When Ron Schoon, executive manager, partnership development at National Renewable Energy Laboratory addressed attendees at the recent Green Truck Summit, his focus was on Clean Cities programs and initiatives and the ongoing activity aimed at identifying the value of clean fuels and technologies for commercial trucks. For example, he shared details on a national database of duty and drive cycles that will highlight how these technologies can be beneficial in real-world applications.
While that information will prove helpful to fleet managers considering alternative fuels, there is a missing piece of the puzzle, namely financial incentives that will help utilities and other companies cost justify these choices. Currently, while consumers can receive federal tax credits for the purchase of alternative fuel passenger cars, there are no federal incentives for the purchase of clean fuel trucks, buses or nonroad vehicles.
Incentives play a particularly important role in the early market for clean commercial vehicles because they are still produced in low volume and are more costly, noted CALSTART during a press event at The Work Truck Show 2013. But a commercial vehicle, it was noted, consumes much more fuel per day than a passenger car, so using clean technologies can cut more fuel use and reduce emissions to a larger extent on a per vehicle basis.
CALSTART’s remarks were made during the announcement that it has developed a white paper highlighting the emerging opportunity to create a regionally and state-supported national network of voucher-based incentives to speed clean commercial vehicles sales, even in the face of federal budget reductions. “Clean Tech Vouchers: An Effective Tool for All Regions” highlights the effectiveness of point-of-purchase vouchers as the best tools to spur sales of clean commercial vehicles.
Vouchers are different than standard incentives, CALSTART pointed out, in that they provide funding at the time of purchase, directly lowering the cost to the purchaser, and are simpler to request and process than grant funds or tax credits. A voucher, a point-of-sale reduction in price, the group noted, is far more helpful than a tax credit, particularly when it comes to fleet purchasing decisions.
The CALSTART paper also reports on a case study from California, the first state to test purchase vouchers for clean vehicles. It also describes how New York state, Maryland, Chicago and other regions nationwide have structured or will soon structure their own voucher programs. In addition to using state funds, some regions are also using existing federal transportation program dollars to support clean vehicle deployment.
“There is a good model now in place that regions can use,” said John Boesel, CALSTART president and CEO. “Given the lack of federal action, it is imperative that we encourage as many regions as possible to build out this clean vehicle support network for energy security, job growth and cleaner air. This report demonstrates the importance of state and regional action to spur the use of cleaner vehicles. In the absence of federal incentives for commercial vehicles, state and regional programs can keep the U.S. moving forward on clean tech and alternative fuel deployments.”
CALSTART recommends that vouchers be open to all clean fuels and technologies including natural gas, propane, hybrid, electric and other solutions. It is encouraging fleets and the industry to work with regions interested in speeding clean vehicle use to develop their own programs, and is available to help provide information on how to structure a voucher program.
By providing a financial incentive to fleets, a voucher program can give the deployment of alternative fuel technologies a much-needed boost.