This Week’s Top 10: Low emission NGVs and RNG big at ACT Expo, Ports urged to clean up truck air pollution

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Low emission NGVs and fuels highlighted at ACT Expo: A new jobs study was released on the opening day of ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif., predicting that deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ examines the economic potential of fueling heavy-duty trucks with renewable natural gas produced in California, instead of being powered by petroleum-based diesel. The study was released jointly by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC). A switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals, the two coalitions say…….. Cummins Westport introduced new 2018 model year natural gas engines for regional haul truck / tractor, vocational and transit, school bus, and refuse applications. The new B6.7N, L9N, and ISX12N engines feature Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board Optional Low NOx certification, on-board diagnostics, closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems, and performance and reliability improvements. The new ISX12N features a redesigned fuel system with fewer parts and improved performance. All CWI engines offer customers the choice of using compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) or renewable natural gas (“RNG”) as a fuel.  Using low carbon intensity RNG fuel provides significant well-to-wheel GHG reductions and is an important aspect of a move to zero emissions strategy, the company said.
  2. ACT Now Plan: Members of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) yesterday urged the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to develop and implement an aggressive clean truck program as part of the updated 2017 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). To accelerate the CAAP, the Coalition developed the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan, which offers a cost-effective opportunity, using proven technology, to drastically and immediately reduce emissions from the 13,000 heavy-duty trucks serving the two ports. Coalition members outlined the ACT Now Plan at ACT Expo 2017. The plan calls on port leaders to immediately increase the number of zero- and near-zero emissions trucks to improve regional air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and drive job growth. “The latest generation of low-NOx, zero-equivalent natural gas engines powered by renewable natural gas exceed the required air quality standard by 90 percent and they are available today,” said Thomas Lawson, president of CNGVC. “There is no reason to wait to clean Southern California’s air.”
  3. Tree planting for Earth Month: Ford and Zipcar planted 20,869 trees on Saturday through One Tree Planted as a result of their college Earth Month campaign. The program further encouraged the use of sustainable transportation on campus by committing to plant one tree for every reservation made in a Ford Zipcar, and an extra tree for students who carpooled and shared a picture using the hashtag #FordZipsters. The campaign was open to over 500 college and university campuses with existing Zipcar programs from April 13-23. The resulting trees were planted through One Tree Planted, a non-profit on a mission to reforest the planet and provide education, awareness and engagement on the importance of trees. The trees were planted in the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon as part of the McKay Creek Floodplain Reconnection Project. Zipcar members can reserve any of the company’s more than 12,000 self-service vehicles across the globe, including a variety of Ford models, by the hour or day, including the cost of gas, maintenance and insurance.
  4. Fuel cell delivery vans: UPS showed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell Class 6 delivery truck today during ACT Expo. The van, developed as part of a $10-million federal Department of Energy program, is the first of 17 hydrogen fuel-cell vans the company will be deploying in the U.S. by the end of 2018. The initial van showed today at ACT Expo will start in service later this year serving the Sacramento market.
  5. EVs for Uber rides in Oregon: Uber drivers in Portland, Ore., are being encouraged to switch over to electric vehicles for rides. Similar to a program launched in London, this one will start in late May and taps into a combination of incentives and educational programs. Uber says it has about 6,000 drivers in Oregon now; while about 100 of them drive EVs now, the company wants to utilize the program to bring the number up to around 600 EVs by 2019. The company is working with Drive Oregon, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more EVs on the state’s roads. The organization will work with Uber drivers on how to share the benefits of EVs with their riders. In separate news, Drive Oregon announced that its name has been changed to Forth. After being a big part of helping bring together leaders for the state to become the nation’s “living lab” for electric mobility, the organization is expanding beyond its home state, expanding to other regions and incorporating smart, shared mobility technology. You can visit the new website to learn more about the new look, expanded mission, and new Go Forth Electric Vehicle Showcase.
  6. Audi’s sustainable suppliers: Audi AG introduced sustainability ratings for its automotive suppliers last month. The Volkswagen subsidiary is increasing its commitment to achieving a sustainable value chain. The ratings are based on checks carried out at the suppliers’ production plants as well as on company reporting. The premium car manufacturer is starting the ratings system with the selection of suppliers for the new Audi e-tron electric SUV and for the successor to the Audi A3.
  7. ZEV fees and fuel taxes jumping up in CA: California will raise $52.4 billion over the next decade to repair its roadway infrastructure through zero emission vehicle fees and raising taxes on gasoline and diesel. Owners of all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles will have to pay an annual $100 fee to the state starting on July 1, 2020. That’s expected to raise $200 million for the state funding program. Gasoline taxes will go up another 12 cents a gallon from the current 30 cents per gallon as of Nov. 1, 2017. Diesel taxes will go up another 20 cents from the current 13 cents per gallon, and a sales tax for diesel vehicles will go up another 5.75% on that date. These tax increases are expected to bring in tax revenue of $24.4 billion, $7.3 billon, and $3.5 billion, respectively. Funds from the new Road Repair and Accountability Act just signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will cover various projects such as $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes; $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation; and $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs.
  8. Tesla dealing with safety rating ding: Tesla started an over-the-air update to reinstate the emergency automatic braking (AEB) feature in all of the Model S and Model X vehicles produced since late October without AEB. The company started adding it fully autonomous vehicle technology and had temporarily set aside AEB and other functions. Consumer Reports has dropped the Model S sedan’s overall score to 85 from 87, down from the top of the luxury vehicle list into third place behind the BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. The Tesla Model X also took a hit, dropping from 58 to 56, putting it near the bottom of the midsized luxury SUV segment. Consumer Reports says that Tesla had been making promises to upgrade the software and deal with the safety problem since late 2016, but had not yet taken action.
  9. Total SA sees EVs taking off: A leading oil producer predicts that electric vehicles could make up to 30% of global new vehicle sales by 2030. Speaking recently at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York, Total SA’s chief energy economist, Joel Couse, predicted that EVs will make up 15 to 30 percent of global new vehicle sales by that year. Oil demand used in transportation will flatten out after 2030 and possibly even decline, he said. That’s the most aggressive forecast ever made by a major oil industry company, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  10. VW settlement in California: Automakers have expressed concerns that Volkswagen is being give a competitive advantage in California over how the German automaker will be spending $200 million in the state through its diesel emissions settlement. The California Air Resources Board has taken public comments and is reviewing VW’s proposal on how the $200 million will be spent in the first 30 months on plug-in vehicle infrastructure and other zero emission vehicle projects. Competitor automakers said that VW has chosen several locations that already have many electric vehicles in place, and support should go elsewhere in California to spur more EV interest and sales. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai also filed a statement asking the state to direct a “significant portion” of the funds into hydrogen fueling stations to meet zero emission vehicle goals. Sierra Club in its CARB filing asked the automaker to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities.”


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