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US FTA to award up to $2.75M for zero-emissions public transportation tech

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $2.75 million of funding for its Zero Emission Research Opportunity (ZERO) (FTA-2017-001-TRI). The ZERO program is to facilitate the advancement, production, and deployment of zero-emission public transportation vehicle technology and related infrastructure.

FTA intends to select, and enter into cooperative agreements with, multiple (up to three) nonprofit consortia to build on past research innovation and development efforts to facilitate the deployment of zero-emission vehicles and associated advanced technology. Eligibility for future ZERO funding opportunities in fiscal years 2017-2020 will be limited to those nonprofit consortia selected under this fiscal year 2017 notice.

The purpose of ZERO is to work with US industry to remove obstacles on the critical path to the wider adoption of zero emission technology in public transportation. Examples include improving charging standards for battery-electric transit vehicles, improved passenger compartment heating systems, or expanding hydrogen infrastructure. For purposes of this program, zero emission technology refers to any technology that provides a pathway to the immediate or eventual adoption of transit vehicles that produce no harmful emissions in any, and all, operating modes.

Battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology are typical examples. Not all pathways to zero emission vehicles have to be zero emission, but they have to be shown to be on an evolutionary pathway to zero emission. For example, hybrid technology is considered zero emission technology for the purposes of this program if it can be shown to advance the pathway to improved vehicle electrification.

The projects under ZERO may address aspects of the following subject areas:

  1. Technology Research and Development—improving the efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the performance of vehicles, vehicle systems, and subsystems.

  2. Transit Fleet Operations—improving the efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the performance of vehicle fleets including maintenance and operations practices.

  3. Energy Infrastructure—addressing challenges of supporting zero emission technology including hydrogen fueling, electric charging, and relationships with suppliers and electric utilities.

  4. Standards and Policy—research to support standards development and testing protocols and to identify policies and policy changes to reduce costs and risks of adopting zero emission vehicle technology.

  5. Other—FTA is open to considering other research subjects or combinations of subjects to advance zero emission technology.

Potential research partners such as transit agencies, other nonprofits, vendors, suppliers and systems integrators may work with multiple consortia. The federal cost-share of a project carried out under ZERO will not exceed 80%.

Subject to FTA discretion and future appropriations, the selected organization(s) will be eligible for future funding from FY17-FY20, without further competition.

Since 2008, FTA has provided more than $150 million to support the research, development and deployment of cleaner more efficient public transit vehicles. The ongoing Low and No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program has proven the interest of transit agencies to procure and operate highly innovative and efficient models, including battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell buses.

In implementing ZERO, FTA will use a cooperative research model similar to FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program. Under this model, research and demonstration projects are defined and conducted by pre-selected non-profit consortia that, under FTA direction, assemble and manage project teams. Teams, comprised of transit agencies, vendors, suppliers, and others, will introduce an enhanced level of research management, program continuity, and flexibility to federally funded transit research. Through ZERO, FTA seeks to refine this research model and create a research environment that results in greater industry involvement and more innovative and successful projects.

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