Federal emissions standards and vehicle electrification key themes at ACT Expo

Staying the course on federal fuel economy and emissions standards, vehicle electrification and all its challenges, and advancements in clean vehicles and fuels, were key themes addressed at this year’s Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

Keynote speakers at “Global Trends Accelerating Advanced Transportation Innovation” on Tuesday morning said they would prefer to see that the single national emissions standard launched during the Obama administration stay in effect during a time when the Trump administration prepares to roll back the federal fuel economy and emissions standards. Mary Nichols, chairman, California Air Resources Board; Steve Gilligan, vice president, product and vocational marketing, at Navistar; Tamara Barker, chief sustainability officer and vice president of environmental affairs at UPS; Julie Furber, executive director of electrification at Cummins; and James Burrell, assistant vice president, advanced powertrain group, American Honda Motor Company, Inc., spoke to the issues. 

California and 16 other states had announced that morning that they have jointly sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over EPA Administrator Scott Pruett’s decision to roll back standards for vehicles built from 2022 through 2025. While the feedback period has been reopened by the Trump administration, the EPA administrator is preparing to cut back the standards with the argument that they’re too difficult for automakers to achieve.  

ACT Expo 2018 was a platform for several significant announcements:

Electric trucks:  Battery technology is improving so rapidly, it is becoming more realistic to expect faster adoption of commercial battery electric vehicles (CBEVs), according to Mike Roeth executive director of North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Roeth gave a presentation on a guidance report released May 1 at the conference by NACFE analyzing the interest fleet owners have in electric trucks and the challenges faced to transition over from diesel to electric. Fleets using EVs for urban delivery in predictable routes between 50-100 miles per day are likely to be the first adopters of electric trucks and vans as the industry norm, according to the study. 

Several speakers and panelists during the week addressed the issues that vehicle electrification faces in fleet adoption. One of these concerns is substantial growth needed in the charging infrastructure that faces challenges in funding, securing space on real estate properties, and meeting building code enforcement.

Meritor and Blue Horizon:  Jay Craig, CEO and president of Meritor, gave a keynote presentation about how Meritor, an automotive components manufacturer, is investing and adapting to clean technologies. Rather than fighting off new clear air standards, his company decided to embrace the technology and move it aggressively to market, he said. Meritor also launched Blue Horizon during ACT Expo, a new technology brand  representing  the  company’s  emerging  platform  of  advanced technologies  centered  on  electric  drivetrain,  efficiency,  and  connectivity  systems. Products offered  under  the  new  brand will include integrated electrified  solutions for Class 4-8 commercial  vehicles  across  multiple  vocations,  including  pickup  and  delivery, drayage/terminal  tractors,  transit  and  school  buses, as  well  as  linehaul  and  other  heavy-duty applications.  

Award winners:  This year’s winners of the ACT Expo awards recognizing fleet operators who show true leadership in clean transportation were — Total Transportation Services, Inc. (TTSI) in the Leading Carrier category; Stark Area Regional Transportation Authority (SARTA) in Canton, Ohio for the Transit & Mobility category; City of Dublin, Ohio in the Leading Public Fleet category; Bimbo Bakeries USA for Leading Private Fleet; and WallyPark for Leading Airport Fleet.

Propane vehicles:  More than 13,000 propane autogas fleet vehicles were sold in 2017, according to data compiled by the Propane Education & Research Council. The new vehicles will annually consume approximately 36.8 million gallons of propane, and many will be displacing fuels with higher emissions like gasoline and diesel. “Propane autogas overcame significant challenges in 2017 — from the absence of federal incentives for alternative fuels from the federal government, to incredibly low gasoline and diesel prices throughout much of the year — and we received an overwhelming endorsement for our fuel in all markets. Propane autogas sales virtually held steady in a year where the conventional fuels held all of the advantages,” said Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development for PERC.

Clean Cities anniversary:  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. More than 100 Clean Cities coalitions have collectively saved more than 8.5 billion gallons of petroleum nationally, according to the DOE. Comprised of business leaders and fuel providers, government agencies and community groups, the coalitions continue to support and develop projects designed to cut petroleum use in transportation. 

New company name:  Trillium CNG has changed its company name to Trillium. The company has been a top supplier of CNG services for more than 20 years and will continue in that space. Company officials simultaneously announced the name change and a partnership with California-based EV Connect, a provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions. “We believe our company name should fully reflect our offerings. By adding alternative fueling solutions like EV charging and hydrogen fueling to our portfolio we are helping customers reduce tailpipe emissions. Pairing those solutions with renewable fuels reduces the total lifecycle emission profile of our customers’ fleets,” said Bill Cashmareck, managing director of Trillium.

California’s investment in clean vehicles:  California  officials  announced  that the  state  has invested  more than  $1.2  billion  into projects  that  put  a  growing  number  of  zero-emission  and low-carbon  buses, trucks,  and  cars  onto  California’s  roads  and  highways.  About 48%  of these  investments  have been directed toward low-income  and  disadvantaged  neighborhoods – those  most  in  need  of  improvements  in  air  quality. One of these projects will be delivering dozens of electric school buses to rural school districts to help bring low-carbon transportation to students and drivers.

Electric delivery van:  Workhorse Group and commercial vehicle supplier Dana Inc. unveiled a Class 5 van powered by a jointly-built electric axle. The all-electric vehicle is a combination of the chassis and battery pack from a Workhorse E-Gen van, the body of a Morgan Olson UPS delivery truck, and the new Dana axle. The concept vehicle is not yet scheduled for production but interest from potential customers could bring it to market, according to Workhorse. 

Fleets using biodiesel:  According  to  a  new  2018  Fleet  Purchasing Outlook  study  conducted  by the  NTEA – The  Association  for  the  Work  Truck  Industry – 75% of  fleet respondents  planning  to  acquire  trucks  in  2018  anticipate  maintaining or  increasing  use  of  diesel  engine powered  trucks. Additionally,  the  survey  indicated  that  biodiesel  is  now  the  most  popular  alternative  fuel  option  on  the  market, followed  by  E85, CNG, and  electric  hybrid. Survey  data  shows  18  percent  of  fleet  participants  use  biodiesel now – up  from  15% in  2017.

Ultra Clean Diesel:  Renewable  Energy Group,  Inc. unveiled REG  Ultra  Clean  Diesel,  a  patent-pending  fuel  blend  of  renewable  diesel and biodiesel. “REG  Ultra  Clean  Diesel  is  a  CARB  approved  fuel  that  significantly  reduces  emissions, blends  easily  with  petroleum  diesel,  and  is  one  of  the  cleanest  and lowest  carbon intensity  liquid  fuels  available,” said  REG’s Gary Haer,  vice  president,  sales  and  marketing.  “REG  is  uniquely  positioned  to  offer  both  our  biodiesel  and  renewable  diesel  in  a  blended  product.    We  are  committed  to  delivering  solutions  to  our customers  in support  of  clean  air  and  sustainability  initiatives.”

ROUSH unveils EVs:  ROUSH  CleanTech  unveiled  its  newest  carbon footprint-friendly  vehicle — an  all-electric  vehicle built on the Ford  F-650 chassis. The all-electric vehicles will have  a  lithium-ion  battery  system  of  up  to  225  kilowatt  hours and  700  volts.  Depending  on  the  vehicle’s  GVWR,  the  average  range  will  be  up  to  120  miles  with  a  top  speed  of  75  miles  per  hour. “An electric  battery  option  for  medium-duty  trucks  and  buses is a  great  fit  as  there  is  increasing  demand  in  this  gross  vehicle  weight  range  (GVWR)  with  very  few  OEM  solutions,” said  Todd  Mouw,  president. “This  builds  from  our  robust  foundation  already  in  place  at  ROUSH  CleanTech  that  supports  more  than  1,200  customers  and  19,000  propane  and  natural gas  units  on  the  road.”

Peterbilt also goes electric:  Heavy-duty truck manufacturer Peterbilt launched its all-electric Model 579. It was built by the company in collaboration with Transpower, the California Air Resources Board, and the Port of Long Beach. The heavy-duty Model 579 truck has been designed as a drayage application tractor that will go into service soon at the Port of Long Beach. It’s got 490 horsepower with a 200-mile range through its battery pack with the options of 350-to-440 kWh of power. The recharge takes up to five hours.

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