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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.]

EPA nudges up volume of renewable fuel in final requirements for 2014-2016 under RFS

November 30, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017.

This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June (earlier post), but still represents a reduction compared to the original statutory requirements.

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Study finds EV deployment in China to increase Environmental Justice challenge there

November 16, 2015

A new study by a team from the University of Tennessee, Tsinghua University and the University of Minnesota has found that the wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles in China can increase the Environmental Justice (EJ) challenge in that country.

According to their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journalEnvironmental Science & Technology, most (∼77%, range: 41–96%) emission inhalation attributable to urban EVs use—i.e., from the shifting of transportation’s air pollution from urban tailpipes to rural power plants—is distributed to predominately rural communities the incomes of which are on average lower than the cities in which the EVs are used.

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Report finds road transportation sector in Canada likely to fall far short of 2050 GHG emissions reduction target

November 12, 2015

A new Conference Board of Canada report finds that Canada is unlikely to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Even when taking into account reduced distances traveled per vehicle, improvements in fuel efficiency, and greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, Canada falls short of the 80-by-50 target.

Despite voluntary and regulatory initiatives that have improved the emissions efficiency of passenger and freight transportation, emissions from road transportation are increasing due to growing number of cars on the road and Canadians’ changing preference for light trucks. Canada’s road transport emissions were 40% higher in 2013 than in 1990. Between 1990 and 2013, transportation emissions accounted for nearly half of the growth of Canada’s total emissions levels, with road transport accounting for the largest share of transportation emissions.

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Obama Administration announces actions to sustain and advance nuclear energy in US

November 07, 2015

Although overshadowed by the announcement on denial of a Presidential Permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline (earlier post), on Friday, the Obama administration also on Friday announced and highlighted a number of actions to sustain and advance nuclear energy in the US.

In 2014, nuclear power generated about 60% of carbon-free electricity in the United States, and continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector. According to the Administration, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of the country’s clean energy strategy.

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MIT study finds carbon prices more cost-effective than fuel economy regs at reducing CO2 emissions; fuel economy regs more efficient at reducing fuel use

October 12, 2015

Researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change have compared the worldwide economic, environmental, and energy impacts of currently planned fuel economy standards (extended to the year 2050) with those of region-specific carbon prices designed to yield identical CO2 emissions reductions.

Their study, which appears in the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, finds that such stringent fuel economy standards would cost the economy 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050, compared with a 6% cost under carbon pricing. This finding reinforces economists’ contention that improving the efficiency of motor vehicles through fuel economy standards will yield significantly less CO2 emissions reduction per dollar than an economy-wide instrument that encourages such cutbacks where they are cheapest—principally in the electric power and industrial sectors.

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ICCT update finds real-world vehicle fuel economy gap continues to widen in Europe to 40%

September 25, 2015

The gap between official fuel-economy figures and the real world for new cars in the EU has reached 40 per cent, according to the latest update by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) to its on-going research into in-use vehicle fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. (Earlier post.)

Since 2001, the discrepancy between official measurements of vehicle efficiency and actual performance of new cars in everyday driving has more than quadrupled—a discrepancy that now translates into €450 (US$500) per year in extra fuel costs for the average vehicle. The updated study closely follows on revelations that a similar gap in NOx emissions from diesel passenger vehicles was, at least in the case of Volkswagen, deliberately engineered, and as the European Commission prepares to adopt an improved test procedure that would produce more realistic vehicle test results.

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BMW: “We don’t cheat”; diesel is needed to hit CO2 targets; call for WLTP and RDE

As the Volkswagen emission testing scandal threatens to spill over onto other automakers, BMW yesterday issued a sharp statement in response to a report in Auto Bild suggesting emissions from an X3 test were out of the norm.

The BMW Group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests. We observe the legal requirements in each country and fulfill all local testing requirements. In other words, our exhaust treatment systems are active whether rolling on the test bench or driving on the road. Clear, binding specifications and processes are in place through all phases of development at the BMW Group in order to avoid wrongdoing.”

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Los Angeles to lease 160 BEVs, 128 PHEVs as part of commitment to 50% EV purchases by 2017

September 14, 2015

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday announced a commitment to lease 160 pure battery EV vehicles, a move that will give Los Angeles the largest city-owned pure EV fleet in the US. The program commits city departments to the leasing of pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to replace aging city vehicles, including those with conventional internal combustion engines. The announcement came on the eve of the US-China Climate Leaders Summit to be hosted in L.A. this week.

The Los Angeles Police, Fire, General Services, and Water and Power departments will together lease the 160 BEVS. In addition, LADWP and the General Services Department will lease an additional 128 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

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60% of $18B in US clean energy tax credits 2006-2012 went to top 20% by income; 90% in the plug-in program

August 30, 2015

A working paper by a team at the Energy Institute at Haas, University of California, Berkeley, has found that 60% of the $18 billion in US federal income clean energy tax credits issued between 2006 and 2012—e.g., for weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and buying hybrid and electric vehicles—went to the top income quintile in the US (above $200,000 per year). The bottom three quintiles (up to $75,000 per year) received about 10%.

The most extreme case, Severin Borenstein and Lucas Davis found through their examination of tax return data from the IRS, is the program aimed at electric vehicles—the top income quintile received about 90% of all these credits. As a result of the work, Borenstein and Davis conclude that tax credits are likely to be much less attractive on distributional grounds than market mechanisms to reduce GHGs.

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BIO: RFS’ biofuel requirements saved 589.3M tons of carbon emissions over past decade

August 24, 2015

Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To develop its estimates, BIO utilized the GREET1.2013 model to compare carbon emissions from the mixture of US transportation fuels (both petroleum and biofuel) under two scenarios. The first scenario applied the annual required RFS Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) percentages, as established by EPA rulemakings, to the volumes of fossil-based, non-renewable gasoline and diesel used in the United States. To establish a second scenario, BIO assumed that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel would have continued to meet just over 3% of the total reported transportation fuel use over the decade and that petroleum gasoline and diesel would have been used instead.

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Opinion: Alternatives to the RFS

by Doug Williams

Recently, the Energy Resources Center made headlines by saying the EPA’s shift on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would equal adding 1 million more passenger vehicles on the road. (Earlier post.) The RFS has been controversial from its beginnings in the early 2000’s. It’s also a political lightning rod given the stagnation of fuel consumption matched with accelerating ethanol blending.

The oil industry would seem to be understandably upset about it. The expansion of the RFS in 2007 goes far beyond just replacing MTBE with ethanol as the required fuel oxygenate (and avoiding lawsuits). Given the stagnant US fuel market, every gallon of biofuel blended into the mix cannibalizes fossil fuel demand. It seems as though when the RFS was conceived, no one could have thought that fuel consumption would have flat-lined. But is there a better way? There are options for continuing our commitment towards renewable fuels to secure US energy requirements. Let’s look a few here.

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JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%

August 07, 2015

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.

The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).

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Obama orders creation of National Strategic Computing Initiative; delivering exascale computing

July 31, 2015

President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). The NSCI is a whole-of-government effort designed to create a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and Federal investment strategy, executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) for the United States. One of the specific objectives is accelerating the delivery of exascale computing. (Earlier post.)

The coordinated Federal strategy is to be guided by four principles: deploying and applying new HPC technologies broadly for economic competitiveness and scientific discovery; fostering public-private collaboration; cooperaation among all executive departments and agencies with significant expertise or equities in HPC while also collaborating with industry and academia; and developing a comprehensive technical and scientific approach to transition HPC research on hardware, system software, development tools, and applications efficiently into development and, ultimately, operations.

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ICCT study assesses EV promotion and uptake in top 25 metropolitan areas in US

July 30, 2015

A new study by a team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has found that the top metropolitan markets in the US for electric vehicles tend to be characterized by a combination of relatively progressive promotional activities; more extensive charging infrastructure per capita; greater consumer incentives; and a broader range of available models.

The newly published white paper—Assessment of Leading Electric Vehicle Promotion Activities in United States Cities, surveys actions being taken by state and local governments and public utilities to facilitate electric vehicle deployment in the 25 most populous US metropolitan areas, which together represent more than 42% of the population; 46% of auto sales; 67% of new electric vehicle registrations; and 53% of the public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the US as of 2014.

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DLR and Wuppertal publish comprehensive global analysis of e-mobility technologies, outlook and lifecycle assessments

July 23, 2015

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie GmbH; WI) have published results of their STROMbegleitung (electricity evaluation) comprehensive study to analyze technologies; market outlook; policy support; infrastructure; and life-cycle assessments for electrically-powered transport.

The study, which ran from October 2011 – September 2014, comprehensively charts current progress in technology; identifies trends; analyzes lifecycle assessments for a variety of vehicle concepts; and assess material intensities. At the same time, it places German activities in the field of electromobility within an international context. The research program received a €1.7 million euro grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF) as part of the STROM support program (key technologies for electromobility).

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SFU researchers find promise for plug-in vehicles in Canada, but need for increased supply and policy support

July 16, 2015

New work by a team at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada has found that more than one-third of Canadian buyers want a plug-in vehicle (PEV), with the majority of those (89—93%) wanting a plug-in hybrid rather than a pure electric vehicle. However, less than 1% of vehicle sales in Canada are electric because of low consumer awareness and limited vehicle choice.

With the current supply of PEVs in Canada (7 models), the future PEV new market share is not likely to exceed 4—5% by 2030, according to the report; increasing supply (to 56 models) could increase market share to over 20% by 2030.

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Study finds single exposure to roadway PM induces transient pulmonary stress; possible need to regulate non-tailpipe-related pollution

July 13, 2015

A study by researchers in Israel and the US has found that single (“sub-clinical”) exposure to extracts from particulate material (PM) collected in a near roadway environment can induce a transient oxidative stress and inflammation in mice’ lungs. The researchers attributed this largely to the dissolved metals (such as Cu, Fe, Mn, V, Ni, and Cr) that are part of roadway emissions.

The local response was largely self-resolved by 48 h, suggesting that it could represent a subclinical response to everyday-level exposure. Removal of soluble metals by chelation markedly diminished the pulmonary response. The paper appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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European automakers and fuel suppliers argue for diesel as they call on policy makers to accelerate fleet renewal

July 08, 2015

In an open letter to EU policy makers, leading representatives of the automotive and petroleum refining industry in Europe called on policy makers to help accelerate fleet renewal and the introduction of the cleanest vehicles and committed to keep pushing the technical boundaries in order to find ever better ways of combining the customer benefits of diesel—fuel economy and low CO2—with continuously reduced emissions.

The associations pointed out that political measures restricting the rollout of the new generation of diesel technology would undermine existing efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

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Study: even with high LDV electrification, low-carbon biofuels will be necessary to meet 80% GHG reduction target; “daunting” policy implications

July 03, 2015

A study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Michigan State University colleague has concluded that even with a relatively high rate of electrification of the US light-duty fleet (40% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% by fuel), an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 relative to 1990 can only be achieved with significant quantities of low-carbon liquid fuel. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

For the study, the researchers benchmarked 27 scenarios against a 50% petroleum-reduction target and an 80% GHG-reduction target. They found that with high rates of electrification (40% of miles traveled) the petroleum-reduction benchmark could be satisfied, even with high travel demand growth. The same highly electrified scenarios, however, could not satisfy 80% GHG-reduction targets, even assuming 80% decarbonized electricity and no growth in travel demand.

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Researchers find Nissan LEAF creates less CO2 than Toyota Prius hybrid in west US and Texas, but more in N. Midwest

July 01, 2015

Regionally specific lifecycle CO2 emissions per mile traveled for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the US can vary widely based on grid emission factors (i.e., the “carbon footprint” of electricity production and use), according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Under some conditions, the battery electric Nissan LEAF can produce higher emissions than a Toyota Prius hybrid. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The team characterized the vehicle emissions across the United States under alternative assumptions for regional electricity emission factors, regional boundaries, and charging schemes. Among the findings were that:

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CMU policy briefs outline benefits and potential for adoption of electrified vehicles in the US

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have published two new policy briefs, along with accompanying videos, about the benefits of electrified vehicles and the potential for their adoption in the US. The briefs condense the findings of a number of recent papers coming out of the CMU group led by Professor Jeremy Michalek.

The first—“Electric Vehicle Benefits and Costs in the United States”—shows that the benefits of vehicle electrification vary based on vehicle type; driving style; climate; how supplying electricity is generated; and time of charge. To achieve the best outcomes, the brief suggests, plug-in vehicle adoption should typically be focused on HEVs and PHEVs by city drivers in mild-climate regions with a clean electricity grid, such as San Francisco or Los Angeles. Further, drivers should not be encouraged to charge at night in coal-heavy regions.

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California ARB approves $373M funding plan for advanced vehicle technologies in FY2015-2016; up from $150M last year

June 26, 2015

The California Air Resources Board today approved a $373-million funding plan that covers all investments in advanced technologies for fiscal year 2015-16, from zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and buses to rebates for low- and zero-emission passenger vehicles.

The budget for the annual Funding Plan for Low Carbon Transportation Investments and the Air Quality Improvement Program is up by $150 million over last year’s budget, and is subject to approval by the Legislature when it considers the proposed expenditure of Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds as part of the State Budget.

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LowCVP: 5 Ps for influencing uptake of low emission vehicles at local level

The UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has launched a Good Practice Guide for Local Measures to Encourage the Uptake of Low Emission Vehicles. A key recommendation is that policy measures implemented at the local level should be consistent with each other, that common definitions and vocabulary for low emission vehicles should be established. The Good Practice Guide for Local Measures to Encourage the Uptake of Low Emission Vehicles was prepared for the LowCVP by Urban Foresight.

Released to coincide with the LowCVP’s 2015 Annual Conference which features a discussion on mobility in future cities, the LowCVP has identified five ‘P’s from the Guide—levers that local authorities can most effectively use to influence low emission vehicle uptake at the local level:

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EPA takes first steps toward regulating commercial aviation GHGs with endangerment finding under CAA

June 11, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to find under section 231(a) of the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft engines endanger the health and welfare of Americans by contributing to climate change. At the same time, the agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that provides information on the process for setting international CO2 emissions standards for aircraft at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and describes and seeks input on the potential use of section 231 of the Clean Air Act to adopt a corresponding standard domestically.

The finding applies to GHG emissions from engines used in US subsonic jet aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) greater than 5,700 kilograms and in subsonic propeller driven (e.g., turboprop) aircraft with a MTOM greater than 8,618 kilograms. Examples of covered aircraft would include smaller jet aircraft such as the Cessna Citation CJ2+ and the Embraer E170, up to and including the largest jet aircraft: the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. Other examples of covered aircraft would include larger turboprop aircraft, such as the ATR 72 and the Bombardier Q400. The actions do not apply to small piston-engine planes or to military aircraft.

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1st major utility proposal for EV charging infrastructure presented to CPUC

June 05, 2015

A diverse set of public interest groups, automakers, labor unions, and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) submitted a proposed settlement to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to accelerate the deployment of smart electric vehicle (EV) charging stations that would support the utility grid in San Diego.

The application is California’s first utility pilot proposal to help develop charging infrastructure, and, through pricing that allows for customer-managed charging, to manage transportation electrification load to support the evolving needs of an electrical grid increasingly dominated by variable renewable energy.

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EPA proposes volume requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014-2016

May 29, 2015

Adhering to a schedule in a proposed consent decree (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed volume requirements (renewable volume obligations, RVO) (earlier post) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also proposed volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2017. The period for public input and comment on the proposal will be open until 27 July. EPA says it will finalize the volume standards in this rule by 30 November.

EPA is proposing to establish the 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in that year; the standards for 2015 and 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) increase steadily over time, with the most aggressive growth projected for the problematic area of cellulosic biofuels: from 33 million gallons in 2014 to 206 million gallons in 2016.

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California providing incentives up to $12K to help low-income families afford the cleanest cars

May 28, 2015

In coordination with local air officials, the California Air Resources Board is initiating a retire-and-replace pilot program in the Greater Los Angeles area and San Joaquin Valley to help people of low income replace old, polluting cars with cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles that also cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The air district-administered program provides incentives on a sliding scale, with larger cash payments for the lowest-income families moving up to the cleanest cars. The lowest-income recipient purchasing the very cleanest car receives the highest incentive amounts. Under the program, it is possible for a family that meets income guidelines to receive as much as $12,000 toward the purchase of an electric car.

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Canada targets cutting GHGs 30% below 2005 levels by 2030; new regulations for oil and gas, power, petrochemicals

May 15, 2015

Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that Canada plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada formally submitted its target, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada will continue to take cooperative action with its continental trading partners, particularly the United States, in integrated sectors of the economy, including energy and transportation.

Minister Aglukkaq also announced the Government’s intention to develop new regulatory measures under its sector-by-sector approach that would build on actions already taken on two of Canada’s largest sector sources of GHG emissions: transportation and electricity. The new regulations include:

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California ARB posts discussion document for developing Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation

May 09, 2015

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted a discussion document for upcoming workshops on the development of the Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation.

The proposed Advanced Clean Transit regulation will consider strategies to achieve additional criteria pollutant emissions reductions from transit fleets and to accelerate purchases of zero emission buses as part of an overall strategy to transform all heavy duty vehicles to zero emission or near zero emission vehicles to meet air quality and efficiency improvement goals. ARB staff Staff is evaluating four potential broad elements to the Advanced Clean Transit regulation:

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Report for the EC evaluates prospects for sugar-based platforms for biofuels and biochemicals

May 08, 2015

A comprehensive review of 94 potential pathways to biofuels and biochemicals via the sugar platform, prepared for the European Commission (DG ENER) by a team from E4tech, RE-CORD and Wageningen UR, finds that the global market value of the sugar platform is today of the order of $65 billion, with bioethanol (from sugar and starch crops) by far the dominant product in the market.

While several newer biofuel and biochemical routes show significant growth potential, only a few are currently crossing the valley of death between research and commercialization. Of ten case studies (the technologies being at least at TRL5) considered in detail, most can deliver significant greenhouse gas (GHG) savings and identical (or improved) physical properties, but at an added cost to fossil alternatives.

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BIO: RFS policy instability has chilled advanced and cellulosic biofuel investments; $13.7B shortfall

May 04, 2015

EPA’s delays in rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the past two years have chilled necessary investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels just as they reached commercial deployment. The industry has experienced an estimated $13.7-billion shortfall in investment as a result, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To reach the 2015 RFS goal of producing 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels (including 3 billion gallons of cellulosic and 2.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuel or biodiesel), Bio Economic Research Associates (bio-era) estimated the need for 110 operating plants requiring $20.34 billion dollars in cumulative investment. The research and advisory firm also estimated that more than $95 billion in cumulative capital investments would be needed by 2022 for construction of nearly 400 advanced biofuel biorefineries with the capacity to produce 23 billion gallons of advanced biofuel.

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European Parliament votes to cap crop-derived biofuels at 7% of transport energy consumption by 2020

May 01, 2015

The European Parliament approved a draft law to to cap crop-derived biofuel consumption and accelerate the shift to alternative sources. Member states must enact the legislation by 2017.

Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The new law says that first-generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than 7% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The intent of the new law is to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops.

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ITF report finds self-driving shared vehicles could take up to 90% of cars off city streets; total kilometers travelled increases

April 30, 2015

A fleet of self-driving shared cars combined with high-capacity public transport could make 90% of conventional cars in mid-sized cities superfluous under certain circumstances, according to a study published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the OECD. Even during peak hours, only about one-third (35%) of the current number of cars would be needed to provide the same number of trips as today.

However, while the number of cars is drastically lower, total vehicle kilometers travelled (VKT) increase—more than doubling in one scenario at peak periods due to detours for pick-ups/drop-offs, repositioning and a shift from bus trips to shared cars. The additional travel could increase environmental impacts, if the fleets used conventional engines. If a fleet of electric vehicles were used instead, a fleet of shared self-driving vehicles would need only 2% more vehicles, however, to accommodate battery re-charging times and reduced travel range.

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California Governor orders more stringent GHG reduction target for the state: 40% below 1990 levels by 2030

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order (B-30-15) to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—the most aggressive GHG reduction target enacted by any government in North America to reduce GHG emissions over the next decade and a half.

Under the order, all state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions will need to implement measures, pursuant to statutory authority, to achieve reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will also update the Climate Change Scoping Plan to express the 2030 target in terms of million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

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DOE to re-fund Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis with $75M for solar fuels R&D

April 29, 2015

The US Department of Energy announced $75 million in funding to renew the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub originally established in 2010 with the goal of harnessing solar energy for the production of fuel. (Earlier post.)

Under the renewal plan, the five-year-old center would receive funding for an additional five years of research, subject to Congressional appropriations. JCAP researchers are focused on achieving the major scientific breakthroughs needed to produce liquid transportation fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, using artificial photosynthesis.

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Japan Ministries propose light commercial vehicle fuel economy standards for 2022

April 28, 2015

In a policy update, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) reports that Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) have finalized new proposed fuel economy standards for light- and medium-duty commercial vehicles with gross vehicle weights less than 3.5 tonnes. MLIT and METI will use the proposal as a basis for revisions to relevant laws and regulations, with a target for completion in spring of 2015.

The new standards will require that the fuel economy of model year 2022 light and medium commercial vehicles sold in Japan average 17.9 km/L (42 mpg US, 5.6 l/100 km) in 2022, compared to 14.2 km/L (33.4 mpg US, 7.0 l/100 km) in 2012. This represents a 26% increase in fuel economy from 2012 values, and a 23% increase from the 2015 standard of 14.5 km/L (34.1 mpg US, 6.9 l/100 km).

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NRC report recommends ways to overcome barriers hindering purchases of PEVs; vehicle cost, battery tech and consumer knowledge among others

April 22, 2015

Vehicle cost, current battery technology, and inadequate consumer knowledge are some of the barriers preventing widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles, according to a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. Developing less expensive, better performing batteries is essential to reducing overall vehicle cost, and a market strategy is needed to create awareness and overcome customer uncertainty, the report finds. The report recommends a range of incentives that the federal government can offer to address these and other barriers.

The premise of the report—“Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles”—is that there is a benefit to the United States if a higher fraction of vehicle miles traveled is fueled by electricity rather than by petroleum due to the resulting reduction in dependence on petroleum and reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants. The task of the committee of experts and stakeholders writing the report was (1) to identify market barriers slowing the purchase of PEVs and hindering the deployment of supporting infrastructure in the United States and (2) to recommend ways to mitigate those barriers.

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California Energy Commission awards nearly $9M to 3 projects to support local manufacturing of heavy-duty electric vehicles, PHEVs

April 09, 2015

As part of its approval of more than $83.7 million in grants and loans for 46 projects covering transportation, energy storage, biogas and efficiency programs, the California Energy Commission awarded nearly $9 million to three companies to encourage the manufacturing of heavy-duty electric vehicles and components in California.

The Energy Commission also approved the 2015-2016 Investment Plan Update for its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP). The program develops and deploys innovative technologies that transform California’s fuel and vehicle types to help attain the state’s climate change goals. The annual Investment Plan Update determines priorities and opportunities for the program, describes how funding will complement existing public and private efforts, and guides funding decisions. Recent legislation extended the ARFVTP until 1 January 2024.

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Georgia Tech study projects potential mixed impacts of climate change policies on air quality

April 08, 2015

Results of a study by a team from Georgia Tech and their colleagues at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management show that national CO2emissions reductions strategies will play an important role in impacting air quality over the US. The results also show that CO2 emission reduction policies can have mixed positive and negative impacts on air quality. A paper on the study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In the study, the researchers assessed the impact of four potential climate mitigation policies—two climate tax scenarios (CT1 and CT2); a combined transportation and energy scenario (TE); a biomass energy (BE) scenario; plus a reference case—on air quality in the US in 2050 using a chemical transport model (CTM) to simulate air pollutant concentrations and applying recent climate downscaling and emissions modeling advancements.

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Roland Berger: China is the frontrunner in e-mobility subsidies; sales of xEVs double in Q1

April 03, 2015

China is currently subsidizing the development of e-mobility, making just under €7.7 billion (US$8.4 billion) available in the period to 2016, and is the global frontrunner in e-mobility subsidies by far, according to the Q1 2015 E-Mobility Index published by consultancy Roland Berger. The report also found that while Japan increased its subsidies slightly to €171 million (US$187 million) through 2016, most of the major automotive nations have seen the public subsidization of e-mobility decline dramatically. The US and Italy offer the least subsidization.

The index, prepared by Roland Berger and fka experts, compares the relative competitive standings of the top seven automotive nations (Germany, France, Italy, the USA, Japan, China and South Korea) in the electromobility segment. The outcome is based on analysis of three indicators: technology, industry and market.

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DOE announces conditional commitment for $259M loan to Alcoa for automotive aluminum production

March 26, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a conditional commitment for a $259-million loan to Alcoa Inc. If finalized, the loan would support the company’s Alcoa, Tennessee, manufacturing facility (Tennessee Operations), where the company will produce high-strength aluminum for North American automakers looking to lightweight their vehicles. (Earlier post.)

This conditional commitment is the first issued by the Department under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program since Secretary Moniz announced a number of improvements to the program last year, and is the first step toward issuing a final loan to Alcoa.

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EPA awards $8M in FY2014 clean diesel grants in 21 states, Puerto Rico

March 20, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $8 million to communities in 21 states and Puerto Rico to reduce emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of diesel engines through the agency’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program. The grants will fund projects such as retrofitting older school buses to improve air quality for children riding to school, upgrading marine propulsion and agriculture engines, and replacing long haul truck engines.

The twenty-one projects will receive funding through the EPA’s DERA Fiscal Year 2014 allocation. The selected projects are cost-effective and will impact fleets operating in areas that will benefit from additional steps to protect air quality and public health.

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Obama orders GHG cuts for Federal Agencies; 50% of all new agency vehicles to be ZEV or PHEV by 2025

March 19, 2015

President Obama today signed a wide-ranging executive order mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for Federal agencies. Through more efficient Federal operations, agency direct greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by at least 40% over the next decade, the order suggests. The order has operational directives for building and fleet management, electricity generation, water use, waste management and purchasing.

As an initial outcome, within 90 days the head of each agency sis to propose to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) percentage reduction targets for agency-wide reductions of scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by the end of fiscal year 2025 relative to a fiscal year 2008 baseline.

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Simon Fraser study finds PEV success not tied to awareness of public chargers; implications for policy makers

March 17, 2015

A new Canada-wide study conducted by Simon Fraser University researchers found that awareness of public chargers is not a strong predictor of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) interest; other variables are more important, such as the availability of level 1 (110/120-volt) charging at home. The results have important implications for governments with limited budgets to support the EV market, suggests Jonn Axsen, Assistant Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management.

The study, conducted by Axsen and two of his graduate students, is published in the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. The researchers also recently presented their study to the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC.

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Global NCAP calls for universal application of minimum vehicle safety standards in all world markets by 2020

March 11, 2015

Millions of new cars sold in middle and low income countries fail to meet the UN’s basic safety standards for front and side impacts, according to international automotive safety watchdog Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Program). Global NCAP has released a new policy report, “Democratising Car Safety: Road Map for Safer Cars 2020”, calling for minimum vehicle safety standards to be applied universally in all world markets.

World Health Organization (WHO) figures put the annual death toll from road crashes worldwide at 1.3 million people, while up to 50 million are injured in those crashes. The global vehicle fleet reached 1 billion units in 2010 and is forecast to double in the next ten to fifteen years, with much of this increase occurring in low and middle income countries which account for 90% of total road deaths.

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Evidence from glacier ice: Until it was banned, leaded gasoline dominated the anthropogenic lead emissions in South America

March 08, 2015

Leaded gasoline was a larger emission source of the toxic heavy metal lead than mining in South America, even though the extraction of metals from the region’s mines historically released huge quantities of lead into the environment, according to a study by researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the University of Bern.

The team discovered evidence of the dominance of leaded gasoline based on measurements in an ice core from Illimani glacier in Bolivia; Illimani is the highest mountain of the eastern Bolivian Andes and is located at the northeastern margin of the Andean Altiplano. The scientists found that lead from road traffic in the neighboring countries polluted the air twice as heavily as regional mining from the 1960s onwards. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal Science Advances.

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Cal Energy Commission adopts report outlining how state transforming transportation system to meet climate goals

February 26, 2015

The California Energy Commission adopted its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update, which outlines, among many things, how the state is working to transform the transportation system to zero- and near-zero technologies and fuels to meet its climate and clean air goals. This report highlights the importance of incentives in helping speed this transition and specifically explores the role Assembly Bill 8, which makes more than $2 billion available for public investment, can play in helping to achieve this progress.

The Energy Commission also approved almost $16 million in research grants to help develop the next generation of energy efficient technologies for commercial and residential buildings; $11 million for projects to convert feedstock and waste into biofuels; and about $900,000 for natural gas innovations.

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Europe moves forward on the Energy Union; transport key element

The European Commission has adopted the European Energy Union package—a framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy. As a next step, the Commission will present it to the EU institutions. The European Council will discuss the Energy Union at its meeting in March 2015.

According to the EC, the European Energy Union is intended to bring about a fundamental transition in Europe’s energy system towards an economy that is no longer driven by fossil fuels and where energy security is based on solidarity and trust; where energy flows freely, without any barriers, in a truly integrated EU-wide energy system; where strong, competitive companies develop innovative products and technologies with the help of European research and innovation, and where citizens play a stronger role in the energy system, using technology to reduce their bills, and vulnerable consumers are not left behind.

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Volkswagen of America to invest $10M in EV charging infrastructure by 2016; calls for more legislative support to spur EV adoption

February 10, 2015

Volkswagen of America will invest $10 million by 2016 to support the build-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the US, said Jörg Sommer, vice president, product marketing and strategy. At the same time, Sommer said in his presentation at the 2015 Electric Drive Congress in Washington DC, continued legislative support is needed to reach the next level of electric vehicle adoption.

In January, Volkswagen of America and BMW of North America, together with ChargePoint, announced an initiative to create more express charging corridors along heavily-traveled routes on the East and West Coasts; specifically to install nearly 100 DC Fast Chargers across both coasts aiming to have charging sites no more than 50 miles apart. (Earlier post.) This program is one component of the $10-million commitment Volkswagen is making to support the build-out of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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NHTSA releases two new studies on impaired driving on US roads; drunk driving down, drug use up

February 07, 2015

The nation’s decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make roads safer, but use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the highways, creating new safety questions, according to a pair of new studies released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One study, the latest version of NHTSA’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since the first Roadside Survey in 1973. But that same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

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ICCT finds growth in shipping in Arctic could increase pollutant emissions 150-600% by 2025 with current fuels

February 05, 2015

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)
Comparison of the potential reduction in emissions with the application of lower sulfur 0.5% and 0.1% fuel for Arctic vessels assuming a low-growth scenario. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

At the current allowable levels of sulfur in marine bunker fuels, pollutant emissions (particulates, black carbon, NOx, SOx, and CO2) from projected increased ship traffic transiting the US High Arctic could increase from 150% to 600% (depending upon the pollutant) above 2011 levels by 2025, according to a new working paper just published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The new study is based on a study—“10-Year Projection of Maritime Activity in the US Arctic Region”—completed last month by the ICCT for the US Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) and submitted to the White House as part of the deliverables for the 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic Region and its 2014 Implementation plan. That study provided estimates of vessel traffic (numbers of vessels and transits) based on modeling of current vessel activity patterns, growth potential, and vessel projection scenarios, including diversion from other routes, and oil and gas development. The study found the potential for 1,500–2,000 Bering Strait transits in 2025, a three- to four-fold increase from 440 transits in 2013 (based on the medium-growth scenario).

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President’s 2016 Budget requests $29.9B for DOE; 9% boost over FY 2015 enacted; $793M (2.7%) for sustainable transportation

February 03, 2015

President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget requests $29.9 billion for the US Department of Energy (DOE). The FY 2016 DOE Budget Request represents a 9% increase ($2.5 billion) above the FY 2015 enacted level.

42% of the DOE Budget Request ($12.6 billion) is for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an increase of $1.2 billion over the FY 2015 Enacted level, to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing and manage the research, development, and production activities and associated infrastructure maintenance and modernization needed to meet national nuclear security requirements.

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Obama Administration recommends designating most of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness

January 26, 2015

On Sunday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its revised proposed comprehensive conservation plan and final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 19.64-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The FWS’ preferred alternative recommends an additional 12.28 million acres—including the Coastal Plain—for designation as “Wilderness”. (“Wilderness” (with a capital “W”) refers to designated Wilderness areas, with accompanying restrictions.) The FWS also recommends four rivers—the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning—for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Currently, more than 7 million acres of the refuge are managed as Wilderness. However, more than 60% of the refuge—including the Coastal Plain—does not carry that designation. Implementation of the preferred alternative would change that.

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ICCT: available low-carbon fuels can reduce CI of on-road transportation fuels in Pacific Coast region by 14%–21% by 2030

January 23, 2015

Fuel carbon intensity reduction from 2015-2030 from fuel deployment scenarios for the Pacific Coast region. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

A new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and E4tech finds that the targets adopted or proposed by British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels can be met with a range of low-carbon fuel options. By 2030, the study concludes, low-carbon fuels could replace more than a quarter of the gasoline and diesel used by vehicles in the Pacific Coast region by 2030, with a reduction in the overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels of 14%–21%.

The conclusions are based on a detailed modeling study of low-carbon fuel technologies and production pathways, estimating the future availability of low carbon fuels given policy incentives to supply them in the Pacific Coast region. The study presents eight scenarios for low-carbon fuel supply, including varying amounts of electricity, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, next generation cellulosic biofuel, and natural gas. Potential carbon savings were estimated by comparing the expected carbon intensity of these alternative fuels to the carbon intensity of the fossil fuels they replace.

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California to award up to $4M for projects to advanced smart charging and V2G technologies

December 19, 2014

The California Energy Commission has issued a solicitation (PON-14-310, Driving the Integration of Electric Vehicles to Maximize Benefits to the Grid) to fund Applied Research and Development projects that will advance technologies and strategies for smart and efficient charging and vehicle-to-grid communication interfaces that will provide maximum benefits to both the electricity grid and the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market.

There is up to $4 million available for grants awarded under this solicitation. The minimum funding amount for each project is $500,000; maximum funding amount is $1.5 million. Match funding is not required for this solicitation; however, applications that include match funding will receive additional points during the scoring phase.

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European automotive and automotive battery industries call for extension of the exemption of lead-based batteries from the EU ELV Directive

December 18, 2014

The EU must continue to allow the use of lead-based batteries in vehicles as they are essential for the needs of future generations of European cars, according to the automotive and automotive battery industries in Europe. Lead battery and car manufacturers have requested that the current exemption for lead-based batteries within the ELV Directive’s wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles is maintained for at least another eight years.

The comments are part of the formal submission made by the industry group to EU regulators who concluded the public consultation phase of the review of the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive this week. Following the consultation the Commission is expected to release its opinion in the first half of 2015.

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Washington governor proposes slate of measures to curb GHG emissions & transition state to cleaner energy; cap-and-trade and EV incentives

December 17, 2014

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a set of proposals to transition Washington to cleaner sources of energy and to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limits adopted by the state Legislature in 2008. The proposals build on a comprehensive executive order issued by the governor in April.

Cap-and-trade. The proposed “Carbon Pollution Accountability Act” (CPAA) would create a new, market-based program that sets an annual limit CO2 emissions; major emitters will need to purchase “allowances” for their emissions. Each year, the number of available allowances will decline to ensure emissions are gradually reduced. The Governor’s office projects that the program will generate about $1 billion in the first year, and more thereafter, which will be used for transportation, education, tax relief for working families and other purposes.

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ABB-led consortium launches $10.5M project to install fast chargers along key European highways

December 16, 2014

A 5-partner consortium led by ABB has launched a €8.4-million (US$10.5-million) project, co-funded 50% by the European Union, to install a corridor of high-quality fast chargers along key European motorways until the end of 2015. In addition to ABB, the consortium includes the Dutch e-mobility operator and retailer Fastned B.V.; the Danish e-mobility operator CLEVER A/S; the Swedish public utility and e-mobility operator Öresundskraft AB; and the German Testing and Certification Institute VDE Prüf-und Zertifizierungsinstitut GmbH.

The aim of the ELECTRIC project is to create an open-access fast-charging corridor situated along major motorways connecting Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands via a total of 155 chargers, with up to 30 in the Netherlands, 23 in Denmark, 35 in Sweden and 67 in Germany.

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CCFA counters Paris mayor’s proposed total diesel ban with suggestion to focus on legacy fleet

The Comité des Constructeurs Français d’Automobiles (CCFA) (the French automobile manufacturers association) characterized the recent declaration by Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, that she wished to eliminate diesel vehicles in the city by 2020 as lacking realism, and suggested that the best solution to improve urban air quality requires taking action on the more heavily polluting legacy fleet.

Mayor Hidalgo described her anti-pollution plan, which will be considered by the Conseil de Paris (the assembly governing the city) on 9 February, to the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche (leJDD) on 6 December. Among the elements of the plan are a total ban on diesel in Paris in 2020; the Rue de Rivoli and the Champs-Élysées to be dedicated to ultra-low emission clean vehicles; and the four districts of the center to be transformed into vast semi-pedestrian areas.

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DOE issues FY 2015 SBIR/STTR Release 2 funding opportunity, including hydrogen fuel cells, electric drive batteries

December 09, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued its FY 2015 Phase I Release 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001227) for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. Technical topics for this FOA—which span the range of DOE interests from fossil to nuclear to renewable and low-carbon energies—include two hydrogen- and fuel-cell-related topics: fuel cell-battery electric hybrid trucks and in-line quality control devices for polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells.

Also included are electric drive vehicle batteries, power electronics, on-board reformers, and advanced crank and ignition mechanisms for combustion engines.

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