Happy Friday! Since I’ve been on vacation for the last couple of weeks and have not posted, this edition of the Top Five is kind of like the “in case you missed it” (ICYMI) edition. This is my take on the five most interesting developments in low carbon fuels and vehicles (LCFVs) trends over the last two weeks:
- The European Commission released its strategy for low-emission mobility (i.e. low carbon transport) a key feature of which will center on a possible targets for zero-emission vehicles. My guess is the Commission is going to follow California’s lead in this area.
- EPA/NHTSA and CARB released its draft technical assessment report on the 2022-2025 vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards last week, acknowledging its projected 54.5 mpg standard will not be met and would be closer to 50-52.6 mpg (which I calculate is a 40% improvement over today’s standards)
- That same week, and I would guess not coincidentally, the White House unveiled its Guiding Principles to Promote Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure.
- An article from Vox that captures a vision some advocates in this space want to make happen: shared, self-driving, self-charging electric vehicles that would effectively end vehicle ownership. You may not share in that vision, and you may even scoff. I wouldn’t blame you. However, and as I’ve been writing about for the past several months, the convergence of three major trends: worsening air quality in cities (despite the many mitigation measure that have been implemented for transport), government commitments to the Paris Agreement and the pace of technology development has put this vision more within reach.
- DOE’s 2016 Billion Ton Report adds algae and municipal waste to the analysis for the first time and continues to project that there’s enough biomass in the U.S. to displace 30% of petroleum on an annual basis. It all comes down to economics at the end of the day, DOE acknowledges. Volume Two of the report, to be released later this year, will look at environmental sustainability.
The European Commission released its strategy for low emission mobility (i.e. low carbon transport) last week, noting that this is Europe’s answer to the challenges of transport-related air pollution and climate change and that an “is an irreversible shift” is required. “The ambition is clear: by midcentury, GHG emissions from transport will need to be 60% lower than 1990 and be firmly on the path towards zero.” In a previous post, I highlighted Europe’s challenge on transport-related GHGs.
While GHGs are at their lowest levels since 1990, transport-related GHGs have increased 17%, growing from 124 Mt from 1990-2014 and 7 Mt from 2013-2014 alone, according to the European Environment Agency. Given the strong climate commitments made in Paris last December and worsening air pollution in Europe’s major cities, an holistic, coordinated and long-term strategy is required. And, it’s clear that electric vehicles and advanced biofuels are going to play a major part in this. Key provisions of the strategy include the following:
- Optimizing the Transport System and Improving Its Efficiency: The Commission is working on a framework for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) (including Cooperative ITS) for all transport modes. The Commission is developing standards for interoperable electronic tolling systems in the EU and revising the Directive on the charging for lorries based on CO2 differentiation.
- Scaling Up the Use of Low-Emission Alternative Energy for Transport: Decreasing its oil usage by developing policies to incentivize low carbon transport (or in the Commission’s language “energies needed for the long-term decarbonisation.” The Commission cited the potential for “an obligation for fuel suppliers to provide a certain share of renewable alternative energy, i.e. advanced biofuels and synthetic fuels, for example through a blending mandate or an obligation to reduce the greenhouse gas impact of the energy supplied.” These would be non-food based biofuels. The strategy also cited infrastructure and noted that the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive requires member states by November 2016 to develop policy frameworks for rolling out publicly available electric recharging points and natural gas filling stations, and optionally hydrogen filling stations.
- Moving towards Zero-Emission Vehicles: The Commission referenced its new real-world emissions testing approach, its adoption of the World Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure and the setting of new emission and GHG standards post 2020. But the real nugget is this: the Commission “will also analyse the impact of different ways to incentivise low- and zero-emission vehicles in a technology neutral way, such as setting specific targets for them. Such vehicles will need to be properly defined, including possibly distinguishing between low-emission and zero-emission vehicles.” Also: “As regards consumer up-take, more needs to be done to create markets for low- and zero emission vehicles.” The Commission cited improved labeling, public procurement (fleets) and tax instruments as potential measures.
- Enabling Environment for Low Emission Mobility: “Low emission mobility could affect energy supply, by creating additional demand for some energy sources and reducing demand for others. Suppliers of fossil fuels will need to embrace new opportunities related to low-emission alternative energy for transport. Low emission mobility could create more demand for electricity and additional pressure on the power sector to decarbonise under the EU Emission Trading System.” The Commission is working on the Electricity Market Design proposal, aiming to facilitate the integration of electromobility, by encouraging charging at times of cheap electricity when demand is low or supply high.
Accompanying the strategy were a number of other measures designed to transition the EU to a low-carbon economy, including binding GHG reduction targets for the member states.
U.S. EPA, NHTSA and CARB released its draft technical assessment report (TAR) on the GHG and CAFE standards for the years 2022-2025 last week. Much has been made in the media about the apparent disconnect between the standards and current U.S. consumer vehicle preferences tending toward larger SUVs driven by lower gasoline prices. Headlines have ranged from “Government abandons 54.5-mpg CAFE standard” to “EPA Study Bolsters Keeping 2025 U.S. Fuel Economy Targets.”
While the TAR acknowledges the 2012 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) projection will not be met collectively, real world fuel economy will end up somewhere around 50-52.6 mpg (at least a 40% improvement over today’s standards) met with a combination of technologies that do not include electric vehicles (EVs) or even hybrids. Click here for some takeaways from my review of the TAR earlier this week.
Later that week the White House unveiled its Guiding Principles to Promote Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure, “an unprecedented set of actions from the federal government, private sector, and states, as well as a new framework for collaboration for vehicle manufacturers, electric utilities, electric vehicle charging companies, and states, all geared towards accelerating the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and putting more electric vehicles on the road.”
Also ICYMI it’s clear (at this point and in this Administration) that EVs are the end game, which is ultimately about meeting the 2050 2°C reduction requirement nations agreed to in Paris last December. Key points included the following:
- Unlocking up to $4.5 billion in loan guarantees and inviting applications to support the commercial-scale deployment of innovative electric vehicle charging facilities;
- Launching the FAST Act process to identify zero emission and alternative fuel corridors, including for electric vehicle charging across the country, and standing up an effort to develop a 2020 vision for a national network of electric vehicle fast charging stations that will help determine where along the corridors it makes the most sense to locate the fast charging infrastructure;
- Announcing a call for state, county, and municipal governments to partner with the federal government to procure electric vehicle fleets at a discounted value;
- Leveraging the power of data and hosting an ‘Electric Vehicle Hackathon’ to discover insights and develop new solutions for electric vehicle charging;
- Publishing a guide to federal funding, financing, and technical assistance for electric vehicles and charging stations; and
- 35 new businesses, non-profits, universities, and utilities signing on to DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge and committing to provide electric vehicle charging access for their workforce.
This article captures a version of the future some advocates are working hard to make a reality: self-driving, self-charging shared electric vehicles. “As these vehicles inch tantalizingly closer to reality, we are starting to imagine an entirely new transportation system, in which self-driving electric vehicles are organized into shared city fleets, and dispatched by smartphone to satisfy transportation demand. In this brave, new world, there’s no need for private vehicle ownership.”
I doubt many drivers the world over will share in this vision – they won’t want to give up their cars. The Vox article cites a study by the International Transport Forum (ITF) noting private cars offer advantages in flexibility, comfort and availability. Moreover, a study cited by the World Economic Forum in a post this week highlighted the need for drivers to break their emotional attachment to their vehicles in addition to letting these advantages go.
On the other hand, ever-increasing congestion and air pollution is some of the world’s largest cities may cause drivers to rethink. And they may not have a choice as city, provincial and federal governments start to implement policies to ban vehicles and better promote public transport, setting the stage for implementing shared electric vehicle policies in the near future (see above!).
The new edition of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Billion Ton Report (earlier versions were produced in 2005 and 2011, respectively) analyzes the potential economic availability of biomass feedstocks under specified market scenarios, including currently used resources as well as the cost of production, harvesting, and transportation; potential yield range, and economic supply for 30 candidate feedstocks (>1 billion dry tons/year).What DOE has done to make its data not only available, but usable and interactive, is exceptional. The map below shows potential supplies of the different feedstocks in the country at $60 per dry ton or less.
For the first time, the report includes algae and municipal solid waste (MSW) resources, provide greater detail of dedicated energy crop systems, and incorporate logistics costs related to delivering biomass to the biorefinery, according to DOE. The report shows the potential availability of more than 1 billion dry tons of biomass for bioenergy and coproducts in the U.S., consistent with the first two reports, and translates into a potential displacement of 30% of U.S. petroleum.
Moreover, all of this is non-food based feedstock that does not disrupt agricultural (including food) production and has tremendous implications for advanced biofuels production. Some highlights for the major feedstocks studied follows below.
- Forest Biomass: At prices between $40 and $80 per dry ton, the report estimates that annual gross potential of all forest biomass supply (including residues) is about 21 million to 116 million dry tons from 2017 to 2040 for both private and federal lands for the baseline scenario, according to the report.
- Dedicated Energy Crops: Energy crops included in the analysis of agricultural biomass resources include herbaceous varieties—switchgrass, miscanthus, biomass sorghum, and energy cane—as well as short-rotation woody crops—willow, eucalyptus, poplar, and pine. These crops are expected to enter into production in 2019, according to DOE. crop residues will comprise the majority of new agricultural biomass resources in the near term, while herbaceous energy crops will contribute the bulk of agricultural resources in the long term. The figure below shows the base-case and high-yield scenarios by price point and type of energy crop/residue.
- Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): The report estimates that annual gross potential of MSW biomass supply is about 51 to 55 million dry tons at prices of $40 per dry ton and $60 per dry ton. These estimates represent cost and availability from 2017 to 2040. MSW represents nearly 40% of the total national potential biomass waste resource (54.8 million dry tons out of a total 142 million dry tons available at $84 or less per dry ton). In the baseline scenario, modeled at $60 per dry ton or less, total waste resource potential is approximately 20% of all feedstock potential, meaning waste resources are approximately 139 million dry tons out of a total feedstock volume of 707 million dry tons available in 2017.