Sean M. Lyden

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

If your fleet operates plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) – or is planning to do so – there’s an emerging technology you’ll want to put on your radar that could impact your vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions within the next year or two.

It’s wireless EV charging, which proponents believe holds the key to widespread transportation electrification.

That’s because one of the friction points of operating EVs is the inconvenience of charging with a conventional cord and plug-in system, said David Schatz, vice president of business development and sales for WiTricity (http://witricity.com), a firm that develops wireless charging systems for EVs, headquartered in Watertown, Mass.

Schatz cites a major automaker’s internal study that found that 70 percent of all plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners never plug in and opt for fueling only with gas because of the “inconvenience” of plugging in their vehicle.

The idea here is that if you cut the cord, you make EV charging more acceptable to a larger market because you’re not forcing users to change their behavior. “PHEV and EV drivers simply park over a charging pad in their garage, or at work, or at a shopping center and charge up with no hands, no effort,” Schatz said.

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Fiona Soltes

Getting Utility Fleet Drivers to Embrace Idle Reduction

Getting Utility Fleet Drivers to Embrace Idle Reduction

Regardless of how cutting-edge a type of technology may seem, getting buy-in from prospective users often requires a pragmatic approach: They need to be convinced it works.

Such is the case with anti-idling technology. Today’s tools – aimed at reducing emissions and wasted fuel – include automatic shut-off systems, real-time alerts and plug-in hybrid vehicles that allow systems to work when the engine is off. But the only way utility fleet operators will fully embrace such tools, experts say, is when they grasp the difference that can be made, in terms of both the environment and their organization’s financial bottom line.

“It’s very spotty,” said Linda Gaines, transportation system analyst at Argonne National Laboratory (www.anl.gov) and a recognized idling authority. “You’ll go to some meetings and talk to some fleets, and they’re on board. It’s like your job is done, and the information is all out there. A lot of states have regulations, and it seems like we’ve made a lot of headway. And then you go and visit some company and see how far there still is to go.”

Gaines referenced one organization that is interested in idle reduction and went through the process of installing telematics, but, she said, was still “absolutely shocked by how much idling their trucks were actually doing. I think that’s not an unusual occurrence. Just by sharing that information with the drivers, without any kind of threat or any kind of reward, either way, just by being aware, the drivers reduced their idling by some very significant fraction.” That fraction was near 30 percent.

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Jim Galligan

New Power Sources Aid Anti-Idling Efforts

New Power Sources Aid Anti-Idling Efforts

Unnecessary idling is still the bane of many utility fleets, and while not every fleet wants to turn off vehicle engines at job sites, some new and updated technologies are offering improved auxiliary energy options.

In March, Altec (www.altec.com) introduced JEMS 4, the latest version of its Jobsite Energy Management System, which offers integrated engine-off cab heating and cooling and an on-demand, electrified PTO for hydraulic power.

The anti-idling system is automatic; as soon as the truck is put in park or neutral, the engine shuts down. “In this way, idle mitigation is not something the operator has to think about,” said Mark Greer, Altec market manager.

JEMS 4 relies on a new generation of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, which offer improved thermal and chemical stability – safer chemistries – than the previous cobalt-based lithium-ion batteries. Also, the battery pack is about half the weight of previous versions and takes up about half the space, Greer said. (For more information, see the “Better Batteries, Lower Prices” sidebar at the end of this article.)

The core of JEMS is the idle and power management system from Cullman, Ala.-based ZeroRPM (www.zerorpm.com). In addition to the controller, components include lithium-iron power and energy modules to power booms, buckets and systems, said Evan Miller, vice president of sales and marketing. ZeroRPM also offers a stand-alone AC unit powered by the energy modules, and for organizations with enough roof space, the company has a solar-powered option to charge the batteries.

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UFP Webmaster

Michigan Lakes Region Clean Cities Expo

 

Michigan Lakes Region Clean Cities Expo held at the Northern Illinois University Building in Naperville, IL on Thursday May 19

Click here to read more: http://chicagocleancities.org/clean-cities-coalitions-to-host-environmental-conference/

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Jenny Malcolm

Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

The benefits of advanced telematics systems are widely known today. They can help fleets deploy resources more efficiently, increase the number of jobs completed each day, reduce costs and more. But even so, having an awareness of these benefits is often not enough to convince fleet managers that an investment in telematics is worthwhile. To discover if a fleet-wide system will truly deliver value, fleet professionals must first take the time to identify their business challenges, set criteria and pilot different systems.

To identify the business problems a telematics system could potentially solve, fleet professionals should study their fleet’s productivity, fuel and labor expenses, safety concerns and quality of customer service. The fact is that a number of utility fleets are unable to answer important questions about these operational areas that make a big impact on a utility’s bottom line. Gaining a better understanding of the primary challenges the fleet faces is the first step toward building a business case for a telematics system implementation.

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Michael Taylor

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Approved as an alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990, propane autogas is certainly not new to the transportation industry. For several decades, many American fleets have used the fuel to reduce emissions and operating costs. But as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency tightens standards and regulations – a trend that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future – fleets across the country are ramping up their efforts to find more reliable, cleaner and more affordable fuel alternatives. And for utility fleets in particular, propane autogas is proving to be a viable option.

Vehicle Options
A growing number of OEMs now offer propane autogas vehicles that provide horsepower, torque and towing capacity comparable to gasoline and diesel versions of the same models. Most recently, medium-duty product offerings such as the ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-650 and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. S2G have entered the marketplace. Certified aftermarket propane autogas fuel systems from Blossman Services Inc. and ICOM North America have also emerged, providing utility fleet professionals with options that are ideal for service, bucket and crane trucks.

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Jim Galligan

Plug-In Pickups: A Market in Need of Products

Plug-In Pickups: A Market in Need of Products

An initiative to increase utility fleets’ use of plug-in hybrid electric pickup trucks (see “Utilities Push Toward Fleet Electrification”) runs up against the reality that there are few vehicle options available to interested fleets.

But as growth in the electric power industry slows, electrifying the transportation sector “is a huge, albeit long-term opportunity for load growth,” the Edison Electric Institute stated in a June 2014 report, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge."

Electric utilities, EEI suggests, are missing an opportunity to help themselves by not expanding their use of plug-in electric vehicles. Only about 1.7 percent of the vehicles purchased by electric utilities in the last five years were equipped with plug-in technology, EEI noted, using data from Utilimarc, a consulting firm based in Minneapolis.

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Cheryl Knight

The Business Case for Natural Gas Vehicles in Utility Fleets

The Business Case for Natural Gas Vehicles in Utility Fleets

As utility fleets continue to search for cleaner-burning vehicles that operate more efficiently and use lower-cost fuel, the business case for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) is becoming clearer thanks to advancements in vehicle technologies and evolving infrastructure.

And yet, the recent decrease in oil prices – which is being driven, in particular, by a slowing global economy and increased supplies of shale gas in the U.S. – has left some people wondering about the future of NGVs. Do they still offer an economically viable solution for utility fleets? How will the decrease in oil prices impact initiatives to switch to clean-energy vehicles?

“Despite the current low cost of oil, natural gas still enjoys substantial cost savings compared to gasoline and diesel,” said Matthew Godlewski, president of NGVAmerica (www.ngvamerica.org), an organization dedicated to the development of a sustainable market for vehicles powered by natural gas or biomethane. “Utility fleets that have already begun to make the switch to natural gas and have seen its economic and other benefits firsthand are continuing to stay the course.”

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Cheryl Knight

Preventive Maintenance and the Electric Vehicle

Preventive Maintenance and the Electric Vehicle

In an effort to reduce fuel costs, extend replacement cycles and lower greenhouse gas emissions, an increasing number of utility fleets now operate electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, in November 2014, the White House and Edison Electric Institute announced that more than 70 U.S. electric utility companies have plans to devote at least 5 percent of their fleet acquisition budgets to buying plug-in EVs and related technology. Their investments will total approximately $50 million each year.

With fewer moving parts and less reliance on oil to lubricate and help cool the engine parts that do move, EVs represent a sound investment, over time, for many utility fleets. In addition to lower fuel costs and fewer emissions, others benefits of operating EVs include reduced noise levels, exportable power and lower total cost of ownership.

“While you pay more for a plug-in, the overall cost of ownership is significantly lower,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), explaining that payback for the company’s fleet usually ranges from two to seven years. “For our bucket trucks, we’re looking at paybacks in 24 to 30 months. Some of our light-duty applications pay back in five years or less. And some of our pickup trucks see payback in seven years.”

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Curtis Marquardt Jr.

How Standing Idle is Setting You Back

How Standing Idle is Setting You Back

Pop quiz: Which uses more fuel and produces more emissions – letting a passenger car idle for 15 seconds or turning off a car and restarting it after 15 seconds?

If you answered that restarting the car uses more fuel, you would not be alone. Most people believe that starting is the less efficient option. But that’s not the case, according to research conducted by Argonne National Laboratory. Results of their experiment revealed that just 10 seconds of passenger car idling time actually uses more fuel than stopping and restarting the engine.

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Seth Skydel

Electric Vehicle News

EEI-WebSupport Grows for EEI White Paper on Utility Fleets and Electrification
As part of an effort to advance sustainability through fleet adoption of electric vehicles, the Edison Electric Institute has released a white paper, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge,” that focuses on the electric power industry’s effort to accelerate the expansion of electric transportation in commercial and retail markets, beginning with electric utility fleets.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

ACT-Expo-3-WebACT Expo Highlights
Nearly 200 alternative fuel and clean transportation industry leaders were on hand at the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in May to present information on key advancements in alternative fuels and clean vehicles, including electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, clean diesel and renewable fuels technologies.

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Seth Skydel

Effectively Meeting Needs

NVEnergy5-Web“NV Energy is unlike many other utilities our size because we have two metropolitan areas in Reno and Las Vegas, and the rest of the service territory is spread out across nearly 60,000 square miles,” said Joe Pellissier, the company’s process improvement manager. “The terrain ranges from lower desert areas to the alpine forest of Lake Tahoe, with temperatures from over 110 degrees in the summer in Las Vegas to below zero in many areas in northern Nevada.”

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Seth Skydel

Moving the Needle

Wherever we turn these days, it seems that CNG is one topic on everyone’s mind. At the 2014 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference held in June, for example, CNG was the subject of the first technical session, including a report by Nina Kisch, manager, fleet administration, transportation services at PG&E. Among the more than 3,300 on-road alternative-fueled and high-efficiency vehicles in the PG&E fleet, she reported, there are more than 720 natural gas units.

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Seth Skydel

Green Truck Summit

Isuzu-Green-Truck-Summit-WebThe Green Truck Summit, held in conjunction with The Work Truck Show 2014, provided an opportunity for more than 550 attendees to gather information about innovative clean vehicle technologies, alternative fuel trends and upcoming products. Produced by the NTEA and presented by International Truck, the 2014 Green Truck Summit was opened with a keynote address by Patrick Davis, director, Office of Vehicle Technologies, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

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Seth Skydel

Growing Support

In his State of the Union address delivered earlier this year, President Obama, speaking about the important role natural gas has played in his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, urged Congress to support construction of natural gas fueling stations. NGVAmerica, an organization that represents more than 200 companies, environmental groups, and government organizations interested in the use of natural gas and biomethane as transportation fuels, was quick to applaud his remarks.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

Chevy-Impala1-WebEPA 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards Proposal Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. The proposal for annual volume requirements, developed with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, is required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 for all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2014.

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Seth Skydel

Green News

Green-Fleets-ePTO-Odyne-WebCALSTART and its industry partners have helped pass legislation in California aimed at enhancing short- and long-term funding for clean trucks, buses and cars. These measures that are expected to have a nationwide impact include:
• Assembly Bill (AB) 8 that will extend and expand funding for advanced vehicle and fuel demonstrations and deployments through 2023, for a total of more than $2 billion. The funds will continue and enhance funding of the current AB 118 program demonstration and incentive projects, including the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).
• Senate bills 95 and 359, which fill a funding gap in the HVIP voucher program for hybrid and electric trucks and buses, and rebates for clean passenger cars for 2014.
Visit www.calstart.org.

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Seth Skydel

Are We Done With Diesel?

Green Gas Nozzle 300pxConsidering all the activity surrounding alternative fuel vehicles and equipment, from natural gas to hybrids to all-electric models, it’s hard not to wonder if diesel fuel might someday become a thing of the past. Those thoughts were easily erased, however, if you attended the 2013 Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Washington, D.C., where new technology diesel advancements for trucks and passenger vehicles were showcased by the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF).

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Seth Skydel

Green News

PGE3-WebBills Aim to Equalize LNG Fuel Tax
The LNG Excise Tax Equalization Act of 2013 introduced in the U.S. Senate seeks to equitably tax liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a transportation fuel. Similar legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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