For Today: Electric Vehicle Charging Association reports on how charging has grown since 2011, EVs beat diesel in new study

EV charging report:  Electric vehicle charging outlets have grown tenfold in the U.S. since 2011, according to a new report from the Electric Vehicle Charging Association – from 5,070 in 2011 to 50,991 this year. As a business sector, the EV charging infrastructure increased 576% in revenue between 2011 and 2016 – from $27 million in 2011 to $182 million in 2016. Revenue could grow to the $276 million by 2020, and the association also forecasts that the industry globally could produce $45.59 million by 2025. As with electric vehicle sales, California has led the way in charging stations. The state’s infrastructure has grown 67% since the association’s first report in October 2015. California now about 15,930 charging outlets in place, not including residential outlets, according to the “State of the Charge” report.

Diesel seeing more clean fuel competition:  ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group (REG) have conducted research finding feasibility in biodiesel converted from a variety of biomass sources. The two companies were able to validate the feasibility of the REG Life Sciences fermentation technology across multiple cellulosic sugar compositions produced from a few non-edible biomass sources. The study confirmed REG Life Sciences technology is capable of achieving substantial reductions of full-lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel. “Biofuels today are made largely from food sources, such as corn and sugar cane,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “ExxonMobil is challenging that paradigm by exploring a portfolio of large-scale biofuels solutions that do not compete with food and water.”

Electric beats diesel in study:  A new study has looked into how clean electric vehicles can be based on what goes into generating the power and the impact of mining raw materials. The study finds that even when the power is generated by coal power, it still emits fewer emissions that diesel cars. Those findings are especially relevant to the European market, where automakers are gradually reducing the volume of diesel passenger cars. Conducted by VUB university in Brussels for NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) the study analyzed data from several European markets. Dr. Maarten Messagie wrote in the study that there is room for improvement on the battery manufacturing side to reduce the environmental impact, but clean energy sources have the greater impact. As in the U.S. and other countries, those emissions improvements are expected to increase as utilities add more renewable energy generation.

Is Volkswagen the Darth Vader of the automotive space and will clean diesel survive?

VW as Darth VaderWas Greenpeace right about Volkswagen with its Darth Vader spoof in 2011? The environmental group lampooned VW’s TV commercial where a child plays Darth Vader. In the Greenpeace version, another group of kids dressed as Luke Skywalker and other “Star Wars” characters confront Darth junior. We find out that “Volkswagen is threatening our planet by opposing cuts to CO2 emissions. Join the rebellion.”

VW temporarily made right with the European Union after the social media buzz that came out of the Greenpeace campaign. Now VW and the entire auto industry faces much bigger questions: Is VW as evil as Darth Vader? Here are 15 points to consider for shaping your own opinion about it:

  1. Bigger than GM recalls?: The scandal at Volkswagen started by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issuing a recall for inaccurate emissions reporting on its diesel cars, appears to be turning into the biggest story to hit the automotive sector since General Motor’s historic massive vehicle recall. This story will be dragging out and is likely to draw in other automakers and government regulatory agencies around the world (especially in Europe).
  2. New CEO in place: Matthias Mueller, president of Volkswagen’s Porsche brand, has been named CEO of VW. He’s replacing Martin Winterkorn, who previously had been expected to keep his job until the end of 2018. Winkerton is now the subject of a criminal probe being taken on by prosecutors in Germany. There’s been talk of an outsider coming in soon to take the reins – to address concerns over more VW executives being tainted by the scandal. Another option could be Mueller staying in place for now and overseeing an internal investigation and ouster of the management considered to be responsible for the diesel scandal. Porsche has done very well in recent years, earning close to three billion euros a year, and barely using any diesels for sales. It never used any of VW’s EA 189 engines that were said to have been manipulated to fool U.S. emissions tests.
  3. VW losing No. 1 title?: VW is now Number One in global auto sales, having taken the title from Toyota. A full 25% of the vehicles it has sold in the U.S. in recent years are diesel-powered and those diesel sales figures are much larger globally. For example, less than half a million diesel vehicles are being recalled in the U.S., while 11 million may be recalled globally. That number may grow with more Audi models being added to the recall list. The recall and controversy are likely to bring down VW sales figures. The impact has been staggering with the company’s stock price collapsing, government agencies around the world launching probes, and some potential buyers putting their purchases of VW products on hold for now.
  4. Critical importance of transparency and emissions reporting: The scandal highlights two major priorities in government policies around the world – transparency in reporting and reducing carbon emissions. It will take some time to determine how deep these problems run, but it’s already clear that VW has a major crisis to deal with. Some government officials are now calling for random roadside checks to avoid the possibility that VW and other automakers secretly developed software to play with the emissions testing process.
  5. What EPA thinks about it: With the recall order, the Obama administration claimed the German automaker covered up the truth about its “clean diesel” models sold in the U.S. The EPA issued a notice of violation to Volkswagen, and accused the company of installing software in its cars known as “defeat devices” in 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015. EPA says the device was set up to only turn on emissions control systems when the car is undergoing official emissions testing; the controls are turned off during normal driving, when vehicles pollute far more heavily than reported by the OEM, according to EPA. The U.S. Justice Department has launched a probe into allegations Volkswagen intentionally rigged emissions tests of a number of diesel-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. market. VW diesels can emit up to 40 times pollutants allowed by current regulations, which is outraging owners.
  6. What vehicles are included in recall: The recall, which won’t go into effect immediately and is awaiting detailed guidelines from EPA, affects 482,000 cars in the U.S., could eventually cost the company about $18 billion to repair, and could include a $37,500 fine per vehicle given to VW. Affected diesel models include the 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta, 2009-15 Beetle, 2009-15 Golf, 2014-15 Passat, and 2009-15 Audi A3.
  7. The Woodward and Bernstein who uncovered the story: The scandal was discovered for the EPA through independent researchers from West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Peter Mock, Europe managing director of ICCT and John German, a senior fellow at ICCT, contacted West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions to test a few of the VW diesel cars. As for who may play the Haldeman and Ehrlichman of VW’s Watergate-type scandal, VW Group has suspended Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg, VW brand R&D boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser and Porsche development head Wolfgang Hatz, Reuters reported; and don’t forget their Nixon, as previously mentioned about the former CEO Martin Winterkorn who faces potential prosecution in Germany.
  8. This could be one piece of a larger puzzle: Automotive Digest Publisher Chuck Parker believes that this scandal will drag in other major automakers – and not just for Vader-like cover-ups. Automakers face a long list of demands from government agencies, consumers, and technology leaders (Google, Apple, etc.) to make these vehicles as clean and technology intensive as possible – with airbags, connected car systems, safety standards, emissions, accurate mpg reporting, etc. Parker thinks they would be wise to be honest and accurate about their mileage and emissions claims, and everything else in their cars – rather than being buried in a mess they didn’t need to create.
  9. Death of “clean diesel?”: As for me, I would say that as this recall scandal gets dragged into next year, the future of “clean diesel” passenger vehicles will be shaken up. When you review diesel passenger vehicle sales in the U.S., you’ll see that the recalled models listed above make up a large share of diesel sales in the U.S. It’s likely this crisis will hurt clean diesel vehicle sales. BMW and Daimler immediately issued statements saying that their diesel cars are complying with EPA rules – implying that they’re being more trustworthy than their German competitor. VW’s turbodiesel direct inject diesel engines have been at the heart of its clean diesel lineup. The company was getting credit for its claims that the latest versions of the powertrain technology are boosting mileage, improving performance, and reducing emissions.
  10. All eyes are on EPA: EPA has renewed its commitment to improve its testing and reporting methods for emissions on new vehicles sold in the U.S. The agency is “upping its game” to catch cheaters, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters. It’s a similar situation to what EPA had been facing during 2013-14 on its mileage ratings. Ford has been forced to lower fuel-economy ratings twice, and Hyundai and Kia were also found to be overestimating gas mileage in EPA scandals. On Friday, the EPA sent a letter to vehicle manufacturers notifying them that the agency is adding to its testing additional evaluations designed to look for potential defeat devices.
  11. Sustainability image tarnished: During the past month, Volkswagen AG had been named best in class for automotive industry sustainability by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. The diesel emissions reporting scandal is likely to tarnish that rating. Billionaire environmentalist Richard Branson thinks that VW’s recall should be a wake-up call to invest in clean vehicle innovations instead of fossil-fuel derived technologies.
  12. True opportunity for other clean technologies: In light of Branson’s comments, I would think there is real opportunity for makers of hybrids, plug-ins, NGVs, propane-powered vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, infrastructure suppliers, and producers of innovative alternative fuels like DME, renewable diesel, and RNG, to make the business case for investing in these technologies and fuels.
  13. Wasted federal incentives: Taxpayers have given out $51 million in green car incentives to VW through tax credits. An article in the The Los Angeles Times claims the federal government gave out $51 million in green car subsidies directed at model year 2009 Volkswagen Jetta and Jetta SportWagen TDI diesel vehicles; they qualified for a $1,300 tax credit. An estimated 39,500 buyers took advantage of the credit, which added up to $51 million in subsidies.
  14. VW experienced in scandals: About 10 years ago, VW faced another scandal. VW management was found to systematically circumvent compliance in a sex and bribes scandal that resulted in a 33-month jail term for the former head of the company’s workers council, Klaus Volkert.
  15. Angry VW owners: VW owners have been expressing outrage for what the automaker has done. One of my colleagues forwarded me a voicemail that he’d left to his VW dealer (and to all of VW corporate) about his Jetta TDI that he’d bought from them. He wants to be compensated, along with a half million other Americans owning these VW models, for the “outrageous crime you have committed against us.”

Propel Fuels and Neste Oil bring price-competitive renewable diesel to California

Diesel HPRFor fleets, transportation companies, and individuals based in Northern California driving diesel-engine vehicles, there’s now a renewable diesel available at fuel stations for about the same price as traditional diesel. California Air Resources Board (CARB) studies show that this renewable diesel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 70% compared to petroleum diesel; and offers significant reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter for those concerned about air quality and health issues in regions with high output from commercial trucks.

Propel Fuels has brought this renewable fuel, called Diesel HPR (High Performance Renewable), to 18 fuel stations in Sacramento, San Jose, East Bay, Redwood City, and Fresno. Diesel HPR was created by Finland-based Neste Oil using that company’s NEXBTL renewable diesel. Diesel HPR is a low-carbon renewable fuel designated as ASTM D-975, the standard for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in the US. It’s also recognized as “CARB diesel” by the state agency, and is a certified fuel with the US Environmental Protection Agency.  A complete list of Diesel HPR fueling locations is available at

Diesel HPR comes from renewable biomass including recycled fats and oils that can originate from sources such as waste fish oils and vegetable oils. It’s refined from renewable biomass through Neste Oil’s advanced hydrotreating technology that meets the toughest specifications required by automotive and engine manufacturers. Like biodiesel, the fuel offers fleets and consumers the advantage of using a clean fuel in vehicles without paying for vehicle conversions. Diesel HPR can be used by any diesel vehicle. “It’s a clean, clear, odorless fuel that’s highly refined and has low sulfur and carbon,” said Rob Elam, CEO and Co-Founder of Propel Fuels, during a phone interview. “Diesel HPR exceeds conventional diesel in power, performance and value.”

Elam says there’s been tremendous interest in the fuel from owners of diesel-powered cars with Bosch technologies (such as Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz diesel-engine models) that have “No Biodiesel” stickers. Using biodiesel would threaten their warranties. “They’re excited to see Diesel HPR launched,” Elam said.

The fuel’s high-blend rate with reduced greenhouse gas emissions has made it very appealing to corporate and government fleets, he said. “Many fleets are moving towards the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, so low carbon diesel makes sense,” Elam said. Bakeries with a fleet of Sprinters are very interested in the fuel, as are companies in the heavy-duty long-haul trucking business.

While the EPA is still mulling over 2014 production volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard and its RIN credits, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and cap-and-trade credit market makes the state an appealing place to launch renewable transportation fuels. Clean Energy Fuels would attest to that through its Redeem renewable natural gas; that product is finding interest by fleets wanting to comply with California standards and utilize clean fuels to meet emissions targets.

The Renewable Fuel Standard and RIN debate has been a major concern to the biofuels industry. There has been enough interest in renewable fuels for Neste to bring a large volume of its fuel to California, Elam said. This is the first time renewable diesel is being offered as its own product; it has cost parity with regular diesel in California but its weights and measures are still being worked out by the agencies, he said.

“This renewable diesel joins a growing suite of new, cleaner transportation fuels in California thanks to our Low Carbon Fuel Standard and forward thinking companies like Propel,” said California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols, in the press release.

Propel Fuels started up in 2004 when it set up the very first public biodiesel station in Seattle. Passage of AB 32 in California motivated the company to bring renewable diesel, ethanol, and biodiesel to fuel stations across California. Oregon has passed a low-carbon fuel standard and the state of Washington is considering one. The company will expand into others states as market demand grows, but as for now, there’s “plenty of growth in California,” Elam said.

Global Issue in Fleet Fueling is a Potential “Win-Win” for Heavy Vehicles Sector

Substantial HC Reductions to be Gained in the Capture of “Fugitive Transfer Emissions”

by Chris Hollerback

TCFS powerpoint slideHeavy duty vehicles have seen major transformations in hydrocarbon emission reduction in recent years. This is based on engine manufacturers’ massive investments in new technology and the mandates of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, along with SCR/Urea after-treatments. The industry has transformed diesel from the worst pollutant into one of the cleanest and most economic fuels available.

Truck engines and diesel fuel are two of several emissions sources that must be reduced to hit strict, ambitious federal standards to reduce greenhouse gas. So the big question is: “Where will the next significant reduction come from?” It is my belief that considerable gains can be realized through advances in fuel dispensing equipment. “Fugitive Transfer Emissions,” along with vapor purge, happens during the transfer of liquid and compressed gas refueling.

If the goal is to reduce hydrocarbons, wouldn’t it be prudent to capture as much of these emissions as well? With the exception of vapor recovery and on-board refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) in gasoline, this issue is currently “not on the radar” of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Consider that fugitive loss is a global occurrence and one that can be substantially corrected with significant benefits to the environment, the transportation industry, and the consuming public.

Diesel has secured the environmental future in the EPA’s focus of exhaust emissions.  In spite of these major advances, future reductions of hydrocarbon emissions are still being demanded by the EPA for the heavy duty vehicles market.

The EPA’s focus for hydrocarbon reduction in transportation is currently limited to “exhaust” emissions, which by definition is the measurement of “unburned” fuel. Fugitive transfer emissions (FTEs) are the vapors or purge containing concentrated levels of raw fuel, in suspension, that “vent” in order to displace liquid or compressed gas into a fuel vessel. Venting is a necessary function with all dispensing equipment.

Venting occurs somewhere near the refueling point and always after the fuel meter. The concept of the proposed solution is a common sense plumbing adjustment that effectively moves the vent point back to the supply source capturing vapor, and overfills, in a closed loop. With that said, how significant are these losses, and what gains can be made through total containment?

I am singling out diesel refueling as a starting point to illustrate how significant FTE reduction can be. Diesel refueling raised my awareness of the issue and inspired the proposed solution.

Fifteen years ago I was introduced to the non-public side of fleet transportation through refueling operations at a major metropolitan bus facility. Facility hygiene conditions were, and still remain, appalling.

As an outsider, my first impressions were of how grimy the fuel barn was with puddles of fuel that were obvious slip hazards. Everything was coated with fuel throughout the property. The pungent odor of diesel was inescapable, even in the office areas. My initial questions were “How can people work under these conditions” and “Why isn’t someone doing something to correct it?”

Pressure cleanings were a weekly event with spot cleanings performed daily.  “The nature of the fuel just gets on everything, you get used to it after a while.” This is the one comment that is consistently repeated and sums up the acceptance of the conditions industry wide. So what is the root cause of this rapid recurrence as a need for constant clean-up, and more importantly, can a solution be found to permanently correct it?

From a logistics stand point, the hectic activity to process 500 buses for the next day was fascinating. The buses all come in at once at days end, and stretch around the facility in an endless line.

“Hostlers” drive these vehicles into the fueling area, quickly connect a “high speed” fuel nozzle to a mating connection. Fuel is dispensed at an impressive 40 gallons per minute (GPM). The Hostler jumps back into the bus to sweep out trash and debris. (I still can’t shake the pungent smell of fuel.)

A “whistling” noise pierces the air during fueling; this is a safety indicator that the fuel tank is “pressurized” signaling the fuel nozzle is not to be removed until the whistling stops. This “safety whistle” is cleverly activated by pressure from within the tank, sort of like an industrial tea kettle. This whistle, combined with another pressure relief valve, is designed to dissipate tank pressure and a likely source for aerosol fuel releases. (All fuel tanks must relieve pressure or risk rupture. The trucking industry uses a standard nozzle and an over-sized filler neck that allows venting around the inserted nozzle.)

To confirm the theory in “MacGyver” fashion, I wrapped a handkerchief over the two suspect vent points, producing two oily damp spots. One source of contamination identified, but how significant is the output?

Despite the manufactures warnings, at this location, the fuel hose was repeatedly removed from each bus with the whistle still sounding to get to the next bus. This practice resulted in a back-pressure fuel spill, partially captured by a sludge pit.

As the hostler kicks the fuel door shut with his foot, fuel trails down the side of the bus and is tracked onto the tarmac out to the parking area. This tracking of fuel makes its way to storm drains with wash downs, rain, and snow melt run off.

Two sources of fuel release identified – what’s the volume for each and would there be a significant payback if these conditions could be corrected? The back-pressure spills were the most obvious, so I asked the obvious question “Why would they disconnect before the whistle stops if they know it will result in such a large fuel loss?” The answer was the fuel loss was acceptable as an offset for the extra minutes saved on each bus to reduce labor expense and time.

The fuel “spilled” was less than 1% of total fuel purchased and fuel was not “lost” as it was captured in the sludge pit and sold to “re-processers.”

The calculation for back-pressure spills rounded to .09% equated to 169,000 gallons annually based on this total fleet’s volume. The collected fuel is contaminated and not suitable for reuse and is sold for less than purchase.

Most facilities avoid overfills by properly waiting for tank pressure to dissipate; However, the “atomization” that occurs remains unavoidable due to dispenser design. Overfills, back-pressure spray, and atomized fuel losses all occur after the fuel meter, so for the most part, have gone unnoticed, and more importantly, unaccounted for.

What about the atomized fugitive loss? Is this a big deal? Specific measurement will be calculated with (yet to be determined) university collaboration, but viewed under an infrared camera, the visible “cloud” is significant. A little digging produced a citable reference regarding “fugitive transfer emissions” in an early study of vapor recovery. This was a collaborative effort which included the EPA and American Petroleum Institute (API).

The collaborative calculation states the fugitive transfer loss to be 8.4 lbs of liquid for every 1,000 gallons dispensed. (Conversion is approximate to 1.5 gallons of liquid fuel.)

This specific reference was performed with gasoline which admittedly has very different properties from diesel, but as a liquid transfer, this serves as a reference point for the theory. Gasoline is dispensed at 10 GPM whereas diesel fuel is commonly dispensed at 30 GPM at a travel plaza, and 40 GPM or better, through the pressurized system utilized by 98% of mass transit groups.

The transit group referenced dispenses 18 million gallons of diesel fuel in a year with a total fleet of 1,300 buses. The atomized loss at 1.5 gallons per 1,000 gallons dispensed would equal a 27,000 gallon loss which contaminates the site and places employees at unnecessary occupational risks. This volume in fugitive loss, if captured, would obviously better serve the fleet as usable fuel and provide a cleaner and healthier work environment for the total labor force.

Multiple regulatory programs seek reductions of contamination sources such as: The Air Pollution Act, Water Pollution Act, Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC), Environmental Justice Act, SmartWays Partnership, Map 21, and OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) guidelines.

Every commercially available fuel dispenser has a measurable degree of fugitive transfer loss. Diesel fuel does not evaporate as gasoline, but shares some of the same toxins such as benzene. Consequently, vapor recovery has not been required for use in diesel fuel dispensing. Due to the fact that it does not evaporate is reason for capture.

Looking beyond just exhaust emissions will further environmental and health efficiencies. Challenging antiquated dispensing processes provides opportunity to further reduce heavy duty vehicle emissions to improve environmental and occupational health. A closed loop containment dispensing assures that fuel consuming fleets are actually getting all the energy they are purchasing. That’s a “Win-Win” and reasons to consider the change.

Chris Hollerback has a 30 year background in facilities management and process improvement. He is the designer and utility patent holder of the Total Containment Fueling System (TCFS). The patent awards 43 claims of innovations above the state of the art in dispensing. A proof of concept prototype has been developed to validate a solution for fleet application as a logistics tool. Hollberback’s LinkedIn page offers a summary of the TCFS.