A key part of reducing emissions is by cleaning up the transportation sector. In this webinar, learn about how you can reduce your current vehicle’s emissions–no matter where you live–while saving money at the tank. Our panel discusses the value of low- and mid-blend ethanol and its benefits for your vehicle, its emissions, and your fuel costs. Join Urban Air Initiative’s Kim Trinchet and Jump Start’s Phil Near as they educate our audience on low- and mid-blend ethanol grades like E10, E15, E20, and E30. Explore why ethanol is great for your car, the environment and your wallet. We know that we need to do our part by reducing fossil fuel use and improving air quality. We can start right now!

Join us on Wednesday, January 27th at 10 am CST to discuss the benefits of low- and mid-blend ethanol. If you aren’t able to join us, register below to receive the recording after the event.

Our Speakers

Phil Near, Three G Energy and Jump Start Stores Inc. – Near formed Three G in 2010, bringing more than 30 years of petroleum industry leadership, convenience store expertise, and executive management experience to the company. Near has both led and served a number of organizations to include: President of Crescent Oil, Kansas Petroleum Marketers Association President, Kansas Petroleum Markers Association Board of Directors, Kansas Highway Advisory Commission, Conoco National Jobber Advisory Board, Phillips National Jobber Advisory Board, Commerce Bank Board, Leadership Kansas Class, Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors.

Currently serving as president of both Three G Energy and of Jump Start Stores Inc., Near’s focus remains on utilizing cutting edge technology. Providing customers cost-efficient and quality fueling options across the marketplace.

Kim Trinchet is the Communications Manager at Urban Air Initiative (UAI), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving air quality and protecting public health by reducing vehicle emissions through increased use of biofuels. Kim spends much of her time educating industry stakeholders and the public about the emissions, cost and engine benefits of biofuels.  

Prior to joining UAI in 2014, Kim spent 11 years in local news as a reporter and digital content manager. She remains involved in the local community as a member of the Junior League of Wichita and a contributor for Wichita Mom. Kim has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Illinois State University.

 

Tami Alexander joined Metropolitan Energy Center in August 2017 to support the ethanol and biodiesel projects in Kansas. She is the Program Coordinator for the Central Kansas Clean Cities Coalition, managing event coordination, outreach, customer relationship management, program support, research writing, and content development.

In addition to her work at MEC, Tami has several years of facility and non-profit management experience where she introduced sustainability measures to organization practices. She has Bachelor‘s degrees in Mathematics-Statistics and Geology and a Master’s in Environmental Science all from Wichita State University.

 

This event has passed but you can access the slides at the link below.

Cleaner Driving with Cleaner Fuel-Ethanol Webinar Slides

A Pre-Proposal meeting to review the Request for Proposals (RFP) for Alternative Fuel Deployments in Kansas and Missouri will be held on January 19, 2021, at 10:00AM CST. During this meeting, MEC staff will conduct a walk-through of the RFP document. The meeting will be conducted online only; attendees should register for this meeting to receive join credentials or to receive a recording after the event:

 

For information on the RFP, please visit the RFP page on our website.

Batteries are ancient, by today’s tech standards.  Benjamin Franklin is the first person we know of to use the term, and the first published science on the topic dates to 1791.  The days of metal disks stacked in brine are long gone (except in middle school science class).  Lead-acid batteries in cars and golf carts are still common and will be for years, given their low cost.  But the focus here is on the next generation of large-scale systems.  And the question is how these batteries – bigger and more powerful than anything we’ve known  can redefine and remake the world’s electrical grid. 

You’ve likely heard the expression “lightning in a bottle”.  Storing electricity at industrial scale is very much like that.  Electricity moves fast.  In copper wire or other conductors, it’s traveling at somewhere between 50% and 99% of the speed of light.  And in grid operations, it has to be sold – that is, used – as soon as it’s produced.  If it isn’t, grid and utility engineers run the risk of power plants disconnecting, since they’re only designed to run in a very narrow range of conditions.  What this next generation of battery tech provides is a way to store that electricity and in doing so provide a whole basket of benefits – financial, technical and environmental.   

Arguably the biggest single benefit battery storage provides is the ability to capture electricity from renewable sources.  Obviously, the wind doesn’t always blow.  And even when it does, that’s an issue in itself.  In February 2017, the Danes powered their entire country for 24 hours on windpower.  But if a wind farm produces more power than needed, the system operator must start shutting down turbines or face overloading the grid.  And while the sun defines “predictable”, solar plants only provide power for so many hours per day.  Large-scale storage means that intermittent, low-cost, and environmentally-friendly electricity can be stored now and used later.    

Having large amounts of electricity in storage and ready to go at a moment’s notice is a financial boost for power companies.  It means that utilities can sell back low-cost power from renewables to meet peak demand; when power sells for far more than it cost to generate.  It also means that utilities can meet their own demand spikes without having to pay the often-bruising high prices electricity markets produce at peak demand. 

There’s more.  Energy storage can improve the system’s operating reserve.  Like energy, the grid is always moving – more demand here, less demand there, big storms and equipment failures now and again.  It’s a dance that never stops.  Engineers and analysts meet these constant changes with machines and data to keep the system balanced.  But they are never 100% correct in predicting what will happen on any given day.  Having stored reserve power that can be deployed in seconds boosts the operating reserve, and in doing so, boosts grid stability.  Improving stability can mean lower infrastructure investment costs.  It can also cut the costs of “black starts” when generators go down.  Typically, they have to be restarted with diesel generators, but battery systems for just this purpose have already been successfully tested. 

So, what do utility-scale batteries look like?  Imagine shipping containers lined up in an electrical substation, or row after row of gigantic desktop computer towers.  The Hornsdale Power Reserve, in South Australia, was designed and built by Tesla.  It uses lithium-ion batteries (like in your computer) and provides 129 MWh of power – enough to supply all the electricity for about 3,500 homes for an hour.  These projects sound large, though total deployments to date are tiny – globally about 6 GWh through 2018.  But there’s one simple fact that you need to remember.  In 2010, commercial battery packs cost about $1,100 per kilowatt-hour.  By December 2019, that price had fallen to $156 per kilowatt-hour, a drop of 87% – and nearly 50% of that total decline came in the preceding three years.  With costs set to break the $100 mark by as early as 2024, batteries are increasingly likely to be included in energy infrastructure and development for years to come. 

The Kansas Biodiesel Consortium will hold its annual workshop on Wednesday, January 6th, 9:00 am – 11:30 am. This year the event will be virtual. Join us from wherever you are to learn about the Sustainability of the Biodiesel Industry. We’ll look at how biodiesel is both financially and environmentally sustainable. Good for the planet and good for your wallet! All speaker sessions will be followed by an open Q&A with attendees. We’ll finish out the morning with a roundtable discussion about the biodiesel industry. Hear from producers, users and retailers about the benefits of biodiesel. The event is free, but you must register to receive the link. Click the registration button below to join us virtually on January 6th.

Workshop Topics

  • Jim & Andy Barta from Hutchinson Salt will speak about using biodiesel in their mining equipment
  • Jill Johnston with Cargill Biodiesel will discuss the co-products of biodiesel production which improve financial & environmental sustainability
  • Colin Huwyler from Optimus Technologies will share about the fleet experience from B100 biodiesel users
  • Ted Augustine from 24/7 Travel Stores will give his perspective as a fuel retailer offering a biodiesel blend
  • Roundtable Discussion: What does the biodiesel industry need to be environmentally & economically sustainable?

Miss this event?

Click to view the Event Recording.

 

 

Learn how you can partner with KC and Central KS Clean Cities for transportation grants to upgrade fleets, use cleaner fuels and save money.

You asked. We listened. This session will provide details on how to apply for grants through MEC. Partnering with us lets you leverage funding from federal and state programs into more cost-effective operations and cleaner vehicles. We’ll discuss how to prepare a project proposal, and cover what technologies typically are – and aren’t – eligible.

This event will consist of a presentation followed by audience Q&A. We will use screen sharing to show our application forms and how to fill them out.

We’ll also touch on additional state and federal funding opportunities, and welcome your questions. Transportation stakeholders of all stripes are welcome, whether public or private, off-road or on – we hope you’ll join us on December 17th. Click here to register for this free event.

Thinking about EV options for your current medium- or heavy-duty fleet? Not sure where to start? Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, December 8th from 1:00-2:30 pm CST as we learn from industry leaders in production, manufacturing, integration, and adoption of medium and heavy-duty fleets. Learn about medium and heavy-duty electric vehicle options, how current companies have converted their fleets to electric, the benefits of switching, and any roadblocks our presenters have encountered along the way.

Andy Fry from Topeka Metro reveals their approach to bus electrification, while Larry Brasfield from Lion Electric, Kurt Neutgens from Orange EV, Julie Dietrich from Evergy discuss technology and actions to take before pursuing medium- and heavy-duty vehicle electrification. To hear how your fleet can evolve to meet the demand of future transportation, register here.

Larry Brasfield, Regional Sales Manager, Lion Electric Co. – Larry’s role with Lion Electric Co leverages his customer-focused approach and 30 years of experience in the trucking industry. For Lion Electric, the emerging leader in pure electric medium and heavy-duty trucks, Larry specs and sells fleet specific, right sized solutions that meet customers’ needs with zero-emission battery electric solutions. Larry grew up with trucking in the family as the third generation in the business and has worked in many different roles in the industry including full-service leasing, vocational truck sales and natural gas prior to the last 3½ years in EV trucks. The Brasfield legacy is now 4 generations strong as two of his three children are in the industry and he has been blessed with 5 grandchildren.

Julie Dietrich, Evergy – As a Program Manager on the new Electrification team at Evergy, Julie is responsible for developing and implementing the strategic vision for transit and fleet across Evergy’s Kansas and Missouri jurisdictions. This includes building partnerships with fleet managers and their affiliates and offering solutions and support related to fleet electrification.

 

 

Andy Fry, Topeka Metro – Andy is the Special Projects Engineer for the Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority. He is the primary staff member in researching and understanding the implications of electrification of Topeka Metro’s electric bus pilot scheduled to go live in 2023. Andy has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Kansas State University and has worked in the area of utility regulation with Kansas utility providers and consumers in the Kansas Corporation Commission’s Utilities Division. Electric vehicle implementation continues to be a favorite focus of Andy’s career, across the various sectors of his work.

Kurt Neutgens, President & CTO, Orange EV – Kurt is the co-founder of Orange EV and leads engineering, production, sales, service, and technical support for the company. He has 30+ years of OEM product development and manufacturing experience. Kurt was VP of Engineering & Assembly for Harlan Global’s line of airport tractors and launched their all-electric line-up. He launched Electric Vehicle International’s first electric truck model. Kurt co-led Ford’s $2B Eco-Boost program strategy and definition and served as Engineering Manager of the Ford F-150.

 


Kansas City International Airport is no stranger to cleaner fuels.  It began deploying compressed natural gas (CNG) buses back in 1997providing natural gas on site with its own high-speed fueling station.  This made the Aviation Department something of a pioneer in alt-fuel adoption.  The next step, though, was a big jump in fuel efficiency, and in October of 2017, KCI became the first US airport to deploy all-electric shuttle buses.  It’s currently running 7 BYD K7 battery-electric shuttles along with older CNG units. 

There’s no getting around the fact that up-front costs for electric vehicles are going to be higher than for equivalent conventional buses.  In fact, when the airport rolled out data on the comparative costs of different fuels, the contrast was stark.  A brand-new diesel shuttle buses cost about $385,000; for CNG, add an additional 14% for a sticker price of $440,000.  All-electric models come in at a fairly eye-popping $540,000, more than 40% more expensive than the price for a baseline diesel.   

But as anybody who’s bought a car knows, the sticker price isn’t the only price.  The sticker price, in fact, is only the beginning of years of recurring costs.  Kenny Williams is the Fleet Asset Manager for the Aviation Department and one of the main proponents of the EV deployment back in 2016-17 as the project began to take shape.  He broke it down as follows: 

Costs Per Mile (Including fuel and maintenance) 
  • Diesel – variable/volatile fuel prices; approximate costs $1.50/mile 
  • CNG – more stable fuel prices; approximate costs $1.00/mile, $0.45-.50 w. alt-fuel tax credit 
  • Electric – fixed fuel prices; approximate costs $0.50/mile 

Maintenance costs add up quickly for the shuttle bus duty cycle.  Oil changes for CNG units are about $170 and have to happen every other month.  Annual tune-ups add an additional $3,800 to CNG bus operating costs.  So, even with fuel at an economical $0.50/gallon thanks to the clean fuel tax credit, CNG bus maintenance per year comes in between $4,800 and $5,000 per unit.  It’s not like EV buses float on air.  Like CNG units, they need new tires, and fluid changes every 18 months add annual costs of about $165 per year.  But no internal combustion engine means no tune-ups, avoiding the lion’s share of regular maintenance overhead. 

And yet, even with maintenance savings of around $50,000 per bus over ten years, there’s still a big price gap between diesel, CNG and electric buses.  That’s where federal clean-fuel funding comes in.  Thanks to support from the US Department of Energy, KCI was eligible for reimbursements of $72,000 per bus, dropping their costs to just $2,000 more than comparable CNG shuttles.   

The same grant, “Accelerating Alternative Fuel Adoption in Mid-America” provided funding for charging infrastructure, covering about $100,000 of $225,000 in construction and equipment costs for the new systems.  KCI’s electric bus charging lot has eight pedestals installed, with space for an additional four slots if more EV units are purchased  Charging time is about three hours, and this “fueling” process hasn’t had any negative impact on operations.   

Kenny Williams talks EV bus duty cycles at the airport’s charging lot.

What has the driver response been like?  Per Kenny Williams, “For most drivers, once they drive them, they really like them.”  The only minor hitch has been how drivers operate the bus HVAC systems – since they are battery-driven, power loss from cranking up AC or heating at full throttle can take a bite out of driving range when a gentler touch would work better. And KCI is planning on investing in additional EV units.  The economic toll of the pandemic has postponed acquisition of a few of the 12 units originally planned.  However, the Aviation Department is planning on ordering three more units in addition to the seven already in service.  These new buses will be slightly different.  They’ll have inductive charging systems, which will let them power up without cords or plugs, as they pick up passengers at the new terminal starting in early 2023.   

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Vehicle Technologies Program under Award Number DE-EE0008262 . 

Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) announces the first placements of all-electric zero-emission Class-8 yard trucks into service under a new grant project. The project, “Electrifying Terminal Trucks in Unincentivized Markets,” is the result of partnerships from Kansas City to Chicago, whose goal is to electrify terminal trucks in our regional market. The first placements of four planned have taken place at funding recipient Firefly Transportation Services. Based in Glenview, IL, Firefly provides zero-emission transportation options to freight yard, port and cargo sites, along with training and site preparation for all-electric operations.

The vehicles funded under this grant are manufactured by Orange EV. Based in Riverside, MO, Orange EV designs and manufacturers all-electric yard trucks right here in the heartland. They are also the first American company to commercially build, deploy and service 100% electric Class-8 electric vehicles. Before this year, Orange EV had yet to deploy one of their vehicles in the Kansas City area. Jason Dake, Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Orange EV stated, “Not selling one of our trucks in our own backyard was a thorn in our side for a while,” he continued, “Seeing additional trucks deployed in the metro area through the project is a great feeling and most importantly, they are helping our community and improving the air quality for Kansas Citians.”

Additional funding recipients with all-electric truck placements planned in the near future are the Johnson County Wastewater Department in Leawood, KS and Hirschbach Motor Lines, a private long-haul carrier with emphasis on refrigerated and other specialized services. Hirschbach will deploy their truck at a client site in Wyandotte County, KS. Both Evergy and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas Board of Public Utilities will provide technical assistance, as needed, on electrical service and electric rate guidance.

Orange EV will also take possession of a demonstration truck to provide potential customers across the U.S. up to a 2- to 4-month trial period. During the period, they can use the tractor free of charge, viscerally demonstrating air quality, noise-reduction and cost-savings benefits in their unique work environments.

Yard trucks (also known as hostlers, terminal tractors, goats or mules) are designed to pull cargo containers and semi trailers in freight or intermodal yards, or at large manufacturing sites. The workload for these trucks is intense, pulling heavy loads almost continuously. The power required means that most yard trucks are diesel, which results in a great deal of diesel exhaust, one of the worst pollutants and a major source of poor air quality. Diesel exhaust is not only a health risk for workers on site, but it also threatens communities surrounding industrial zones, typically low-income neighborhoods. Even worse, low speed, high-power operations emit much more soot and other particulates than diesel operations at highway speeds. Systematically replacing diesel yard trucks with electric models could substantially boost air quality in and around America’s busiest freight hubs. At the same time, the cost savings both from eliminating diesel fuel and from operating a much more efficient electric powertrain is an attractive advantage.

However, the project is not only about improving air quality and saving money. Another key goal is to gather data on electric truck operations to validate broader deployments of battery-powered yard trucks. Telematics and data, supported by fleet interviews and operational evaluation, will be analyzed by another project partner and nearby neighbor, Missouri University of Science and Technology. Ultimately, MEC will create a deployment guide based on the real-world experiences of our project partners in Chicago and Kansas City so fleet operators across the country can make the move to cleaner, more efficient freight handling.

To learn more about this project or to request the demo truck for your work site, please contact Emily Wolfe.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Award Number DE-EE0008887.

As we near the end of the year, it is anticipated that Congress will be discussing whether to extend certain federal tax credits such as the Alternative Fuel and Energy Efficiency Tax CreditsContact your representative to learn if they will support extending the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit and below energy efficiency tax incentives that also expire at the end of 2020. (Note that biodiesel credits are covered under the Biodiesel Income Tax Credit which continues through December 31, 2022. The Renewable Energy Tax Credits expire December 31, 2021.) 

  • Alternative Fuel Tax CreditA tax incentive is available for alternative fuel that is sold for use or used as a fuel to operate a motor vehicle. A tax credit of $0.50 per gallon is available for the following alternative fuels: natural gas, liquefied hydrogen, propane, P-Series fuel, liquid fuel derived from coal through the Fischer-Tropsch process, and compressed or liquefied gas derived from biomass. 
  • Commercial Building Energy-Efficiency Tax DeductionA tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available to owners of commercial buildings or systems that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy as compared to ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007 (or 90.1-2001 for buildings or systems placed in service before January 1, 2018). The deduction is available for buildings or systems placed in service after December 31, 2017 through December 31, 2020. Partial deductions can also be taken for measures affecting the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems.
  • Residential Tax Credits for Energy Equipment & Energy Efficiency Improvements: Homeowners can claim a federal tax credit for installing appliances that are designed to boost energy efficiency or making certain improvements to their homes (10% of cost up to $500 or a specific amount from $50-$300).  
  • Tax Credits for Builders of Energy Efficient HomesHome builders are eligible for tax credits for a new energy efficient home that achieves energy savings for heating and cooling over the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and supplements. A required amount of energy savings must come from building envelope improvements. This credit also applies to contractors of manufactured homes conforming to Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards and meeting the energy efficiency requirements. Alternatively, a manufactured home also qualifies for a $1,000 tax credit if it meets ENERGY STAR requirements. 

If you would like additional information regarding the above incentives visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)email your Clean Cities coordinator, or contact MEC at (816) 531-7283. 

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 47301

Electricity is tied to our lives in a way you might not expectand not in the sense of necessity or convenience.  Instead, our daily behavior, waking and sleeping, dictates how utilities generate power.  As we wake up, hit the lights, fire up the microwave or turn up the furnace, demand rises.  Through the day, generation increases to meet our needs.  Demand peaks in late afternoon and starts dropping at 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening as we leave the factory or office and head home.  This cycle changes with the seasons, with our use of air conditioning pushing demand to its annual high in summer.  It also varies from region to region. 

But whatever the season or region, from around 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM, electric utility output is at its lowest.  This nightly low-level output is called baseload generation – the minimum needed for essential systems that run continuously – and it never stops.  Baseload plants, typically coal or nuclearrun near or at capacity nearly all the time.  They’re the biggest power plants since the formula “Bigger = Better makes economic sense for systems in continuous operation.  These plans are extremely efficient.  They also run continuously because baseload plants are ferociously expensive.  KCP&L (now Evergy) completed its 850 MW Iatan coal plant in 2010 at a cost of about $2 billion.  The more continuous hours a plant that big and expensive runs, the sooner it can be paid off.  Nuclear plants are far more expensive, but that’s a story for another article. 

There’s another reason that coal and nuclear dominate baseload generation – time.  As demand for electric power grows through the day, there’s no reason that it can’t be met by increasing output at another coal or nuclear plant.  The question is how many hours or days later that electricity will arrive.  It takes days to bring a nuclear plant from a cold shutdown to full power, and up to eight hours for a coal plant to hit peak output even from a warm start.  On a 100F summer day, as air conditioner use spikes quickly to beat the heat, utilities don’t have hours to spare.  That’s why a second breed of power plants exists – peaking plants, designed to quickly provide electricity above and beyond baseload.   

Peaking plants are a very different animal from their baseload cousins.  They’re generally smaller, and typically operate using natural gas or pumped hydroelectric storage, depending on location.  They only operate for a limited number of days every year – as little as 10% of the time.  They’re also much faster to respond to demand spikes and can start generating power in five to ten minutes.  But speed has a price – they’re also far less efficient than baseload plants. 

As demand risesutilities have to produce more power.  They have three options  producing more from what’s already online, bringing additional plants into service, or buying it from other utilities.  Althree options cost money.  That’s why, as part of an overall movement towards deregulating electricity markets, some utilities now charge different prices for electricity, depending on when it’s needed.  Peaking power at 4:00 PM in August is much more expensive than baseload power at 4:00 AM in January.  On the other hand, if a utility has surplus, they can sell it for far more.  This evolving market is one of the reasons the industry is changing rapidly. 

“There is nothing simple about operating a power grid.” 

Other rapid changes are shifting the baseload baseline.  One key reason is renewable.  Other than the rapid growth in natural gas in the last 30 years, the big story has been wind.  From producing very little at industrial scale as recently as the year 2000, wind energy now produces more power than hydroelectricity.  But wind energy is generated at Nature’s pleasure.  When the wind really blows, the question becomes what to do with all that surplus power.  And when the wind doesn’t blow, what are the best resources to handle the load?  Electricity isn’t water or soybeans or money – it can’t be stored at scale, at least not yet.   

These are the challenges facing the power industry today as it adjusts to advancing energy generation technologies.  Grid integration or smart-grid tech is an emerging technology capable of managing the challenge.  It can handle variable amounts of energy from renewable sources, finding ways to store electricity, and maintaining reliable power suppliesmeeting one of the biggest infrastructure and tech challenges we’ll face this century.  Stay tuned.  We’ll provide more detail on that promising solution, and more, in forthcoming articles.