Alternative Fuels

We cannot achieve California’s aggressive climate policy goals without implementing a suite of alternative fuels in the transportation sector. Clean vehicle technology, increased fuel economy, and a reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) serve as vital components of any strategy to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases, but equally important will be the implementation of low carbon, renewable fuels to complement a portfolio approach of new strategies. Due to the massive scale and urgency of the challenge, it is essential to incorporate current commercially available near-term solutions in addition to consistently focusing on longer-term goals.

With this strategy in mind, EIN continues to push the envelope for potential Zero Emission Vehicle platforms powered by Hydrogen (link to H2 resources/factsheet section) and Electricity (link to EV resources section): the only available fuels with the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to zero.  However, until the Infrastructure (link to our infrastructure subsection) and vehicle technology (link again) has made it possible for these progressive fuels to capture a larger share of the market, it is critical to explore other alternative fuels such as advanced biofuels (Link) and clean renewable diesel (Link), as well as hybrid technologies to use these fuels more efficiently.

The following graph demonstrates the relative carbon intensities of currently available fuel sources when accounting for typical drivetrain efficiencies.  In other words, when comparing the use of these fuels, the larger bars represent greater greenhouse gas emissions.

   
The following is a selection of some key areas of focus for EIN’s alternative fuels program:


Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) 

EIN provided regular input in the development of the LCFS and continues to engage on key remaining areas of the implementation as a LCFS Advisory Committee Member. These areas of focus include: Market Design, Ultra-low carbon fuels, Regulatory Barriers, and Sustainability. 


AB 118 Implementation: Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program 

EIN serves as an AB 118 Advisory Committee member and monitors the AB118 funding process, including the Requests For Proposal’s that are released, awards that are made, and modifications to the funding.


SB 1505: Environmental Performance Standards for Hydrogen Fuel

EIN is working with CARB staff, industry and environmental stakeholders to develop the regulation, which by law requires a minimum 33.3% of Hydrogen used in the transportation sector be produced from renewable sources.


Infrastructure

Clean vehicles will not succeed in the marketplace without access to clean fueling infrastructure.  The two most promising zero emission vehicle (ZEV) platforms; battery-electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (HFCEV), have significant infrastructure limitations to overcome before they can be adopted by the mass market.  These limitations can, and will, be overcome, but we need creative solutions to get there.

Electricity Infrastructure:

To a point, BEVs and Plug-in Hybrids can take advantage of existing electric infrastructure.  However, these vehicles place significant strain on the electric grid, especially in hours of peak demand:  plugging in a BEV is the approximate equivalent of adding another house to the grid.

Before BEVs can saturate neighborhoods, transformers need to be upgraded to handle the additional demand. In addition, apartment dwellers need access to charging locations, policies need to be developed to encourage drivers to charge their vehicles off-peak hours (i.e., at night), and we need to greatly increase renewable electricity generation to ensure the environmental benefits of BEVs from a Well-to-Wheels perspective.

Hydrogen Infrastructure:

Today, a hydrogen fill up operates like a traditional gasoline fill up: the customer drives to a refueling station, connects to the pump, and fills their tank in about 5-10 minutes.  The problem?  We need stations.

In the early market, the business case for building hydrogen infrastructure is difficult to justify.  Government incentives and regulations are needed to spur infrastructure development until economies of scale are large enough to make the stations economical. Also, government needs to play a critical role in ensuring that hydrogen is produced in a manner that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector (see SB 1505).

Policies:

Energy Independence Now (EIN) dedicates substantial effort to ensure that infrastructure remains a key component of the alternative fuel vehicle conversation.  In particular, EIN is intimately involved in the development and implementation of the following California policies:

AB 118 Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program  

The AB 118 Investment Plan is administered by the California Energy Commission to leverage public funds to encourage private development of alternative fuel infrastructure and vehicles.

The Clean Fuels Outlet is an existing California Air Resource Board (CARB) authority to require the installation of alternative fueling infrastructure.  CARB is revising this regulation to leverage the private funds of oil companies to develop necessary infrastructure.


AB 118 Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program 

The AB 118 Investment Plan is administered by the California Energy Commission to leverage public funds to encourage private development of alternative fuel infrastructure and vehicles.


The Clean Fuels Outlet 

The Clean Fuels Outlet is an existing California Air Resource Board (CARB) authority to require the installation of alternative fueling infrastructure.  CARB is revising this regulation to leverage the private funds of oil companies to develop necessary infrastructure.


VMT Reduction

Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

In California, approximately 40 percent of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the transportation sector, the single largest source of GHGs by sector.1

Climate change experts working to reduce emissions from the transport sector continually refer to the need to take action on all “three legs of the stool”:  we need increasingly efficient vehiclesdecarbonized fuels, and to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  VMT represents the number of miles driven by an individual, group, or society. 

Reducing VMT may be the most difficult “leg” to address. While developing more efficient vehicles and decarbonizing fuels are inherently technical problems, reducing VMT is a behavioral issue. How do we get people to drive less?  If we don’t decrease or stagnate VMT, the emissions reductions associated with increased drivetrain efficiency and improved emissions capture technology can easily be overcome by people spending more time on the road.

EIN believes that there is a need for a fresh look at how California will address its VMT problem. There is clearly a need for the general policies, like SB375, that reduce the overall need to drive though good land use planning, as well as the need to employ pricing policies to increase the general cost of driving (relative to other transportation options).  But, these types of policies are not likely to be enough. 

The answer starts at the individual level.  We, as a society, need to look more deeply into who is driving, and why, to uncover segments within the generic population of VMT that are amenable to targeted solutions.  If we are to succeed in reducing emissions in the near and long term, VMT reduction has to play a critical role.  

For resources on how to reduce your individual driving needs visit the “Reduce your Driving” section of our site.

 

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 1Climate Change Scoping Plan: A Framework For Change.  Pursuant to AB 32, The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.  December 2008.