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The New Year kicked off with good news for alternative fuel fleets: the “fiscal cliff” bill passed by Congress includes the extension of previously expired federal tax credits for alternative fuels and alternative fueling infrastructure. The rebates, which had expired at the end of 2011, have now been extended through 2013 and also made retroactive for the year 2012. Fleets that converted vehicles to clean fuel or installed an alt fuel station last year are in luck, and those that have been thinking about making the switch…read on!

One tax credit allows clean fleets to recoup 50 cents per gge (gasoline gallon equivalent) specifically for the alternative fuels propane autogas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid natural gas (LNG). The other provides a 30 percent credit on fueling infrastructure for any alternative fuel, on up to $30,000 per facility.

Though propane autogas is already affordable for fleets to implement without federal funding [see our recent post “America’s most cost-effective and practical clean fuel succeeds despite lack of government support”], this is still great news in terms of encouraging the use of domestic alternative fuel in the U.S. transportation sector. Fleets that have already made the transition to clean fuel will recoup enough money to add even more alt fuel vehicles over the next year. For fleet operators that have thought about converting to an alternative fuel but worried about the upfront cost, these tax credits may just be the extra incentive (pardon the pun) they need to take that first step toward greening their vehicles and saving on fuel costs in the long run.

If you’re a fleet operator considering making the switch to alternative fuel in 2013, we encourage you to do your research to decide on the most practical fuel for your fleet. The Alternative Fuel Fact Briefs available on the Autogas for America website provide a side-by-side comparison of propane autogas versus natural gas electric vehicles and gasoline, so you can see how each fuel stacks up in the areas of cost, emissions reduction and overall viability.

Here’s to a greener 2013 for American fleets—happy saving!

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According to a new study by psychologists at Germany’s Chemnitz University of Technology, drivers who regularly worry about an electric vehicles’s (EV) battery level don’t maximize their vehicle’s potential. The study found that worried drivers overcharged their EVs on a regular basis. However, the study didn’t address how overcharging can lower the vehicle’s battery life and potentially strain electric grids.

Feeling like you’re about to be stranded because your car runs out of juice is known as “range anxiety” in the EV business. The study at Chemnitz found drivers experienced range anxiety about once per month, and researchers proposed that feeling could worsen if there were no nearby public charging stations. EV manufacturers have long tried to dismiss consumers’ worry about insufficient mileage between charges. Then again, when new battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf lose power unexpectedly, range anxiety may be well founded.

The researchers discovered most drivers needlessly recharged their vehicle with 20 percent or more power left in the battery. This finding is important because frequent charging can overwhelm the electric infrastructure, which is already threatened by electric vehicles.

Experts estimate that EVs consume about a third of the power of a house, and warn that adding electric cars to a residential area could overwhelm transformers and even cause blackouts. A public charging network would ease drivers’ nerves, but would add an additional burden to the grid. EVs draw their power from a system that is not prepared to meet the increased demand.

Overcharging can also degrade EV’s battery at a higher rate. Fast charging a Nissan Leaf, for example, can decrease the battery life much faster than slow charging at home. And, replacing a dead EV battery isn’t cheap: a recent article from the UK states that a new battery pack could cost over $30,000.

With the harm overcharging can ultimately bring to their vehicles and the electric grid infrastructure, EV drivers unfortunately have more to worry about than just their range.

Image by Salvatore Vuono

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  • Electric vehicles aren’t “zero-emissions” as advertised. Sure, EVs may have no tailpipe emissions, but when an EV plugs in, where does the energy come from? The fact is, almost 50 percent of our nation’s electricity is produced by coal. According to one new study, half of an EV’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are produced during the manufacturing and shipping phase.
  • Alternative vehicle fuels aren’t just better for the environment, they’re better for your health. In some states, vehicle emissions constitute the largest source of air pollution like smog and ozone, which can lead to respiratory and other health issues. That’s why the American Lung Association promotes alternative fuel use.
  • Current technology cannot affordably harness enough renewable energy power to meet electricity demand. Also, while wind and hydro power are considered by some to be viable energy sources, researcher and author Vaclav Smil contends that these two sources could only supply a small portion of future energy demand. Together, all renewable energy sources only constitute 8% of current worldwide energy supply, according to Smil’s book.
  • Biofuels, such as ethanol, are not feasible future energy sources. With the challenges that global food supply is currently facing, we can no longer afford to use food as vehicle fuel while other alternatives are available. Many experts have linked redirected food supply used for producing corn-based ethanol to rising tortilla and livestock feed prices. “Ethanol is taking a larger and larger share of [corn] production,” says one agricultural economist.

To learn more about the differences between alternative fuels, view our Alternative Fuel Fact Briefs online.

PHOTO SOURCE: Project Seed

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nissanleafIf you fast charge your Nissan Leaf more than once per week, you could see a decrease in your vehicle battery life by several years.

Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, said, “If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity…closer to 70 percent after 10 years.”

The same article also states that an average Lithium-Ion battery cell in an electric cycle has about 1,000 full cycles before it is classified as reaching its “end of life” (EOL).  If you fast charge your Leaf more than twice a week, however, the battery’s EOL could arrive much more quickly. Since the lifespan of the battery is determined by a fixed number of charge cycles, more frequent charging effectively ‘uses up’ battery capabilities more quickly.

According to the industry, a battery has reached its EOL after it has lost 20 percent of its original storage capacity, meaning a charging capacity of 80 percent, which occurs in about 10 years without frequently fast charging an EV.

With all the expenses of electric vehicles (and they seem to be making them more expensive over time), the cost of a replacement battery brings yet another cost into the mix if you want your EV to keep running. In fact, according to a recent British article, it could cost you up to £19,000 to purchase a new battery pack, which would be about $30,645 in U.S. dollars. Indeed, Nissan has stated the production costs for a replacement Leaf battery are around $18,000 – but has declined to say on its website how much a replacement battery would cost the consumer.

And it seems other automotive buffs are questioning the viability of the Leaf’s battery. As Daryl Siry wrote in a blog for

“It also appears that Nissan has cut corners on the most critical aspects of electric vehicle technology – the battery pack.”

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Posted by admin at 5:08PM on 6/24/2011 with tags: , , , , , , ,

A recent British study has questioned the environmental benefits of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and has gone so far as to claim they may be dirtier than gasoline vehicles. While this statement may baffle those who have seen automakers’ touting “zero emissions” EVs (view our June 2nd post about Nissan), the study goes on to say that nearly half of an electric vehicle’s emissions are produced during the manufacturing process, before the car has ever been driven. EVs require multiple batteries to operate – batteries that greatly increase the amount of energy needed and pollution created by the factory.

Of course, the other portion of EV emissions is created when the vehicle’s battery is charging. Since much of the world’s electricity is sourced from dirty sources such as coal, the EV’s emissions are simply being transferred from the road to the area around the power plant.

One place this study’s findings might be (indirectly) tested is in Australia where PEV manufacturer Tesla is attempting to break the national record for the longest road trip by an electric vehicle with its all-electric “Roadster.” It will be recharged along the way with renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind to illustrate the low emissions capabilities of the vehicle. Critics of the project, such as automotive expert and editor of New Zealand’s sardonic Dog and Lemon Guide Clive Matthew-Wilson, say that the car isn’t as environmentally conscious as Tesla would have you believe. “Burning coal to make electricity to power an electric car creates more pollution than if you simply powered the same vehicle using petrol [gasoline],” Matthew-Wilson said.

This study was among the first to complete an analysis of  the energy-intensity of producing batteries when calculating EV life-cycle emissions. Given that this and other recent studies have targeted EVs’ green credentials lately, shifting from gasoline to mass production of EVs may be too ambitious for now – which only furthers the case for using American-made, clean-burning alternative fuels like autogas and natural gas.

To make the way for a true clean energy future with PEVs, America would need to overhaul its energy grids and greatly expand renewable energy use. The disparity between EVs’ actual contribution to lowering emissions and EV proponents’ dream of what it could be does not mean we’re stuck with gasoline in 2011– autogas is right here, right now.