Feb. 2, 2015

Deploying Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Infrastructure in Chicago, Illinois, Through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

There are many alternative fuels champions involved with the CMAQ process in Chicago. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) staff attend Chicago Area Clean Cities meetings, and Clean Cities stakeholders participate in CMAP committees. We all have a mutual appreciation for the value of alternative fuels and the impact of Clean Cities activities.  

Darwin Burkhart, Executive Board Chairman, Chicago Area Clean Cities

Chicago's Clean Air Investments

The City of Chicago is paving the way for cleaner air through a $35 million incentive program to accelerate the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure. Drive Clean Chicago primarily provides vouchers for all-electric and hybrid trucks and buses. The organization also offers funding for compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations, DC Fast Charging electric vehicle stations, and alternative fuel taxis. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) administrates the program, using funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program.

Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC), hosted within CDOT, spearheaded the application process for this funding. The strong collaboration between CACC, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for Drive Clean Chicago led to the city receiving an additional $3 million in CMAQ funds on top of the original $35 million to launch a Green Fleet Grant Program to deploy natural gas and propane vehicles.

Darwin Burkhart, CACC executive board chairman and manager of Clean Air Programs at IEPA, has been an active coalition stakeholder since its founding in 1994. He considers it a highlight of his career. According to Burkhart, "There are many alternative fuels champions involved with the CMAQ process in Chicago. CMAP staff attends Chicago Area Clean Cities meetings, and Clean Cities stakeholders participate in CMAP committees. We all have a mutual appreciation for the value of alternative fuels and the impact of Clean Cities activities."

Why Choose All-Electric and Hybrid Vehicles?

Because the Chicago region is a hub for trucking, rail, and marine transportation, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are extremely important to its economy. As a result, the area struggles with air quality issues such as ozone and particulate matter. CDOT supports deploying zero and low emission vehicles and accelerating the development of these technologies. All-electric trucks are in the early deployment phase and have an incremental cost that is prohibitive to many fleets. Through Clean Drive Chicago, the city is enabling fleets to make the business case for purchasing all-electric trucks now. In addition, it is hoped that this investment in the market will lead to lower vehicle prices in the future. In November 2014, the Clean Truck program expanded to include hybrid trucks and buses. Since hybrid vehicles are generally less expensive than all-electric vehicles, CDOT is able to deploy more vehicles by including hybrid technology.

In addition to the air quality benefits, fleets are purchasing all-electric trucks for the lower fuel and maintenance costs. Switching to an all-electric truck can save a driver up to 75% on fuel costs, providing an attractive advantage over diesel trucks. Over the past 20 years, emissions standards for diesel vehicles have become significantly more stringent. These standards reduce harmful pollutants but can also lead to higher vehicle maintenance costs than before. In some cases, fleets choose to purchase all-electric trucks because they can have lower maintenance costs than diesel trucks.

Building on Recovery Act Momentum and Clean Cities Relationships

The city of Chicago applied for CMAQ funding to build on the momentum created by Chicago's $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) project awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program. In partnership with CACC, this project leveraged $25 million in cost share to deploy more than 300 CNG vehicles, nearly 100 hybrid electric vehicles, 17 CNG stations, more than 160 electric vehicle charging stations, and 11 E85 stations. This ARRA project helped increase awareness of alternative fuels within the Illinois state government. The city works closely with the state to develop alternative fuel initiatives and programs that complement each other.

CACC was the ideal organization to carry out this project because of their strong local relationships. For 20 years, CACC has brought together key stakeholders to promote the use of clean fuels and advanced technology vehicles throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Their membership includes fleets, vehicle manufacturers, fuel providers, state and local government officials, and other knowledgeable industry representatives. CACC's coordinator, Samantha Bingham, is an environmental policy analyst for CDOT and has served as coordinator since 2006.

CMAQ Awards for CDOT's Drive Clean Chicago and IEPA's Green Fleet Grant Program

Illinois EPA Green Fleet Grant Project

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Timeframe: Approved in 2013
Funding amount: $3 million CMAQ funding
Technology: Natural gas vehicles and propane vehicles
Fleet Type: Anticipate delivery trucks, school buses, waste haulers, transit buses, shuttle buses, taxis, off-road equipment, and others
Number of vehicles: Approximately 260 anticipated
Targeted pollutants: Ozone, ozone precursors, and PM 2.5

Emissions Reduction (kg/yr):

  • VOC - 2,026
  • NOx - 45,445
  • PM2.5 - 587

Cost/emission reduction (annual $/kg):

  • VOC - 1,481
  • NOx - 66
  • PM2.5 - 5,111

Drive Clean Chicago was originally funded by a $15 million FY2012-2016 CMAQ award. CMAP recently awarded CDOT an additional $20 million from its FY2014-2018 CMAQ program to extend the all-electric and hybrid truck incentive program for multiple years. CMAP chose the Drive Clean Truck program both because of its high emissions-to-cost/benefit ranking and because it provides direct emission benefits that will help meet air quality goals. The additional $20 million will fund more than 450 hybrid and electric trucks. CMAP calculated the emissions using a Clean Cities Emissions Benefit tool that Argonne National Laboratory created for ARRA project applications, based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's MOBILE model.

When the coalition applied for more hybrid and electric truck funding in 2013, Bingham worked with Burkhart to submit an additional CMAQ application on behalf of IEPA for a second, complementary alternative fuel vehicle project focusing on different technology than Drive Clean Chicago. CMAP awarded IEPA $3 million for a Green Fleet Grant Program that will deploy approximately 260 medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and propane vehicles. These grants are provided as competitive awards to fleets. IEPA preferred the grant model over a voucher or rebate model so that they have more control over staying within the program's budget and can ensure the funding is going towards the projects that best meet their criteria.

Details about Drive Clean Chicago

The hybrid and electric truck voucher fund pays the dealership or vehicle manufacturer at the point of sale, ensuring that the vehicle purchaser does not need to pay for the full cost of the vehicle upfront. After researching federal tax credits and reimbursement grants, CDOT decided that a voucher process would be the most efficient incentive. Fleets would rather have the cost of the vehicle reduced at the point of sale rather than budgeting to pay for the full vehicle price and waiting for a reimbursement. A Drive Clean Station fund is set up as a competitive grant because there may be more demand than funding and CDOT wants to select the most qualified projects. All of the Drive Clean Chicago funds are available on a first come, first served basis. The incentives include three distinct funds:

  • Drive Clean Truck - Voucher Fund
    • Approximately $31 million for hybrid and electric trucks and buses
    • $11 million awarded in 2011 and $20 million awarded in 2013
    • Vendor applies to the rebate for the vehicle purchaser.

  • Drive Clean Station - Rebate Fund
    • $1,425,000 for public CNG Fueling and DC Fast Charging Stations
    • End-user submits competitive proposal to CDOT.

  • Drive Clean Taxi - Rebate Fund
    • $1,275,000 for Compressed Natural Gas Taxis
    • Vehicle purchaser applies.

Buy America Waiver

Every CMAQ project must follow the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Buy America requirement that ensures that steel and iron incorporated into CMAQ projects are domestically manufactured. Since no vehicle is comprised of 100 percent domestically produced steel and iron, CDOT and IEPA applied for Buy America waivers for vehicles and conversions deployed through Drive Clean Chicago and the Green Fleet Grant Program. FHWA granted them a partial waiver that requires vehicles be assembled in the U.S.

More Information

For more information, contact:

Samantha Bingham, CACC

Project at a Glance
Project: CDOT Drive Clean Chicago
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Timeframe: Approved in 2013
Funding amount: $20 million CMAQ funding (in addition to previous $15 million)
Technology: Hybrid and electric trucks
Fleet type: Delivery trucks
Number of vehicles: More than 450
Targeted pollutants: Ozone, ozone precursors, and PM 2.5
Emissions Reduction (kg/yr):
  • VOCs: 3,215
  • NOx: 120,692
  • PM2.5: 1,694
Cost/emission reduction (annual $/kg):
  • VOCs: 6,220
  • NOx: 166
  • PM2.5: 11,807

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