Accurate Alternative Fuel Information

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The Department of Energy’s AFDC provides some valuable insight into charging and total cost of ownership for fleets looking at EV adoption. Photo Ford Motor Company

NAFA Webinar session provided some very valuable tips on EV statistics, including charging and total cost of ownership.  

During August, NAFA conducted a series of EV oriented webinars to help fleet organizations determine an electric vehicle strategy that’s able to fit their needs. Under the banner EV Tools of the Trade, the series aimed to provide a range of practical ideas and solutions to help fleets navigate the electric vehicle landscape and make informed decisions regarding EV adoption.

On August 12, Abby Brown, Leader, Transportation Research Project for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S., discussed the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (ADFC), which is designed to provide a range of tools and solutions regarding EV infrastructure, including the availability of charging stations as well as ways in which to conserve energy and reduce fuel costs.

Brown delved into the AFDC calculators, interactive maps and data searches—features not only designed to promote better decision-making regarding EV adoption, but also information related to EV legal regulations and incentives available. “Today’s session is all about fleets and how you can tap into the free resources that help minimize risk and maximize returns,” she explained.

Clean Cities network

Brown discussed the so-called Clean Cities coalition network, which provided a backdrop to the session. She explained that [the Clean Cities coalition network] “fosters the economic environmental and energy security of the U.S. by working locally to advance affordable, efficient and clean transportation fuels as well as energy efficient mobility systems and other fuel saving technologies and practices.”

In a nutshell, this network employs a range of different strategies to help achieve objectives at both a national and local level, which includes evaluating transportation needs and energy requirements. The Clean Cities group works in cities across the U.S., helping local decision makers and fleets understand and be able to implement carbon footprint reduction initiatives, including seeking out renewable fuel use, electrification and fuel economy improvements. Brown said this is of particular importance, considering that approximately 80% of the U.S. population live in cities.

Getting back to the AFDC, Brown notes that the Center’s role is to collect, analyze and distribute data that’s used to evaluate alternative fuels and vehicles. The AFDC website provides data and information relating to a whole host of fuels, from biodiesel to electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane.

Benefits and considerations

“On the AFDC [website], you can find details about each fuel, including basics like production and distributions of vacations and research and development,” said Brown. “You can also find information on benefits and considerations, station locations and infrastructure development, vehicle availability, emissions, maintenance and safety, as well as laws and incentives and fuel on a local, regional and national level.”

Focusing specifically on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, there are a range of tools available through the AFDC website. First off, there are planning tools that provide information for specific fleet requirements. An AFDC vehicle cost calculator provides cost of ownership and emissions projects for specific vehicles. The Alternative Fuel Lifecycle Environmental and Economic Transportation tool allows users to compare both the economic and environmental impact of alternative fuels versus conventional sources.

Brown said it was important to understand that the emissions output of an EV depends heavily on the source of the electricity used to charge it and this varies widely from region to region. The AFDC’s electricity sources and emissions tool can be useful in helping breakdown the electricity sources a state uses to charge EVs, providing a much clearer overview of the lifecycle emissions of an EV, not just taking into account the zero-emissions aspect of the vehicle itself. Additionally, the evaluation tool allows fleet managers to understand the costs and benefits of EVs depending on where they live, which can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction.

A big benefit of a resource like the AFDC is the ability for niche fleet operators to dive into specifics, such as details on vehicles designed to perform a particular function, such as school buses, public transit and refuse collection. Data such as vehicle availability, operational statistics and specific case studies are all available. The vehicle cost calculator is also another big one for fleets, because it allows fleet managers to compare the total cost of ownership of a particular vehicle against its peers, whether its conventional, hybrid or alternative fuel.

You can choose from thousands of vehicle models on the road today and enter some basic information about your driving habits,” explained Brown. “And the tool will then reveal the total cost of ownership, fuel use, annual operating costs cost per mile and annual greenhouse gas emissions.”

Abby Brown presents the NAFA Electric Vehicle Tools ADFC webinar on August 12. Photo NAFA


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