Program encourages building of AFV fueling stations
Although the Big Three American auto manufacturers and Japanese companies such as Honda and Toyota offer alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) that run on electricity, compressed natural gas, ethanol or liquefied natural gas, an insufficient number of refueling stations has inhibited widespread acceptance of AFVs. A partial solution may be at hand with the Model Cities Demonstration Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy; the American Lung Association, New York; the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), St. Louis; the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, Jefferson City, Mo.; and other organizations.
The groups recently banded together to build more refueling infrastructure for E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol, made from corn oil, and 15 percent unleaded gasoline). The Model CitiesDemonstration Program seeks to saturate three markets — Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul — with E85 fueling stations to help promote use of E85 vehicles and aid in cleaning up the air. Each of the cities has been designated as an ozone nonattainment area by EPA.
About 40 E85 fueling stations in 14 states (primarily the corn-growing Midwest) currently are open to the public, and more are under construction, says John McClelland, director of energy and analysis for NCGA’s Washington, D.C., office. “If you’re going to be successful, you’re going to have to continue to develop infrastructure as the (AFV) vehicle population increases,” McClelland says.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul alone, the number of E85 fueling stations being built should nearly equal today’s 14-state total. “We’re hoping to build approximately 30 within the next year,” says Tim Gerlach of the American Lung Association, E85 project director for the Twin Cities. The metro Denver project seeks to build 30 to 50 E85 stations within 18 months in a corridor stretching from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, according to Phil Lampert of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
NCGA has contributed about $200,000 toward E85 initiatives, and Illinois and Minnesota each received $250,000 Department of Energy grants to help fund their Model Cities programs. Automobile manufacturers also are donating funds.
In October, President Clinton signed into law an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) that allows the use of biodiesel fuel to meet EPACT requirements for purchase of AFVs. Municipal fleet managers can add biodiesel, a nontoxic fuel made from renewable sources such as soybean oil, to conventional diesel at blends of 20 percent and higher.
That is particularly good news for fleet managers in metro areas with populations of more than 250,000, which are mandated by EPACT to make AFVs a certain percentage of their total fleets. The legislation will enable them to garner credits to offset up to 50 percent of AFV acquisition requirements.