Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation, authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program, will be open for comments from industry, stakeholders, and the public until early September.

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Advanced Biofuels USA introduces “E30 Capable” high-octane fuels concept in EPA Tier 3 comments

July 02, 2013

Biofuel advocacy group Advanced Biofuels introduced the concept of “E30 Capable” vehicles as part of its comments to the the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recently proposed Tier 3 motor vehicle fuel and emission rulemaking. (Earlier post.)

As part of the Tier 3 requirements, EPA proposes allowing vehicle manufacturers to request approval for an alternative certification fuel—such as a high-octane 30% ethanol by volume (E30) blend—for vehicles they might design or optimize for use on such a fuel. (Earlier post.) Advanced Biofuels suggests that “E30 Capable” vehicles can serve a practical key to transitioning to higher percentage blends of affordable renewable transportation fuels. Elements of the proposal include:

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CEPS task force report identifies tightening emissions standards as key policy to hit EU 60% reduction in transport GHG; full life-cycle emissions optimal metric

July 01, 2013

The report from a task force assembled by the CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), a Brussels-based think tank, on European transport policy has concluded that the EU’s goal of a 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2050 compared to 1990 levels is possible, but at a cost.

Achieving the goal will require a comprehensive policy strategy that needs to be both “credible and adequate”, the report found. Credibility requires beginning to implement policies now—i.e. measures such as standards, taxation or infrastructure development—consistent with the long-term objective. Adequacy requires the measures, in their entirety, to have the potential to meet the target while neither undermining the internal market for transport nor its affordability.

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Obama climate plan calls for new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018; cleaner fuels and investment in advanced fossil energy

June 25, 2013

Among the transportation-related elements of US President Barack Obama’s new climate action plan, which he is outlining today in a speech at Georgetown University, is the development of new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018. In 2011, the Obama Administration finalized the first fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. (Earlier post.)

The plan as outlined also calls for further work on advanced biofuels, advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies in every transportation mode. In coming months, the plan notes, the Department of Transportation will work with other agencies to further explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the US flag fleet.

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White House announces new commitments in support of Materials Genome Initiative

June 24, 2013

The Obama Administration and academic and industry partners announced a series of commitments in support of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI, earlier post), a public-private endeavor that aims to cut in half the time it takes to develop novel materials that can fuel advanced manufacturing.

The MGI, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, helps to coordinate Federal materials science research across multiple agencies and encourages private-sector and academic researchers to develop and share basic materials science discovery data to speed innovation—much as geneticists accelerated the Human Genome Project by openly sharing basic DNA sequence data. Newly announced commitments are:

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SAE CRP1234-4 finds refrigerant R-1234yf low risk in automotive applications

SAE’s Cooperative Research Project (CRP) team has wrapped up its latest study of the low global warming potential refrigerant R-1234yf and concluded again that risks of fire resulting from its use are still very small compared to the risks of a vehicle fire from all causes and well below risks that are commonly viewed as acceptable by the general public. (Earlier post.)

Based on the updated analysis, the estimated overall risk of vehicle fire exposure attributed to use of R-1234yf is conservatively estimated at 3 x 10-12 events per vehicle operating hour. This is nearly six orders of magnitude less than the current risk of vehicle fires due to all causes (approximately 1 x 10-6 per vehicle operating hour) and also well below other risks accepted by the general public.

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Siemens presents three-point plan for implementing cost-efficient energy transition in Germany

June 15, 2013

Siemens suggests abandoning a fixed target for renewable energies and concentrating on the CO2 reduction goal. Relying on a higher share of efficient, low-emission combined cycle power plants and wind energy could save €150 billion (US$200 billion) by 2030 while attaining the same CO2 targets, Siemens says. Source: Siemens. Click to enlarge.

Germany has embarked on a large-scale Energiewende (energy transition)—a policy-driven shift away from nuclear and fossil energy to a renewable energy economy. Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the Federal government oversaw the immediate closure of eight nuclear plants, with the rest of the stations to be shut down by 2022. The government also is maintaining its target of cutting GHG emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared with 1990 levels) and by 80% by 2050.

However, the financial cost of the shift is causing concern. In May, the International Energy Agency released a review of German energy policies that commended the country for its commitment to developing a low-carbon energy system over the long term, but emphasized that further policy measures are necessary if the Energiewende is to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness. “The fact that German electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, despite relatively low wholesale prices, must serve as a warning signal,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Germany 2013 Review.

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Study finds that California clean diesel programs have slashed black carbon, a powerful short-term contributor to global warming

June 14, 2013

California’s air quality programs have forced a reduction in black carbon despite a significant increase in diesel fuel consumption. Click to enlarge.

In California, reductions in emissions of black carbon since the late 1980s—mostly from diesel engines as a result of air quality programs—have resulted in a measurable reduction of concentrations of global warming pollutants in the atmosphere, according to a study examining the impact of black carbon on California’s climate.

The study’s results support a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests it is possible relatively quickly to slow the pace of climate change regionally by reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon.

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Calif. Energy Commission to award more than $44M for hydrogen refueling and alternative fuel vehicle projects

June 13, 2013

In two packages of awards, the California Energy Commission approved more than $44 million to expand the hydrogen fueling infrastructure and increase the number of alter alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the state.

These awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. For the current fiscal year, the program is slated to invest approximately $90 million to encourage the development and use of new technologies, and alternative and renewable fuels, to help the state meet its climate-change goals. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boat registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.

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USDA announces up to $98.6M to support production of advanced biofuels

June 12, 2013

The US Department of Agriculture USDA announced the availability of up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels, and an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications. Of the $98.6 million, $68.6 million will be available for Fiscal Year 2013 production and the remainder of approximately $30 million is for payments for production in prior fiscal years.

The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.

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