The US Department of Energy is funding 20 new projects to support states and local governments in streamlining the infrastructure needed for alternative fuel vehicles to thrive. Working through the DOE's Clean Cities initiative, these projects could help governments and other stakeholders cut red tape and implement the infrastructure, training and regional planning required to recharge and refuel vehicles running on electricity, natural gas and propane autogas.
It's not a big investment of federal funds – about $11 million will go to 20 Clean Cities projects that require hundreds of thousands to complete. The funding will pay for a range of infrastructure and training needs such as safety and technical training for fleet operators, mechanics, first responders (such as paramedics) and code officials; streamlining permitting and procurement; and working with public and private fleets to integrate petroleum reduction strategies.
Of the 20 funded projects, the biggest allotment is going to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco. Its "California Fleets and Workplace Alternative Fuels Project" is supporting development of templates and best practices for permitting
the alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure; working with colleges on first responder training; promoting workplace electric vehicle charging; and working with fleets to implement petroleum reduction strategies. The project will receive $1 million to meet these goals.
Several of the Clean Cities coalitions are receiving $500,000. One of them, the city of Austin, TX, will assist in the streamlining of infrastructure procurement; conduct electric and natural gas vehicle safety training; host workshops for fleets in the San Antonio and Austin areas; and setting up training seminars on multi-unit dwelling and workplace EV charging. You can read about each of the 20 Clean Cities initiatives in this PDF.
If you're out there talking to stakeholders in the alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure – whether that be automakers, charging and fueling suppliers, government agencies, fleet managers or advocacy groups – the question inevitably comes up: What comes first – the chicken or the egg? Would consumers and fleets buy a lot more alternative fuel vehicles if there were enough charging and fueling stations, and other needed resources, in place? Or would putting the infrastructure in place alleviate range anxiety and make these vehicles viable options? Another difficult question usually pops up – when will the vehicle sticker prices come down? There are no easy answers, but at least the process is moving along, one city at a time.