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National Drive Electric Week: The Economic & Environmental Benefits of Driving Electric

National Drive Electric Week is an annual event held each October to celebrate all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The national campaign is presented by Plug In America, Sierra Club and Electric Auto Association and consists of hundreds of free events across the United States. 

This year, National Drive Electric Week events will be held from September 25 through October 3, 2021, both in-person and online. Thousands of North Carolinians attend National Drive Electric week events each year, and there are ten individual events currently scheduled for this year across the state. 

National Drive Electric Week began in 2011 to provide free, helpful and in-depth information for those beginning their electric vehicle (EV) journey. Today, more than two million EVs have been sold in the United States, and 96 percent of EV drivers report they will purchase another EV for their next vehicle, according to a recent survey conducted by Plug In America. 

As with any new technology, people often have questions before they make the switch to driving electric, and National Drive Electric Week gives people the chance to interact with electric vehicles and ask EV drivers any questions they may have. 

The Clean Transportation program at NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) has participated in the campaign for many years now and, in 2020, sponsored five virtual webinars on electric vehicles topics including best practices and lessons learned of charging infrastructure deployment, idle reduction and EV options for fleets. This year, attendees will also get a chance to experience electric vehicles in-person at two EV ride and drive events at NC State University.

“After participating in National Drive Electric Week for several years now, I’ve seen the impact of giving people the opportunity to ask questions and get their hands on an electric vehicle,” said Richard Sapienza, Director of NCCETC’s Clean Transportation program, “When they leave, they’re confident in making the switch to going electric and several have purchased an electric vehicle following one of these events.”

Experience Driving Electric

NCCETC is kicking off National Drive Electric Week at NC State in Raleigh, NC with a tailgate and plug-in electric vehicle car show on September 25, 2021. The following Monday, September 27 NCCETC is hosting another EV owner meet-up and test drive at Venture Plaza on NC State’s Centennial Campus. 

NCCETC’s Clean Transportation program is also currently hosting free webinars showcasing the latest and greatest in sustainable fleet technologies and operations, including electric, as part of the 2021 Sustainable Fleet technology Virtual Conference. The conference began September 9 with “Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Planning Best Practices and Considerations for Today & the Future” (which is available to watch in full online) and includes two more upcoming webinars focused on EVs.

Links and event dates are provided below to learn more and register for upcoming National Drive Electric week events and webinars.

September 23rd – Idle Reduction Simple & Impactful

September 25th – Tailgate & Plug-In Electric Vehicle Car Show at NC State University

September 27th – Electric Vehicle Owner Meet-up & Test Drive at NC State University’s Centennial Campus

September 30th – Innovative Charging Solutions

Can’t make it? Watch a Video Tour from an EV Driver Online Through Our EV Driver Profile Series

Those interested in going electric can also explore a variety of EVs and their drivers’ experiences driving electric in our Electric Driver profile series. Jarred White’s EV of choice is a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi hybrid, and he said, “One of the most significant advantages of driving a plug-in hybrid are the fuel savings on the ‘first and last mile’; short trips to the store where it’s nice to know that I’m only using electric.”

There are many benefits to driving electric, including high-quality performance and the notable quietness of an electric engine — something White has also expressed can be a con of owning an EV. “Because the engine is so quiet, I’ve accidentally left my car on overnight multiple times!” White explained. 

Dave Erb has been involved in projects focused on and promoting EVs for two decades. Erb worked as an automotive engineer and spent the majority of his career in academia as faculty for UNCA Mechatronics Engineering. He also served on the Asheville Transit Committee until he reached term limit.

After purchasing his first electric vehicle in 2016, Dave and his wife were hooked and traded their last gas car in for another all-electric vehicle in 2019. The couple resides in Asheville, NC with their 2015 Chevy Spark EV and a 2019 Tesla Model 3. “We haven’t bought gas in over a year and a half,” Erb said. 

If you can’t make it to an in-person event, the NCCETC has you covered! Watch the video below for a tour of Erb’s 2015 Chevy Spark EV and hear why it’s his EV of choice.

DEQ Invites Public for Comments on Draft Phase 2 Volkswagen Mitigation Plan Until September 7

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s Division of Air Quality is currently accepting public comment on the state’s Draft Phase 2 Mitigation Plan to invest $67 million in Volkswagen Settlement funds. The Draft Phase 2 plan focuses on efforts to reduce pollution impacts while incentivizing zero emission vehicles and outreach to under-resourced communities.

The funds represent North Carolina’s share of the $2.9 billion federal settlement with Volkswagen (VW) due to its misrepresentation of diesel emission standards in certain vehicles. The Division of Air Quality was designated as the lead agency to manage the project in 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper, and Wilmington Trust officially named North Carolina as a State Beneficiary in January 2018.

Phase 1 Awards were announced in 2020 and the competitive application process resulted in 116 proposals for two grant programs: the Diesel Bus and Vehicle Program and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Infrastructure Program. The awards included $12.2 million for school bus replacements, $6.1 million for transit bus replacements, $4.2 million for on-road heavy duty equipment such as refuse haulers, dump trucks and debris trucks, and $3.4 million for zero-emission vehicles DC Fast Charge stations.

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) partnered with the Division of Air Quality to host a series of public information sessions in July to explain the draft plan to those interested in receiving funds for eligible projects. The recordings and presentations from the public information meetings can be found online here

A series of in-person public information sessions will also be held for counties eligible in the Historically Under-Resourced Counties Outreach Program. Additional meeting dates, locations and times will be posted on the DEQ Volkswagen Program webpage.

The Historically Under-Resourced County Outreach Program is being developed by the DEQ to help counties that historically lack resources needed to effectively identify eligible vehicles for grant programs and submit quality applications. The DEQ’s Draft Phase 2 Mitigation Plan identifies 31 Historically Under-Resourced Counties eligible for maximum funding amounts allowed by the VW Mitigation Consent Decree.

Public agencies as well as public/private partnerships will be eligible for Phase 2 funding. The Draft Phase 2 VW Mitigation Plan currently allocates 80 percent of funding to the Diesel Bus & Vehicle Replacement Program and 15 percent for the ZEV Infrastructure program. Through the Diesel Bus & Vehicle Replacement Program, 40 percent of Phase 2 funding will go towards replacing school buses, 20 percent of funding will be eligible for transit bus replacements and another 20 percent will be eligible for clean heavy-duty equipment and vehicle replacements.

The DEQ’s ZEV Infrastructure program was designed to expand the state’s ZEV charging infrastructure network along priority designated corridors. Phase 2 proposes a dedicated allocation for light-duty charging projects and the DEQ plans to coordinate with the NC Department of Transportation to determine optimal locations for these EV charging stations for state fleet vehicles and attractions on state owned property.

“These funds from the VW Settlement represent an opportunity to advance clean and sustainable transportation in North Carolina,” said Heather Brutz, Finance & Operations Manager for NCCETC’s Clean Transportation program. “We encourage interested parties to read over the plan and submit comments on how this round of funding will be allocated.”

Comments on the Draft Phase 2 Mitigation Plan may be submitted online via Microsoft Forms or emailed to daq_NCVWGrants@ncdenr.gov. Voicemail comments will also be accepted at 919-707-8429.

All comments will be accepted until September 7, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Posted by Nicole Deck

Particle Falls art exhibit in Winston-Salem

Particle Falls projected on the Stevens Center building in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Photos provided by Clean Air Carolina
The orange fireball represents the amount of particulate matter in the air in real time, a form of pollution that can negatively affect your health just by breathing.

Winston-Salem’s 10-story tall Stevens Center was illuminated last month, displaying a giant animated light art projection of a blue waterfall turning into a fireball.
But the art wasn’t just for show — the spectacle represented the amount of particulate matter in the air in real time, a form of air pollution that can negatively affect your health just by breathing.
The animation, Particle Falls: Air Made Visible, was designed by artist Andrea Polli, Art and Ecology professor at the University of New Mexico, by using specialized computer software. It is generated by translating real-time particulate matter data from the surrounding air, using a nephelometer — an instrument that takes in air samples and gathers data about the concentration of particle pollution. A computer program then transforms the data into visual bursts of color over the background of blue light.
“With this particular exhibit, it’s so beautiful … yet it stands for something that can be so ugly,” said Dr. Stephanie Dance-Barnes, Associate Professor of Cellular & Molecular Biology at Winston-Salem State University.
Particulate matter, which occurs year-round, is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets, the smallest measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter – just 1/30th the width of a human hair, according to Clean Air Carolina. While larger particles known as soot affect your health, it is the fine particulate matter that is more dangerous because it can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier.
There is no safe level of particulate matter.
“Most air pollution in North Carolina is invisible, so it’s not on most people’s radar at all,” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina. “So this particular public art installation gets people’s attention, and gets them to start asking questions.”
Winston-Salem has been ranked as the 142nd most polluted cities in 2016 and traditionally ranks above the national average of US cities for average annual particle pollution, according to Clean Air Carolina.
Sources of particle pollution in Winston-Salem include cars, trucks, diesel buses and construction equipment, landscaping tools, agriculture, industrial facilities, power plants, biomass, and residential wood burning.
“For climate deniers, for climate believers — it’s something that you can come down and say, ‘You know what? I may not believe about the climate changing, but I know that I’m breathing that in, and what that means for me,'” said Wendell Hardin, Sustainability Manager of City of Winston-Salem.
For more information about Particle Falls, check out this video.

Posted by Nicole Deck

First Responder Clean Transportation Demonstration Day

Ron Luttrell of Zero Motorcycles talks to a guest test driving a Zero Motorcycle at First Responder Clean Transportation Demonstration Day. Photo by Mark Lienhard, EVOLVE GT LLC
First responders of all types got a chance to trade their typical mode of transport for a day and test drive several different alternative fuel vehicles, including LPG, CNG, PHEV and electric motorcycles, on a closed track.
About 60 first responders attended First Responder Clean Transportation Demonstration Day at the NC Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR), where they got a chance to learn about alternative fuel vehicles and clean transportation technology applications for law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency medical services.
The day started out with testimonials, real-world case study presentations and learning sessions, and was followed by vehicle test drives on NCCAR’s closed 2-mile, 40-foot wide serpentine road course in Garysburg, NC.
First responders and guests take a look at an ICOM Alternative Fuel Systems vehicle. Photo by Mark Lienhard
The NCCAR Road Course from above. Provided by North Carolina Center for Automotive Research
Most attendees took a lap around the track, said Richard Sapienza, Clean Transportation Program Director at North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center – many reaching more than 100 MPH.
“It was a lot of driving and a lot of fun,” Sapienza said. “I wanted to be able to push the vehicles and see their performance in a safe environment, and that was achieved.”
The vehicles at the event were two Ford Explorer Interceptors, a Ford F350 PU, Chevy Tahoe, Ford F150 PU, Police Plug-In Focus and two Zero Motorcycles. The idle reduction technologies on display included a Smeal SG-09 APU Fire Truck, ZeroRPM REV Group Ambulance, Stealth Power Chevy Police Tahoe, and LGS Group Vehicle Technologies.
An up-close shot of a Zero Motorcycle. Photo by Mark Lienhard
First responders and guests check out the Charlotte Fire Department firetruck. Photo by Mark Lienhard
The two Zero Motorcycles featured the Z-force motor — a single moving part with no fluid, clutch or transmission, according to www.zeromotorcycles.com. Several attendees commented on both the motorcycles’ ability to pick up speed quickly while also remaining strikingly quiet, especially when comparing to most gas-powered motorcycles’ recognizable rumble.
The ambulances and fire trucks used idling technology, which minimizes the amount of time vehicles need to idle and allows them to use less of their engine or generator.
Attendees learned that all of the alternative fuel technologies could be used to save money, improve efficiency and extend vehicle service life.
Because of the event’s success, NC Clean Energy Technology Center hopes to repeat a demonstration day in the future.

“Keep Our Air Clean” Student Art Contest

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University is sponsoring a student art contest on the topic of ways that we can take action to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks. Students from kindergarten through college can submit artwork for the contest. Winners will have their artwork featured on billboards across the state to help spread the word about ways that we all can help keep the air clean. All billboards will direct people to learn more at www.fuelwhatmatters.org. Winners will also receive 4 hockey tickets to the Canes vs. Capital game, January 12, 2018, at the PNC Arena, courtesy of WRAL and Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Artwork can be submitted through November 26 at midnight. November 27 through December 10 will be the voting period. You can submit your artwork online here or you can email it, together with the Art Contest Permission form to hmbrutz@ncsu.edu. You can read the full contest rules on the WRAL website.

Only North Carolina residents’ artwork will be considered. Prizes will be given out by grade levels: elementary school (grades 5 and below), middle school (grades 6-8), high School (grades 9-12), college (students must be currently enrolled in a 2 or 4 year college or university).

Please focus your artwork on on the theme of actions that individuals and families can take to reduce the amount of air pollution from vehicles. Examples of actions that people can take to help reduce pollution from cars and trucks includes: walking, biking, using public transportation, car-pooling, using alternative fuels (such as electric vehicles, biofuels, and more), and not idling your car unnecessarily. Please make your artwork family-friendly and non-partisan.

After you submit your artwork, your friends and family will have the opportunity to vote on it through social media. The popularity of submissions will be one of the major considerations in choosing winners. Winners will ultimately be chosen based on the following: relevance and appropriateness of the message, visual design,  and votes on social media.

Thank you for helping us persuade people to Keep Our Air Clean!

Posted by NC Clean Energy Technology Center

Everyone can take steps to reduce vehicle pollution

Pollution from vehicles is a major cause of health problems such as asthma. We all benefit from clean air. No matter who you are, there are actions you can take to help reduce the amount of pollution that comes from cars. Everyone, from kids to adults, can help make a difference. Here are some things that you can do.

    1. 1. Ride a bike or walk.

If you are only going a short distance, consider riding a bike or walking instead of driving. You can get exercise and enjoy the fresh air while getting where you need to go!

2. Take public transit.
If you need to go somewhere that is along a bus or light rail line, consider taking public transit instead of going in a car.

3. Carpool.
When going to school or work, try to carpool together with other people who are headed in the same direction. You can save money and reduce the amount of fuel burned at the same time.

4. Avoid idling.
When idling, you waste fuel by burning it when you aren’t moving. If you will be in the same spot for more than a minute or two, consider turning off your vehicle’s engine (as long as it is safe to do so).

5. Use alternative fuels.
Alternative fuels are cleaner than regular gasoline or diesel. Alternative fuel vehicles include electric vehicles and flex-fuel vehicles that can use ethanol blends. Most new electric vehicles now have a range of over 100 miles, which meets most people’s daily commuting needs. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and extended range electric vehicles use gasoline as well and therefore do not have a range limit. Flex-fuel vehicles can use ethanol blends that are up to 85% ethanol and regular cars that are newer than 2001 can use ethanol blends that have up to 15% ethanol. Ethanol is made from crops such as corn and helps support American farmers.

None of these options work for everyone all the time. But all of us can take steps to reduce pollution from cars and trucks.

Posted by Growth Energy

500M miles on E15

The national yearly average price of gasoline will rise from $2.13 (in 2016) to $2.49 (almost 17%) in 2017, according to GasBuddy Organization Inc. Americans are estimated to shell out $52 billion more to fill up this year due to an 18% jump in oil prices as a result of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other nations reaching an agreement to reduce their output.

This implementation could leave numerous Americans wanting an alternative to the impending steep price tag of gasoline. “E15, which contains 15 percent ethanol, is an even better choice for their wallets, their engines, and the environment,” said Emily Skor, Growth Energy CEO. “That’s why more than 400 stations across 28 states are selling E15, and demand continues to grow.”

Growth Energy, leaders in the national effort to increase awareness of ethanol, has announced that drivers across the U.S. have more than 500 million miles driven on E15, making it the most tested fuel on the road. This number is based on sales and consumption data reported over the past 12 months by major gasoline retailers. E15’s fuel performance, safety, and value have been tested by the U.S. Department of Energy proving that vehicles can run without a problem for up to 120,000 miles. Automakers even approve of its use in nearly three-quarters of new cars.

According to Skor, “ethanol is already in 97% of the gasoline sold in the United States” and works for any vehicle manufactured since 2001. A complete list of flex fuel vehicles is available here.

Posted by Cobb County, Georgia

21st Century Fleet

In today’s age of technology, connectivity and smart-everything, fleets from across the country are looking to use the latest tools and trends to keep their vehicles on the road longer and with lower maintenance costs. Telematics, computers, and analytics have recently helped Cobb County, Georgia, stay on top of their more than 2,300 assets.

“We try to manage our fleet based on a lot of data which we examine constantly, and then integrate it with other resources and come up with a solution. The details involved require some extra time and effort, but in the end, we believe that we do a very good job for the taxpayers,” according to Al Curtis, the Cobb County, Georgia fleet manager.

The county keeps track of vehicle downtime, turnaround time, cost per mile, and other analytics to help make data driven decisions about vehicle replacement. These measures have helped the county identify the worst performing vehicles and reduce inefficient spending.

Aside from improving efficiency, these measures have also helped Cobb County identify the best scenarios for incorporating alternative fuels into their fleet. With this knowledge, Cobb County can determine the best alternative fuels for each duty cycle. This has led to the introduction of hybrid, propane, and electric vehicles into the fleet.

“Our alternative-fuel vehicles have traveled over 150,000 petroleum-free miles with no major problems. We have saved over $246,000 from the reduction in fuel usage, lower maintenance costs, and leasing the vehicles instead of purchasing them.” – Al Curtis.

This blog post includes excerpts from WorkTruck Online. You can view the entire story here.

Posted by Plug-in NC

In the Market for an EV?

Are you in the market for a new electric vehicle? Well, now is the perfect time to consider making that purchase.

Nissan just announced special pricing available to Plug-in NC Stakeholders on their 100% electric Nissan LEAF.  Under this new incentive, Nissan is offering a rebate of $10,000 per vehicle. Combine this rebate with the $7,500 federal tax credit and you’ve got yourself a great deal!  These incentives take a total of $17,500 off of the MSRP of a Nissan LEAF. Find out more about the offer here.

We’re excited that Nissan and Plug-in NC have worked together to help bring more electric vehicles to the roads in North Carolina. Stay tuned for more exciting incentives and opportunities like this in the future!

About Plug-in NC: Plug-in NC has been working since 2011 to establish North Carolina as a leader in electrified transportation. A state-wide program, Plug-in NC promotes electric vehicles through education and outreach, consulting and resource development. Plug-in NC also strives to provide a collaborative opportunity for stakeholders to work together to ensure seamless integration of plug-in electric vehicles into North Carolina’s local communities.

Featured Photo courtesy of Karlis Dambrans.

Fuel Up on E15

Our partners at Growth Energy recently put together a fantastic website to help consumers find the closest fueling stations that provide both E15 and E85 blends of Ethanol across the state of North Carolina and the entire country. We’re incredibly excited about this resource, as it helps consumers diversify their fuel choices and helps them select cleaner burning options. So why should you be interested in filling up with E15/E85?

Three simple reasons: it’s good for the environment, our engines, and our wallets.

  1. Environment – Compared to regular gasoline, E15 is carbon reductive. Each year, ethanol production and use decreases greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 20 million cars from the road!
  2. Engine – E15 is a high-performance fuel, with a naturally high octane. It burns cleaner and cooler than regular gasoline.
  3. Wallet – E15 gives consumers a more affordable option when fueling up. Today, our country consumes more than 19 million barrels of oil each day – one-fourth of which has to be imported from hostile foreign nations. That costs a lot – and prices fluctuate constantly based on turmoil in the Middle East.

To find out where you can fuel up with E15 or E85, visit www.GetEthanol.com.

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