A quick glance around this week’s Washington Auto Show might make you wonder if you’ve stepped into the past, with large trucks, SUVs, and sports cars getting all the attention. But look under the hood and you can see the auto industry’s more climate-friendly future.
The cars and trucks of 2014 are lighter, more aerodynamic, and powered by increasingly efficient engines. A key impetus for these improvements is tougher federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards. The auto show provides evidence that the industry is working to meet these ambitious standards, and that we can significantly reduce emissions without compromising consumer choice.
One way to improve fuel economy is to make the vehicle lighter. That’s exactly what Ford Motor Company did to the best-selling vehicle in the United States: the F-150. All 2015 Ford F-150s will have an aluminum body and truck bed – shedding 700 pounds while still being able to tow and haul more than the previous generation. That could boost its gas mileage from 20 mpg on the highway for the 2014 model to 30 mpg.
Automakers have increasingly substituted strong, lightweight aluminum for steel in hoods, wheels and other components. The F-150 and Tesla’s aluminum-body Model S show they’re going beyond that.
Another way to increase gas mileage is to improve an engine’s ability to convert fuel (potential energy) to work (kinetic energy). General Motors is making the Corvette Sting Ray for the first time 1976, and the new version is beautiful and efficient. The 2015 Sting Ray is the quickest, most powerful, and most efficient Corvette ever made. The 7-speed V-8 Sting Ray gets up to 29 mpg on the highway. That’s about twice the fuel economy of the ’67 Sting Ray my dad drove when I was a kid.
A Primer on Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund
by Nick Nigro and Cindy Burbank
A recent "60 Minutes" story highlighted the demise of a few high-profile clean-tech companies that received federal funding. The story neglected to report why clean technology is vital to the future of our economy and environment in the first place, and therefore why it makes sense for the government to promote the development of wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, and other clean tech. Simply put, the goal is to transform our economy from one based on fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases to one based on clean energy that won't contribute to global climate change.
Private finance is playing a critical role in accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies that will reduce the impacts of our energy use on the global climate. Can some of these innovative financing tools – or new tools – also help spur alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and fueling infrastructure?
That’s a question we have set out to answer in a new initiative with the National Association of State Energy Officials. As a first step, we’ve explored some of the key barriers in the AFV market that private investment could help address.
Eight states have given a big boost to zero emission vehicles by agreeing to support putting 3.3 million on the road by 2025. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont together account for about a quarter of the auto market, so their commitment is significant.
To reach their goal, these states will need to learn what policies and actions are most effective at driving sales of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), starting with electric cars.
Two early lessons are evident from our ongoing work in this area: Stakeholder coordination is critical, and creative policy solutions are needed. The memorandum of understanding the governors signed last week will foster an environment for both.
In the closing days of September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a series of bills advancing the state’s clean vehicle initiatives. One law, AB 8, extends funding for many of the state’s vehicle-efficiency programs and mandates increased deployment of hydrogen fueling stations. Additionally, the Governor signed two bills—AB 1092 and SB 454—that each provide for greater, more efficient access to electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Governor Brown also signed SB 359 and SB 459, which increase funding to rebate programs for low-emission vehicle purchases and upgrades, as well as rebates for early vehicle retirements. Finally, the governor signed AB 266 and SB 286, extending the state’s program to issue special High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) stickers to owners of plug-in hybrids and zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs).
Extension of Clean Vehicle Programs
AB 8 clears the way for 10-year extensions of several clean vehicle rebates enacted by AB 118 in 2007, including the Air Quality Improvement Program and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. The law enables these extensions to clean vehicle programs by authorizing increases to vehicle registration fees and surcharges into 2024. The law further authorizes the California Energy Commission to supersede the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in managing the deployment of 100 new hydrogen-fueling stations over the next 10 years using $20 million annually. The law also provides a new source of funding for the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program by establishing a new $0.75 surcharge on tire purchases, which is projected to raise $34 million over the next 10years.
Under SB 359, CARB will receive an additional $48 million in 2014 to continue funding monetary incentives administered through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program (EFMP). The new law focuses on voluntary trade-ins of high-polluting vehicles by supplying $1,000 rebates to EFMP participants, and $1,500 rebates to EFMP participants with a household income at or below 225 percent of the federal poverty level. SB 459 requires CARB to update EFMP guidelines by June 30, 2015. In doing so, CARB is authorized to increase the value of early vehicle retirement and replacement rebates for low-income participants beyond existing limits of $1,500 and $2,500, respectively.
Development of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
California’s EV charging infrastructure got a boost from AB 1092 and SB 454. Under AB 1092, the California Building Standards Commission assumes responsibility for mandating the installation of EV charging infrastructure in parking spaces of multifamily and nonresidential buildings in the next California Building Standards Code, slated for adoption in 2014. SB 454 broadens access to EV charging stations by requiring open access to stations without purchasing a subscription or obtaining a membership to an association. Further, SB 454 requires EV charging station operators to accept payment from credit cards or mobile-based payment applications. Both laws fulfill Governor Brown’s Executive Order on March 23, 2013 to facilitate the deployment of 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.
HOV Sticker Programs
SB 286 extends the state’s HOV sticker program for plug-in hybrid vehicles and ZEVs through 2019. Under SB 286, the HOV sticker program will issue an additional 40,000 “green stickers” to those applicants operating partial-ZEVs, and issue an unlimited amount of “white stickers” to applicants operating vehicles that meet California super ultra-low emission vehicle standard, as well as the national inherently low-emission vehicle (ILEV) evaporative emission standard.
This map contains state laws and regulations that affect electric vehicles. The policies include the following:
- Vehicle Acquisition: Mandates for state or other types of fleets to acquire electric vehicles. This primarily affects state fleets.
- Preferred Access: State requirements to provide access to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes or designated parking for electric vehicles.
- Financial Incentives: Tax credits, rebates, grants, inspection exemption, and vehicle-to-grid energy credits.
- Infrastructure Requirement: State requirements to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Note that the policies highlighted here target electric vehicles. C2ES has a number of additional maps on policies and activities to promote electric vehicles as part of its PEV Dialogue Initiative available here.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center. The website contains a database for federal and state incentives and laws.
Source: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/locator/stations/ (as of June 2014), http://nhts.ornl.gov/tables09/ae/work/Job27748.html
The transportation sector is the source of more than a quarter of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. One way to reduce these emissions is to increase the number of electric cars (as long as the cars use relatively low-carbon electricity). But policymakers, car makers and sellers, and consumers all need a better idea of where an electric car, and the infrastructure needed to accommodate it, can best meet consumers’ needs.
In the map above, C2ES put together two sets of data to show places where driving patterns would indicate that most trips could be powered entirely on the battery power of an all-electric, plug-in hybrid or extended range electric car.
One of the map’s layers shows the concentration of charging stations throughout the country in green (the darker the green, the more charging stations). The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides a nationwide database of publicly available electric vehicle charging stations. The number of charging stations is one indicator of a geographic area’s electric car “readiness.”
The map’s other layer shows the distance traveled for 85 percent or more total trips taken by all drivers in a metropolitan area. You can click on any of the regions to see the share of trips that are less than 10, 20, and 30 miles. Note that this information is not based on drivers’ average trip length, but on an estimate of total trips by all drivers. The Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey provides information on the length of trips for all travelers by metropolitan statistical area, which is a geographic region with a high degree of social and economic integration. (Not all metropolitan statistical areas were covered in the survey.)
The mileage chosen (10, 20, and 30 miles) corresponds well to the plug-in hybrid or extended range electric cars on the market today. The Chevy Volt has an electric range of more than 30 miles, the Ford C-MAX Energi has an electric range of about 20 miles, and the Toyota Prius Plug-in has about a 10-mile electric range. Each of these vehicles also has a gasoline engine for longer trips. Importantly, every all-electric car available today offers more than 30 miles of range.
There are a number of takeaways from this map. First, every all-electric car on the market today can accommodate more than 85 percent of all trips in all of these regions, as can the extended range electric Chevy Volt. This information might help ease consumers’ “range anxiety” about driving an all-electric vehicle (the fear of running out of juice). It also means Volt drivers can electrify most of their trips while still enjoying the benefits of having a gasoline engine available whenever they need it. Second, most charging stations are concentrated in densely populated areas with a notable exception around New Orleans, which also happens to be the only metropolitan statistical area surveyed where 85 percent or more trips are less than 10 miles.
The data from the National Household Travel Survey indicates Americans in our most populated areas could electrify trips without moving to fully electric vehicles. If the share of electric trips can approach 100 percent, it becomes much easier for drivers to find an alternative solution for other trips, making a transition to all electric vehicles more likely. One of the keys is how drivers handle their other trips. Will they rely on gasoline in their extended range or plug-in hybrid cars, mass transit, a private bus, or another conventional car? It’s also very important to consider the miles traveled powered by different fuel types in order to measure greenhouse gas emissions and oil use in the aggregate. Electric trips, however, are a great way to look at the transition to alternative fuel vehicles without replacing conventional technology outright.
C2ES’s interactive map series for electric vehicles provides information on the status of implementing the PEV Dialogue Group’s Action Plan and the state of the electric vehicle market.
Implementing the Action Plan Maps
- PEV Integration with Electrical Grid: Policies to inform electric utilities about electric vehicle purchases, statewide building code policies related to electric vehicles, and vehicle-to-grid pilot projects.
- PEV Electricity Pricing by Time-Of-Use (TOU): Electricity pricing rates offered by electric utilities that are attractive to electric vehicles.
- Who Can Own/Operate a Charging Station: State regulations about the ownership and operation of electric vehicle charging stations.
- PEV-Specific Measures for Transportation Infrastructure Funding: State policies to recover transportation infrastructure revenue from electric vehicles.
Other Electric Vehicle Market Maps
- Powering More Travel with Electricity: This map shows where driving patterns would indicate that most trips could be powered entirely on the battery power of an all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or extended range electric car.
- Plug-in Electric Vehicle Policies: From C2ES's U.S. Climate Policy Maps, state laws and regulations that affect plug-in electric passenger vehicles, including incentives, mandates, and other policies.
- Zero Emission Vehicle Program: From C2ES's U.S. Climate Policy Maps, states that have adopted the California Zero Emission Vehicle Program, setting attainment goals based on vehicle production for delivery and sale within the state.
Nick Nigro speaks about electric vehicles.