Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Updates On Hydrogen And Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment

Question of the Month: What are the latest updates on hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicle deployment?

Answer: Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have been around for a while, mostly in limited quantities and locations through demonstration projects. But these vehicles, with their potential to significantly cut petroleum consumption and reduce emissions, are starting to make their way into dealerships and onto roads across the country. Though the market for FCEVs is still in its infancy, many government organizations and private companies are working on research and deployment efforts to make hydrogen a widespread, viable, affordable, and safe alternative vehicle fuel.

Below are some of the recent activities related to FCEV commercialization:

Vehicle Availability
FCEVs are beginning to enter the consumer market in certain regions in the United States and around the world. Hyundai introduced the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell in California last year for lease, and Toyota Motor Company announced they will release the 2016 Mirai for sale this October at eight California dealerships that were specially selected for their experience with alternative fuels and their proximity to existing hydrogen fueling stations. Vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes/Daimler, Nissan, and Volkswagen are expecting to launch FCEV production vehicles in select regions of the country in the coming years. Other automakers continue to introduce their FCEVs through demonstration projects. The FCEV market is also growing for buses, ground support equipment, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, back-up power, prime power applications, and continues to be strong for forklifts.

While OEMs are offering affordable lease options, some of which include the cost of fuel, FCEVs are still expensive. However, production costs have decreased significantly in recent years and FCEVs are expected to be cost-competitive with conventional vehicles in the coming years.

Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure
As the FCEV market expands, hydrogen fueling infrastructure will need to grow to match demand. Most of the hydrogen stations available today have been built to support OEM FCEV demonstration projects. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center's (AFDC) Alternative Fueling Station Locator, there are 12 publicly accessible hydrogen stations in the United States, with many more in the planning stages. According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, there are 49 more stations in development in California that will be publically available. Development efforts are also underway in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Like the vehicles, the high cost of fueling equipment remains a key challenge. Hydrogen station costs can vary significantly based on hydrogen feedstock, station capacity, utilization, proximity to production, and available incentives. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Hydrogen Station Cost Calculator estimates that stations can cost between $2 and $5 million. However, like FCEVs, as the demand grows, the cost of hydrogen fueling equipment will decrease and the number of stations will increase.

Codes, Standards, and Incentives
The widespread deployment of FCEVs and the associated network of hydrogen fueling stations requires the development, maintenance, and harmonization of codes, standards, and regulations to keep up with the technology. These efforts are ongoing and are supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as well as domestic and international organizations.

Incentives will also continue to be important to promote and maintain a market for hydrogen and FCEVs. California is leading in the number of relevant state incentives. For instance, to meet the objectives of California's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program, the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program is allocating $20 million annually for the construction of at least 100 public hydrogen stations in California by January 1, 2024. In addition, California's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project offers up to $5,000 for the purchase or lease of approved FCEVs. Nine other states (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) have also adopted California's ZEV mandate to increase the number of ZEVs, including FCEVs, on the roads.

Ongoing Research and Development
Significant research and development efforts by DOE, the national laboratories, and other H2USA partners have brought the hydrogen industry to where it is today (http://energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/accomplishments-and-progress). Through their Fuel Cell Technologies Office, DOE continues to support research in the areas of hydrogen production, delivery, and storage, as well as technology validation, manufacturing, and market transformation.

Additional Resources

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How can I improve my gas mileage while driving this summer?

That's the question of the month for May.
The following tips can help you use the AC more efficiently and therefore improve fuel economy in the summer:
  • Read the owner's manual for detailed information on how your vehicle's AC system works and how to use it efficiently.
  • Park your vehicle in shady areas or use a sunshade to keep the interior from getting too hot.
  • Do not use the AC more than needed. If you need to use the AC, avoid using the "max" setting for extended periods.
  • If you are driving at high speeds, use the AC instead of rolling down the windows. If the vehicle is too hot, you may lower the car windows to expel hot air for the first few minutes. Once the hot air has left the vehicle, switch to using the AC.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling can use a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, and even more if the AC is on. Do not idle the vehicle to cool it down before a trip; most AC systems actually cool the vehicle faster while driving.
  • PEV owners, pre-cool your vehicle with the AC while still plugged in. Since PEVs use battery power to provide AC, it can drain the vehicle's batteries and reduce the vehicle's overall range. If you need to use the AC to cool down your PEV, try to do so while the vehicle is still charging.


Friday, May 1, 2015

John Bolton Talks Energy and the Election

A discussion (audio only) between T. Boone Pickens and John Bolton on the subjects of "energy prices, Iran's current and future role as an oil producer and the prospects for Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How Heavy is Too Heavy? Idle Reduction Equipment Impacts Weight Limit Restrictions

Question of the Month: What are the state weight limits for heavy-duty vehicles on interstate highways? What weight limit exemptions exist for vehicles equipped with idle reduction technology?

Answer: Under federal law, no vehicle weighing more than 20,000 pounds (lbs) on one axle, 34,000 lbs on a tandem axle, or 80,000 lbs overall may access federal interstate highways (e.g., Interstate 70, which runs across the country from Maryland to Utah), regardless of where they get on the highway. States must enforce these requirements, or they may not be eligible for federal highway funding. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) allows states to offer weight-limit exemptions for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) with on-board idle reduction technology.

Please note that states may set their own weight restrictions for roads that start and end within their boundaries, but we will focus on interstate highway requirements here.

Idle Reduction Technologies
Federal regulations allow states to adopt weight exemptions for auxiliary power units (APUs) or other qualified technologies that reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions from engine idling. APUs are portable, vehicle-mounted systems that provide power for climate control and electrical devices without idling. For long-haul trucks, these systems typically have a small internal combustion engine (usually diesel) equipped with a generator to provide electricity and heat. Other on-board idle reduction technologies include automatic start-stop controls, energy recovery systems, fuel-operated heaters, coolant heaters, and battery-electric and thermal-storage air conditioners.

State Weight Exemptions
States may permit HDVs equipped with idle reduction technology to exceed the specified weight limit by up to 550 lbs to compensate for the additional weight of the equipment. The allowance was previously 400 lbs, but the federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation, enacted in 2012, increased it to 550 lbs.

States must enact a law or institute an enforcement policy with their own exemptions to reflect this increased weight allowance. A map of State Recognition of the Auxiliary Power Weight Exemption to Gross Vehicle Weight is available from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). As the map shows, many states have not updated their laws and enforcement policies to reflect the increase in the federal allowance to 550 lbs, which means the exemption is still limited to 400 lbs. There are also six states where the exemption is not permitted at all.

States must require HDV drivers to demonstrate eligibility for vehicle weight limit exemptions. For example, drivers may need to have paperwork on hand that verifies the weight of the idle reduction equipment and be able to demonstrate that it is functional. Requirements are different from state to state.

More information on these state weight limit exemptions is also available on the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Laws and Incentives database. The Advanced Search options allow you to identify specific exemptions by location, technology/fuel type (idle reduction), incentive/regulation type (exemption), and user-type (vehicle owner or driver). Each description of a state idle reduction weight exemption includes a reference to the applicable legislation or policy.

Refer to EERE's National Idling Reduction Network News and Argonne National Laboratory's Idle Reduction Tools and Outreach Materials for more information on idle reduction technologies and state vehicle weight limit exemptions for this equipment.

Friday, April 17, 2015

41% of U.S. public transit buses use alt fuels, hybrid technology

SunLine launched its 100% CNG (Natural Gas Fleet including all support vehicles) in May 2004 by converting from diesel! It was reported to be the first in the nation and has been leading the way ever since.

"APTA's latest research shows that 41.3% of U.S. public transportation buses were using alternative fuels or hybrid technology as of January 1, 2014."