The advantages and disadvantages of alternative fuels are very complex and need to be tied into vehicle usage and the goals of the fleet itself, according to Kathryn Schifferie, director of the Alternative Fuel Alliance.
“It's become very clear that those OEMs and manufacturers that deal with certain specific alternative-fuel solutions are working to provide tools to help decision-makers compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of the fuel choices they recommend,” Schifferie said in a National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) webinar, “Alternative Fuels and Your Fleet: What Do You Need to Consider?”
She said alternative fuels improve air quality, reduce pollution, and encourage energy independence and sustainability, thus providing business benefits.
“The total vehicle miles driven in the US is around three trillion miles per year — that's 95,000 miles every second,” she said. “This is the greatest airborne cancer risk, through diesel particulate matter and other fuel-related chemicals. As human beings and citizens, this is important to us. The reaction created CARB, which was before EPA. Decisions and data and requirements are state-driven. CARB is so strong because it predated the EPA and standards. We have to keep that in mind when we look at alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs).”
She said alternative fuels — natural gas, propane autogas, methanol, ethanol, biodiesel, synthetic fuel, electric and hybrids — provide advantages because they're clean-burning (if treated properly), domestically available, provide a smaller carbon footprint, have “renewable” biofuel that allows us to become more sustainable, provide great potential of greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction, and efficient vehicles with closer-to-zero emissions.
According to the most recent statistics (as of July 2010), there were 939,000 AFVs in use and 10,241 fueling stations, excluding private stations.
“Infrastructure is a huge conversation that every business person needs to evaluate before making business decisions,” she said.
There are four categories of alternative fuels:
Natural gas (CNG).
There are 116,000 CNG vehicles in use in the US but 14.8 million vehicles worldwide.
“That is one way to assess the business opportunities, because clearly if they're being used in larger capacities in other countries, there are economic drivers that are going on,” she said.
Types of natural-gas vehicles: dedicated (designed to run only on NG); bi-fuel (have two separate fueling systems that enable them to run on either natural gas or gasoline); and dual-fuel (traditionally limited to heavy-duty applications, and have fuel systems that run on natural gas, and use diesel fuel for ignition assistance).
There are 143,000 LPG vehicles in use in the US, but 17 million on-road vehicles worldwide. Types of vehicles: dedicated; and bi-fuel.
Electric vehicles (HEVs, PEVs, and EVs).
There are 57,000 EVs in use in the US, and two million HEVs have been sold in the US since 2000, although a “fairly significant portion are going to be on the automobile side.”
Types: HEVs (combustion engine and electric), plug-in HEVs (combustion engine, electric, and externally rechargeable battery); and EVs (100% electric).
Biodiesel (a renewable source for diesel, manufactured from organic materials).
There are 13 million diesel vehicles in the US. The most common biodiesel blend is B20, which is 20% biodiesel and 80% conventional diesel. B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% diesel) is also commonly used in fleets.
“Many of the OEMs have slowly expanded their warranties to include use of B20,” she said.
She broke down the types of alternative fuels:
Compressed Natural Gas.
Fuel cost: $2.05 GGE (gasoline gallon equivalent).
Infrastructure: hundreds of stations. “Because of the cost of CNG stations that fill quickly, typically the location would be in an urban market where lots of vehicles could utilize it. There are also stations available for CNG that are slower fill that have significantly less capital investment required.”
Performance: no loss, but there is in tank weight and size.
Greenhouse: lowers emissions.
Fuel cost: $2.64 (negotiable). “Because propane is purchased for other uses, it has some wider variations in pricing, depending on more of the commitment of usage.”
Infrastructure: thousands of propane autogas refueling stations; located in all states, “free” fleet stations “if they make some kind of ongoing commitment to purchase it.”
Performance: no loss.
Greenhouse: up to 25% less.
HEV, PEV, EV.
Fuel cost: $0.11/kWh (location, time). “Electric vehicles have a fairly significant change, not only in greenhouse effects but fuel cost based on the region and time of day the vehicle needs to be recharged.”
Infrastructure: 7000 charging stations.
Performance: limited range and payload issues.
Greenhouse: zero tailpipe.
Fuel cost: $3.83 (B20).
Infrastructure: hundreds of stations.
Performance: No loss.
Greenhouse: reduces emissions and “makes us less dependent on petroleum products.”
Schifferie said Clean Cities, a government-industry partnership, has a mission to advance the energy, economic, and environmental security of the US by supporting local decisions to reduce petroleum use in transportation. It provides a framework for businesses and government agencies to work together, with a goal of reducing US petroleum use by 2.5 billion gallons per year.
There are nearly 100 coalitions in 45 states, made up of local and national stakeholders. There are 8400 stakeholders nationwide — 49% are private sector and 51% public sector.
Clean Cities strategies: replace petroleum with alternative and renewable fuels; reduce petroleum use through fuel efficiency measures, smarter driving practices, and idle reduction; and eliminate petroleum use by promoting mass transit, trip elimination, and congestion mitigation.
National Clean Fleets partnerships provide large private fleets with additional Clean Cities program resources, increasing connections between local fleet managers of a national partner and their corporate employees.
The Alternative Fuel Alliance (AFA) is dedicated to alternative fuels and vehicle education for business management.
“Until business decisions can be made properly, implementation of the commercialization of alternative fuels will continue to be slow and ragged and rough, and we don't want that,” she said. “We want the combined efforts to increase everyone's capabilities.”
As result of that, AFA has been working with California State University-Chico and continuing education to develop an alternative-fuel management certification program.
What's next? She said each company has to look at its Corporate Sustainability Strategy and “become educated on the complex components of making a viable decision.”