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    Clean, Green and Quiet: Baton Rouge's Newest Transit Buses are Electric!

    By LCF Intern, Olivia Montgomery & Executive Director, Ann Vail

    Have you seen the smart looking green and yellow CATS buses driving around Baton Rouge? These “green” new buses are so quiet that many Baton Rouge residents may not have noticed them yet. In 2019, Capital Area Transit System (CATS), the transit authority in Baton Rouge, added three new electric buses to its fleet, with hopes to continue the transition to electric in years to come. CATS currently has three 35-foot electric BYD buses in operation and three more were ordered in December. The agency will be ordering an additional  three electric BYD buses by October 2020.  

    While it is not uncommon to see electric buses in the fleets of larger cities, they are more of a rarity in mid-sized Southern cities like Baton Rouge. So what prompted CATS to make this addition to their fleet? In 2014, CATS commissioned a study by the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute in order to review alternative fuel options for its fleet. At the time, CATS knew that some of its fleet would reach its useful age and need to be replaced. This set the stage to commission a study to assist with determining whether alternatively fueled buses could reduce costs and promote environmental sustainability. 

    At the time the study was commissioned, CATS buses burned through about 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. The CATS fleet currently has 57 conventional diesel buses, 3 trolleys, and 16 cutaway vans. A variety of alternative fuel options are available for public transit fleets, including compressed natural gas, liquified petroleum gas, biodiesel, and electric or hybrid-electric, but the UNO study specifically recommended the switch to electric. After weighing specifics like feasibility and climate conditions specific to Baton Rouge, CATS decided to follow UNO’s recommendation to go electric. 

    Procuring buses with new technologies is not always easy. CATS was charged with quickly finding funding sources and a manufacturer that could meet deadlines on deliverables. Around this time, Louisiana Clean Fuels hosted an electric bus demonstration at the transit shelter in town square and invited local decision makers, CATS staff, and board members along for the ride. On this ride, LCF and their stakeholders were able to inform CATS of an upcoming FTA grant opportunity and offered to provide assistance with their grant application. The demo was a success and solidified local leadership’s support for CATS’s decision to procure electric buses. 

    CATS applied for the competitive grant funding – with assistance from Capital Region Planning Commission, Louisiana Department of Transportation – from the Federal Transit Administration’s Low to No- Emissions Program and received $2.5 million in 2019, in combination with other Federal funds, to purchase their first three buses.

    In April 2020, CATS announced it received an additional $3.8 million FTA grant to procure additional buses. CATS also received some local matching funds for the project. The FTA Low to No Emissions program is the same grant that in 2016 awarded $3.9 million to Sportran in Shreveport LA to purchase its first five electric buses, three depot chargers and an on-route fast charger. The Shreveport transit agency also received $1.5 million in August of 2018 for additional electric buses. 

    If one could offer advice to another fleet looking to procure electric buses, CATS Communications Director, Amie McNaylor, says she suggests engaging the experts. McNaylor credits the help of industry experts in navigating the process of procuring buses with unfamiliar technology. McNaylor described that, during the ordering process, electric bus batteries improved from first generation to second generation batteries with longer ranges, and having an expert around smoothed out these bumps in the process. Louisiana Clean Fuels connected CATS staff with industry experts and experienced EV transit bus fleet managers who acted as a liaison of sorts between CATS and the manufacturer, asking the right questions and finding the right specifications for CATS’ unique needs. 

    After hammering out the details, CATS ultimately purchased three 35-foot electric buses manufactured in California by BYD. These buses can reach 62 miles per hour speeds and seat 32 passengers, with additional capacity for standing passengers. BYD estimates its buses cost about $1 less per mile to operate when compared to diesel buses. CATS will also save on maintenance costs as electric vehicles do not require oil changes. 

    Aside from cost savings and emissions reduction, McNaylor says the public has responded favorably to the new electric buses. Some riders have tweeted that the buses are much quieter, and people tend to be drawn to the electric buses at press events. CATS operators seem to enjoy driving the new buses as well. 

    So what’s next for CATS? CATS is continuing to work on expanding the electric vehicles in the agency’s fleet. Additional electric buses will be purchased that will serve as the flagship of the Plank/Nicholson Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor, a collaboration with the City-Parish and Build Baton Rouge  These buses will make possible the 15-20 frequency of the morning and afternoon peak hours on the BRT corridor; there will be 30 minute frequency during the basetime of the route. However, CATS does plan to continue to procure more electric buses in the future, and it is expected that the CATS Board of Commissioners will approve the purchase of the final three buses on the agency’s contract with BYD, bringing an eventual total of nine electric buses in the fleet. In the meantime, the three recently-ordered buses are in the manufacturing process and will be incorporated into the fleet soon, and CATS also hopes to install more electric bus charging stations at its maintenance facility. 


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    New Webinar Wednesday Series: Transportation Electrification for Utilities 

    Louisiana Clean Fuels Webinar Series Offers Deep-Dive into Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Planning

    This three-part webinar series was created to provide the latest information on recent developments and obstacles on defining required resources for informed planners of heavy-duty electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Parts 1 and 2 will provide a more technical deep-dive into EV infrastructure planning for heavy-duty and MW applications. Preparing Utilities for EVs will be a good primer for utilities and businesses that are just getting started with their EV planning.

    Who should attend?

    • Large and Small Utilities
    • Regulators
    • Heavy-duty fleets
    • Truck stops 
    • Elected officials


    PART 1: Multi-Port, 1+MW Charging System for Medium- and Heavy-Duty EVs

    Wednesday, September 16th | 11:00 AM CDT

    EV experts from Oncor Electric Delivery LLC and Argonne National Laboratory will share insights on recent developments and obstacles on defining required resources for informed planners of medium-duty and heavy-duty electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  In-depth technical issues will be covered, with emphasis on minimizing charging location footprint of equipment for charging systems from 100kW to 1MW and above installations.  Consequences of managed vs unmanaged charging networks will be addressed that directly impact capital equipment and operating costs.

    Speakers:

    • Ted Bohn, Principle Engineer: Smart Metering/Electric Vehicle-Smart Charging Standards @Argonne National Laboratory
    • David Treichler, Director Strategy and Technology Oncor Electric Delivery LLC

     


    PART 2: Multi-Port, 1+MW Charging System for Medium- and Heavy-Duty EVs

    Wednesday, September 23rd | 11:00 AM CDT

    In this second part of our Multi-Port, 1+MW Charging System for Medium- and Heavy-Duty EVs series, Trucking and EV experts from NACFE, HDR, Inc, and Argonne National Laboratory will review the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative objectives and status.  MD/HD electric vehicle charging usage modeling activities will be covered along with possible scenarios for upgrading existing truck stops to accommodate widespread EV trucking adoption.  Adjacent technology and deployment effects of zero-emission truck requirements such as the CARB Advanced Clean Trucks Rule and CA transport refrigeration unit (TRU) zero-emission programs (shore power) can lead to leveraged investments for EV charging and shore power for overnight parking.  The session will also look ahead to near future charging technology developments headed to pilot deployment in the coming year.

    Speakers:
    • Ted Bohn, Principle Engineer: Smart Metering/Electric Vehicle-Smart Charging Standards @Argonne National Laboratory
    • Fernando Garcia, Vice President @HDR Inc.
    • Dave Schaller, Industry Engagement Director @NACFE

     


    Preparing Utilities for EVs

    New Date: Wednesday, September 30th | 10 AM CDT

    In this final installment of our webinar series on electrification, EV experts from Entergy and AEP will share their best practices, lessons learned, and forecast in order to help utilities that are just getting started with developing their own proactive programs for EVs and infrastructure. (This webinar was previously scheduled for September 9th and was post poned due to Hurricane Laura to allow participating utilities time to respond to the disaster)

    Speakers: 

    • Edward O'Brien, Senior Economist, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
    • Scott Barrios, Senior Account Manager @Entergy eTech Program
    • Jeffrey W. Lehman, PE, Electric Transportation Program Manager @AEP

     


    Clean Cities Partners

                


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    East Baton Rouge Parish School System Still Making Progress in Transitioning to Cleaner School Buses

    By Olivia Montgomery, LCF Intern | Originally posted to Fuels Fix | Original Article

    After the August 2016 floods wiped out about 110 school buses in East Baton Rouge Parish, the school system seized the opportunity to transition its fleet to cleaner fuel options, becoming the recipient of Louisiana Clean Fuels’s Rising Star Award in 2017. Thanks to the availability of Volkswagen Settlement funding, a number of other school systems in Louisiana are now making the transition too, including in the parishes of Ascension, Lafayette, Winn, Rapides, St. John the Baptist, Beauregard, Bossier, Plaquemines, St. Helena, Union, Vernon, and Tangipahoa. 

    Nearly four years later, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) continues its efforts to reduce its fleet’s emissions. In 2016, the school system received nearly $773,000 in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding to purchase 30 buses. DERA grants fund 25% of the total cost of new buses. EBRPSS has since received two more DERA grants, in addition to receiving a portion of the civil settlement from automaker Volkswagen, who settled claims with US authorities after violating emissions laws by installing a “defeat device” in thousands of vehicles. Ultimately, these four grants total $4,485,894.50 and, in conjunction with EBRPSS funds, will purchase 130 propane school buses over time. 

    EBRPSS’s shift to propane school buses showcases an important trend across the country and offers benefits including reduced operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Propane buses are shown to reduce fuel costs significantly. Roush CleanTech, manufacturer of the propane autogas system installed in Blue Bird Vision school buses, estimates fleets can lower their fuel costs by 40% by switching to propane, in addition to lower costs of maintenance over time. Case studies support this estimate, with Mesa Unified School District in Phoenix, Arizona reporting having saved $2.91 per gallon on fuel compared to diesel. Mesa expects to save $4.43 million on fuel costs over five years, and they expect each bus will have a longer lifespan than conventional diesel buses, with about five additional years on the road for each bus. EBRPSS reports spending $1,970,173 on fuel from July 2015 to June 2016. If the school district saves 40% per year, as Roush CleanTech estimates is possible, the savings would total an annual $788,069.20 reduction in fuel costs.


    Reducing emissions in school bus fleets is another direct benefit to children in the school system. Children are more susceptible to harmful side effects of exhaust due to their developing respiratory systems and faster rates of breathing. With school buses able to seat about 70 children per bus, reducing diesel exhaust and improving air quality is a top priority of school systems making the switch to propane. EBRPSS alone serves 42,000 children. A comprehensive study by the Propane Education and Research Council shows propane school buses emit up to 96% less NOx and 13% less carbon dioxide than diesel buses. 

    The future looks bright in regard to EBRPSS’s ability to procure more propane buses. The school system plans to apply for additional DERA grants in the years to come, and many states are adopting more programs to aid school systems in their transition to cleaner school bus fleets. For example, West Virginia counties using compressed natural gas or propane autogas in their school bus fleets may be eligible for a 10% reimbursement to offset the maintenance and costs of those buses. In Nevada, penalties assessed for air pollution violations are deposited into the account of the school district where they occurred and may be used for the purchase of school buses that operate on alternative fuels. At this time, EBRPSS will incrementally acquire buses through the referenced grants, and hopefully, new funding sources become available to continue the school system’s transition to cleaner fuels after all 130 new propane buses have arrived.

    Read the original Fuels Fix Article


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    Legislative Update: Moving Forward Act

    The Clean Fuels Community’s Guide to the Moving Forward Act 

    H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, is a $1.5 trillion plan to overhaul American infrastructure, with provisions including improvements for roads and bridges, transit systems, housing, schools, the U.S. Postal Service, drinking water systems, broadband, and clean energy. As of July 1, 2020, the Act has passed the House of Representatives.

    The bill’s provisions related to clean energy include a large amount of funding and incentives dedicated to facilitating the purchase of clean fuels and vehicles and the development of alternative fueling infrastructure. Important provisions are highlighted below.

    Key Funding and Grants:

    • The Act authorizes $50 million for the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, the program to which Louisiana Clean Fuels belongs, for fiscal year 2021. The authorization would increase each year to $100 million by 2025.
    • The Act provides $350 million a year in competitive grants for alternative fueling infrastructure. 
      • The primary criteria for grant selection is the extent to which the infrastructure would decrease GHG emissions and air pollution. Infrastructure must also be on established FHWA corridors.
      • Grant recipients are also not permitted to charge fees for use of a project assisted by the grant.
    • The Act establishes competitive Community Climate Innovation grants of $250 million per year for local investments in innovative strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
      • In addition to effective GHG emission reduction, prioritized projects are ones that are cost-effective, provide diverse transportation options, and consider accessibility, environmental justice, and equity. 
    • The Act authorizes $3.5 billion per year through 2025 for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, which can be used broadly at the local level to implement strategies to advance alternative fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure.
    • The Act requires the Postal Service to replace at least 75% of its fleet with electric or zero emission vehicles and authorizes at least $6 billion for the purchase of new vehicles.
      • Post Offices open to the public would also be required to install EV charging stations by 2026.

     

    Key Tax Incentives:

    • The Act extends the tax incentives for biodiesel and for natural gas and propane.
      • The Act extends the production tax credit (PTC), which allows energy producers to claim a credit based on the amount of energy derived from renewable energy resources, for facilities beginning construction by the end of 2025.
      • The investment tax credit (ITC) allows taxpayers to claim a 30% credit of the cost of qualified energy property. The Act extends this credit to properties beginning construction by the end of 2025, and then phases out over the next few years. Biogas producers will be newly eligible for this credit where they produce biogas with at least 52% methane for productive use, such as electricity generation. 
      • Income and excise tax credits will be extended for biodiesel and biodiesel mixtures at $1.00 per gallon through 2022, and the credit phases down to $0.75 in 2023, $0.50 in 2024, expiring in 2025 at $0.33.
      • The Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit will be extended for alternative fuels and alternative fuel mixtures at the pre-expiration level of $0.50 per gallon through 2022 and phased down to $0.38 in 2023, $0.25 in 2024, and $0.17 in 2025 when it expires.
    • The Act extends the tax credit for alternative fueling infrastructure through 2025 and expands the credit for electric charging infrastructure by allowing a 20% credit for expenses in excess of $100,000. 
      • This expansion would begin in 2021. 
      • Though the EV infrastructure credit is uncapped, the vehicle refueling property must be intended for general public use and allow for payments with a credit card or charge no fee, or it must be intended for exclusive use by government and commercial fleets.
    • The Act increases the production cap for the electric vehicle tax credit to 600,000 per manufacturer.
      • Under the current plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit, once a manufacturer sells 200,000 plug-in electric vehicles, the tax credit available to purchasers begins to phase out, becoming lower each quarter and expiring after five quarters.
      • Under the new provision, the tax credit will be reduced by $500 when the manufacturer has sold 200,000 to 600,000 vehicles (the transition period). The credit phases out in the second quarter after a manufacturer sells 600,000 vehicles. When phase out begins, the credit is reduced by 50% for one quarter, and then expires.
    • The Act authorizes tax credit for zero emission heavy vehicles and buses.
      • Manufacturers will receive credit for the sale of zero emission heavy vehicles (at least 14,000 pounds) from the date of enactment through the end of 2025. The credit is 10% of the sales price, capped at $100,000 per sale. 
      • To be eligible, vehicles must be for domestic use and be powered by an electric motor and no internal combustion engine.
    • The Act creates a new tax credit for buyers of used plug-in electric vehicles.
      • The base credit is $1,250 for qualified EVs, and possible additional incentive for battery capacity. The credit is capped at 30% of the sale price.
      • Buyers with up to $30,000 ($60,000 married filing jointly) adjusted gross income (AGI) can claim the full credit. For buyers with more than $30,000 AGI, the credit is reduced by $250 for every $1,000 over $30,000.
      • Assuming the Act passes, qualifying for the credit may prove difficult. Used EVs must meet existing requirements for new EVs, be under $25,000, be a model year within two years prior to the date of sale, and be purchased from a dealership. Further, the credit only applies to the first resale, and sales between relatives have further restrictions. 

     

    Key Programs Created or Expanded:

    • The Act reauthorizes DERA, the diesel emissions reduction program, at $500 million a year. 
      • The DERA is an existing program administered by the EPA that funds projects aimed at diesel emissions reduction.
    • The Act reauthorizes the Clean School Bus Program at $65 million a year through 2025.
      • $15 million is designated for replacing or retrofitting buses that serve disadvantaged communities.
    • The Act establishes a pilot program for the electrification of certain refrigerated vehicles. The program would provide grants, rebates, or low-cost loans to eligible entities.
    • The Act creates a $500 million a year Zero Emissions Ports Infrastructure Program. 
      • The program is funded through 2030 and assists ports and port users in replacing cargo handling equipment, port harbor craft, drayage trucks, and other equipment with clean or zero emissions technology.
      • A minimum of 25% of this funding will go to areas in non-attainment status.
      • A portion of this funding will also be used to help ports develop clean microgrids that directly power their facilities with cleaner energy.

     

    Several other bills have been introduced with clean energy and alternative fuels in mind. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 (S.2302) would fund alternative fueling infrastructure and reauthorize the DERA program. It has been introduced in the Senate. Similarly, the Clean Corridors Act of 2019 (S.674, H.R.2616) would award grants to government entities and planning organizations for the installation of electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors, like the one in Louisiana. The bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate. 

    The Moving Forward Act has been characterized as the House’s first offer in infrastructure-related negotiations. While smaller bills like the Clean Corridors Act or the Transportation Infrastructure Act may be passed on their own, a larger infrastructure package like the Moving Forward Act may be drafted by the Senate as a counteroffer to the House’s act, or sweeping reforms beneficial to the alternative fuels sector may wait until Congress’s next session. In either case, it seems there will be some federal aid for alternative fuels infrastructure in the near future. 

    Sources:

    House Summary of each section of the Moving Forward Act

    National Law Review: House of Representatives Passes Sweeping Infrastructure Bill

    Forbes: Moving Forward Act is a $1.5 Trillion Congressional Bill that Loves Electric Vehicles

    American Biomass Council: Moving Forward Act can Boost Biogas Industry




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    Alternative Fuel Tax Incentives Update

    Key alternative fuel incentives retroactively extended in Final FY 2020 Spending Bill

    NOTE: This incentive originally expired on December 31, 2017, but was retroactively extended through December 31, 2020, by Public Law 116-94.

    Alternative fuel excise credits extended

    The excise tax credit covers fuels including compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas (both naturally occurring CNG and LNG, and that derived from biomass), propane autogas, and liquefied hydrogen when used as a motor fuel. A tax credit in the amount of $0.50 per gallon* is available for the following alternative fuels:

    • natural gas (CNG& LNG)
    • liquefied hydrogen,
    • propane,
    • and compressed or liquefied gas derived from biomass

    *For propane and natural gas sold after December 31, 2015, the tax credit is based on the gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) or diesel gallon equivalent (DGE). For taxation purposes, one GGE is equal to 5.75 pounds (lbs.) of propane and 5.66 lbs. of compressed natural gas. One DGE is equal to 6.06 lbs. of liquefied natural gas. Example: the propane tax credit ends up being about 37 cents a GGE.

    For an entity to be eligible to claim the credit they must be liable for reporting and paying the federal excise tax on the sale or use of the fuel in a motor vehicle. Tax exempt entities such as state and local governments that dispense qualified fuel from an on-site fueling station for use in vehicles qualify for the incentive. Eligible entities must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The incentive must first be taken as a credit against the entity's alternative fuel tax liability; any excess over this fuel tax liability may be claimed as a direct payment from the IRS. The tax credit is not allowed if an incentive for the same alternative fuel is also determined under the rules for the ethanol or biodiesel tax credits.

    For more information about claiming the credit, see IRS Form 4136, which is available on the IRS Forms and Publications website. (Reference Public Law 116-94, Public Law 115-123, Public Law 114-113, and 26 U.S. Code 6426)

    Point of Contact
    Excise Tax Branch
    U.S. Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel
    Phone: (202) 317-6855
    http://www.irs.gov/

    Sourcehttps://afdc.energy.gov/laws/319


    infrastructure tax credits also extended

    Fueling equipment for natural gas, propane, liquefied hydrogen, electricity, E85, or diesel fuel blends containing a minimum of 20% biodiesel installed through December 31, 2020, is eligible for a tax credit of 30% of the cost, not to exceed $30,000. Permitting and inspection fees are not included in covered expenses. Fueling station owners who install qualified equipment at multiple sites are allowed to use the credit towards each location. Consumers who purchased qualified residential fueling equipment (such as EV Charging equipement) prior to December 31, 2020, may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000. (Source: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/10513 )

    IRS Forms and Links

    How do you file for credits? The Alternative Fuels Data Center says the Treasury Department will provide more details on the process on March 11. Claims may be submitted after Treasury issues guidance. Claims will be paid within 60 days after receipt.

     

    Other retroactively extended tax credis in HR 1865:

    • the $1.00-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and biodiesel mixtures, and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon, retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and prospectively through 2022 (for more information: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/395 ) ;
    • the alternative fuel excise credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020;
    • the alternative fuel infrastructure credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020; and
    • the credit for qualified fuel cell vehicles retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020 (for more information: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/350 ).

    The bill also:

    • includes $40 million for the DOE Clean Cities program – a nearly $3 million increase over last year;
    • includes $87 million for the EPA Diesel Emission Reduction grants; and
    • requires the Federal Highway Administration to approve all clean vehicle projects submitted prior to April 17, 2018, using the previous criteria (final assembly in the United States) and it directs the agency to review and respond to Buy America waiver requests within 60 days of submission.

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