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Recent Developments

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This section describes recent developments related to transportation-related sustainability. If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the Share Info with AASHTO form.

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FHWA Withdraws GHG Performance Measure for DOTs, MPOs

The Federal Highway Administration is withdrawing requirements that state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) measure tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a means to assess performance of the National Highway System. The rule required state DOTs and MPOs to establish CO2 emissions targets, calculate progress in meeting the targets, report to FHWA, and determine needed actions if targets were not reached. The withdrawal is considered a deregulatory action to reduce burdens on state DOTs and MPOs and remove requirements with “speculative and uncertain benefits.” The rule, which was signed May 22, will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. For more information, link to the final rule. (5-24-18)

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DOE Releases New Versions of Automotive Systems Simulator

New versions of the Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator (FASTSim) are now available through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The simulator allows users to compare powertrains and estimate the impact of technology improvements on light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicle efficiency, performance, cost, and battery life. The newer versions expand vehicle range capabilities and update vehicle models to include not just conventional and electric-drive vehicles, but also fuel cell vehicles. The newer versions are available in Excel and Python and are suitable for large datasets. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-22-18)

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FHWA Highlights State of Alternative Fuels in Freight Industry

The Federal Highway Administration has released a recording of an April 18, 2018, web conference regarding alternative fuels and electric freight trucks. The seminar included presentations concerning the current state of fueling infrastructure, vehicle range for electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, and fuels commonly used in the freight industry. The seminar also addressed the challenges of using compressed natural gas instead of diesel for freight trucks, including the maintenance costs and fuel prices. In addition, presenters discussed the use of renewable hydrocarbon diesel in freight trucks and freight electrification. For more information, link to the recording, transcript, and presentations. (5-22-18)

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FHWA Summarizes Renewable Energy Peer Exchange in Report

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a summary report on the Renewable Energy in Highway Rights of Way Peer Exchange, held in February 2018. The report summarizes transportation agencies’ presentations from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and host state Missouri as well as federal agencies and academic institutions. The peer exchange brought together practitioners to discuss issues related to and approaches for accommodating renewable energy technologies in highway rights-of-way and other state DOT properties. For more information, link to the report. (5-1-18)

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Energy Department Tool Estimates Need for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection Lite (EVI-Pro Lite) tool to help states account for EV demand. The tool, a simplified version of EVI-Pro, identifies existing public EV infrastructure and projects future consumer demand by state or city/urban area based on anticipated numbers of plug-in electric vehicles. The tool uses data on travel patterns, EV attributes, and charging station characteristics to facilitate support of regional EV adoption. The tool was developed in collaboration with the California Energy Commission and supported by the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. A webinar for tool demonstration is scheduled for May 21, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-16-18)

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Report Indicates Ride-Hailing Services Increase Travel, GHG Emissions

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a report that analyzes the impacts of ride hailing services on travel and greenhouse gas emissions. The report uses survey data from 2017 on populations, ride hailing users, and ride hailing driver and passenger activity from Austin, Texas and San Francisco. The report indicates that ride-hailing will tend to produce modest reductions in auto ownership. The report also finds that ride-hailing in U.S. cities is contributing to a net increase in vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions, but the total magnitude of that increase is uncertain. It is recommended that policymakers look at restrictions on such services, implementation of distance-based pricing rules to minimize empty vehicle travel, and increased support of public transit. For more information, link to the report. (4-18-18)

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EPA to Revise Emissions Standards for Cars and Light-Duty Trucks

The Environmental Protection Agency has released the final midterm evaluation for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for light trucks and cars for model years 2022-2025. The EPA has determined that the current GHG standards are not appropriate and should be revised. The evaluation is based on consumer behavior, feedback on modeling approaches, and assessment of advanced fuels technologies. The California waiver for imposing stricter vehicle emission standards is also under evaluation. A proposed rule will be developed in consultation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set GHG and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-2-18)

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Report Addresses Best Practices for Battery Electric Bus Adoption

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a report regarding best practices and challenges for the planning, procurement, infrastructure installation, operation, and maintenance of battery electric buses. The report includes survey responses from 18 transportation agencies that address bus technical specifications, operational requirements, and route selection. The report also highlights location characteristics of charging infrastructure, electricity rates, staff training on new technology, and capitol and operational costs. The report identifies several challenges for bus adoption in the U.S. that include higher upfront costs of electric buses, public engagement, and the need to review procurement and contractual frameworks. For more information, link to the report. (3-21-18)

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Paper Aims to Help California Align Transportation, Climate Policies

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a white paper to help California align its framework for funding transportation with its climate policies. The paper provides an overview of the state’s commitments to climate action, including its Global Warming Solutions Act, and addresses the application of sustainability principles to transportation investments. The paper also highlights California’s sources of transportation revenue such as the excise tax on gasoline, fuel tax swap, and the zero-emission vehicle registration fee. The paper recommends the allocation of more transportation revenue to metropolitan planning organizations to support the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act. It also recommends requiring revenue generated by new local sales taxes to be spent on projects that reduce greenhouse gases. For more information, link to the paper. (3-16-18)

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FHWA Announces 2017 Alternative Fuel Corridor Designations

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the second round of designations for Alternative Fuel Corridors. For 2016 and 2017 combined, FHWA has received 58 nominations and designated segments or entire lengths of 71 Interstate corridors (including Hawaii) under the program. So far, 44 states (plus the District of Columbia) have facilities designated as corridor-ready or corridor-pending for one or more alternative fuel types (electric, hydrogen, propane, compressed natural gas, and liquid natural gas). Corridor-ready designees have sufficient fueling facilities on the corridor to warrant highway signage, whereas corridor-pending designees need additional facilities to warrant signage. For more information, link to the Alternative Fuel Corridors website. (3-9-18)

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DOT Input Invited on Zero Emission Vehicle Investment Plans

A webinar for public transportation agencies to discuss Electrify America LLC’s Cycle 2 National and California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Investment Plans will be held on Feb. 14, 2018. Electrify America manages the $2 billion investment commitment resulting from the settlement with Volkswagen Group of America over emissions violations. The investment commitment is intended to encourage the adoption of ZEVs. The company seeks input and data relevant to the second cycle of funding, suggestions for educational events, site nominations for infrastructure development, and feedback on cycle 1 investments. Cycle 2 implementation is planned for July 2019 through December 2021. Comments are due March 1, 2018. For information on types of input solicited as part of the second investment plan, along with an online form for submitting input, link here. For webinar registration information, link here.

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Communications Initiative Developed to Help Respond to Climate Change

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has established a Climate Communications Initiative (CCI). The CCI will address public questions concerning climate change, provide easy-to-understand evidence-based information, facilitate communication efforts, and develop innovative approaches to climate change. An advisory committee also has been created to develop a strategic plan for the CCI to identify near- and longer-term activities and monitor the impact of products of the initiative. The initiative is intended to help citizens and decision-makers respond to climate change. A committee meeting is scheduled for March 6-7, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-23-18)

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EPA Report Finds Car Makers Increasing Fuel Economy, Meeting GHG Standards

Auto manufacturers continue to innovate, increase fuel economy, and reduce pollution according to two new reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975-2017 report indicates that model year (MY) 2016 vehicle fuel economy was 24.7 mpg, slightly higher than MY 2015. The report also illustrates that consumers have an increasing number of high fuel economy/low carbon dioxide vehicle choices. The second report, Manufacturer Performance, addresses how well manufacturers are meeting greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles. The report indicates that all manufacturers are in compliance with the standards. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-11-18)

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Research Symposium Highlights Decarbonizing Transport

The Transportation Research Board has issued a report on a May 2017 international symposium, Decarbonizing Transport for a Sustainable Future: Mitigating Impacts of the Changing Climate. The event was the fifth annual transportation research symposium sponsored by the European Commission and the United States. The symposium included discussion of partnership development with co-benefits, policy impact on climate mitigation strategies, approaches in megaregions, and freight transport. The report includes a potential portfolio of research for U.S. and European Union collaboration developed as a result of the symposium and suggests opportunities for trans-Atlantic information sharing. For more information, link to the report. (1-8-18)

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Quick Guide Issued for Renewable Energy Projects on Highway Right-of-Way

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a guide to help FHWA division offices and state departments of transportation understand requirements for installing renewable energy generation along highway rights-of-way. The guide serves as a condensed version of the agency’s Guidance on Utilization of Highway-Right-of-Way by providing answers to questions concerning which federal regulations to use when building a renewable energy project that was purchased with federal aid highway funds. The guide also addresses the National Environmental Policy Act process and provides help with state utility accommodation policies. In addition, links to project examples and utility accommodations are provided. For more information, link to the guide. (12-21-17)

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Northeast, Mid-Atlantic States Encourage Development of Clean Transportation

The Transportation and Climate Initiative has announced the continued support of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to explore strategies to reduce carbon emissions, improve transportation, and advance investments in clean transportation technologies. The states have been working together since 2015 and will continue by facilitating discussions to share goals and perspectives and to diversify transportation systems. To support these efforts, the Georgetown Climate Center released a report concerning market-based approaches to a multi-state transportation policy. The report provides an overview of the transportation fuel system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and how a cap-and-invest system covering gasoline and on-road diesel could operate. The report recommends complementary financing strategies to advance clean transportation markets. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-13-17)

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National Assessment Shows Causes, Effects of Climate Change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has released its 4th National Climate Assessment to highlight recent findings concerning climate change. The assessment indicates that it is extremely likely that human activities are the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century. The assessment also illustrates the significant probability of unanticipated effects occurring, such as multiple extreme weather events occurring simultaneously. The assessment addresses climate models and scenarios, physical drivers of climate change, and changes in precipitation nationwide. The likelihood of droughts, floods, and wildfires as well as extreme storms and sea level rise are also highlighted. For more information, link to the assessment. (11-3-17)

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Energy Department Study Evaluates Use of Extreme Fast Charging for EVs

The Department of Energy has released a report on enabling use of fast-charge power stations to increase use of battery electric vehicles (BEV). The study recommends extreme fast charging – at 400 kilowatts for BEVs to be competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles. It provides an overview of BEVs, battery costs, and barriers to extreme fast charging. It also outlines associated research and development needs to resolve such challenges. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)

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Report Provides Status of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Infrastructure

The International Council on Clean Transportation has released a briefing on the development of infrastructure for fuel cell vehicle deployment around the world. The report provides the status of fuel cell vehicle development as of mid-2017, indicating that manufacturers have made major research and development investments. In addition, the report analyzes hydrogen infrastructure development in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., illustrating that many governments and industries have initiated plans to develop infrastructure networks and that investment will be needed for the next 10 to 15 years. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)

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TRB Research Record Addresses Energy and Environment

The Transportation Research Board has released a compilation of papers concerning environment and energy in Volume 2628 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The issue addresses life-cycle benefits of recycled material in highway construction, obtaining thermoelectric energy from asphalt pavements, and highway noise analyses and policies. The issue also provides a comparison of projections for corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards and an analysis of electric vehicle purchaser satisfaction. In addition, it addresses the use of statewide models as tools for zero-emission vehicle deployment. For more information, link to the report. (10-2-17)

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Report Analyzes Use of Zero-Emission Heavy-Duty Vehicle Technology

The International Council on Clean Transportation has issued a report concerning the use of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technology to decarbonize the freight sector. The report provides an overview of heavy-duty vehicle policies in Canada, China, Japan, and the U.S., and includes a list of zero-emission truck projects for medium-duty, heavy-duty, in-road, and hydrogen fuel cell trucks. A technology analysis is provided to account for costs associated with vehicle use, efficiency, and cost of ownership, as well as an analysis of the emissions impacts of various tractor-trailer technologies. The report indicates that electric vehicles that are dynamically charged could play an important role in creating more market options for electric trucks. The report also illustrates that promotion of drayage, bus, and urban delivery truck applications are important in encouraging the development of electric-drive trucks. For more information, link to the report. (September 2017)

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Featured Case Study

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    The Vermont Agency of Transportation is installing solar projects to offset its energy use, such as this solar array at the Rutland Airport.

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