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In 2016, the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition (ETCleanFuels) started partnering with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) to implement a new funding program: the “Reducing Diesel Emissions for a Healthier Tennessee” Rebate Program. Between late 2016 and now, two rounds of funding were released and awarded, and five fleets have been implementing a variety of alternative fuel technologies across Tennessee. The total amount awarded was $365,745; the total cost shared amount was just shy of $5,000,000!
Dedicated and bi-fuel compressed natural gas (CNG), dedicated and bi-fuel propane autogas, and hybrid systems are the alternative fuels and technologies that have been implemented by the fleets. The funding provided up to 100 percent of the incremental (additional) cost for the advanced fuels or technology systems up to a maximum of $16,700 per vehicle.
In the late 2016 funding cycle, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) was awarded funds for 15 dedicated-propane Blue Bird “Vision” school buses, and Rye Engineering of Erin, Tennessee (about 20 miles southwest of Clarksville) was awarded funds for one bi-fuel CNG system for one their work trucks, which is used in its water/wastewater consulting business.
CMCSS had been evaluating propane as an alternative to diesel buses as its maintenance headaches—and costs—associated with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) had been driving them crazy. After evaluating one propane bus that they bought in 2014 for about two years, they decided to move forward with adding 15 more buses, and plan to further expand their propane fleet significantly… they operate about 350 school buses in Montgomery County and have seen costs savings on maintenance for propane over diesel buses reduced by over 50 percent while their fuel costs savings are now approaching 20 percent with the new bus fuel economy difference taken into account.
Rye Engineering had been looking at CNG in part because they frequently travel to nearby locales like Nashville, Dickson and Trenton, all of which have public CNG stations. The desire to use cleaner, more American fuels was also in play for them, so they were able to apply and win funding to reduce their costs while contributing to a better community.
In the 2017 funding cycle, Clean Sweep, Inc. out of Chattanooga, Tennessee replaced three diesel street sweepers with bi-fuel propane sweepers. Its sweepers perform street and parking lot cleaning services in several counties in and around Hamilton County in southeastern Tennessee, and they were attracted to the operational cost savings while being able to tout their success in achieving emissions reductions in their home city of Chattanooga, which was voted by Outdoor Magazine as the number one city to live and play in outdoors in 2015.
FedEx Express also applied for and won funding to replace six older, diesel local delivery trucks with new, more fuel efficient diesel Isuzu “Reach” vans that had the XL Hybrids hybrid system installed on them. These six vehicles are operating across the state with three in Nashville, two in Memphis and one in Knoxville.
During that funding cycle Waste Management also won funding to replace seven older diesel roll-offs and front-end loaders with new CNG models. Waste Management is one of our nation’s leaders when it comes to implementing CNG and now have more than 4,000 heavy-duty CNG trucks on the road. As they expand the use of CNG trucks at their operations centers around Tennessee, these seven vehicles are now at work in Nashville and Jackson, Tennessee. In both cases, the vast majority of their trucks at those two sites now run on CNG!
Last but certainly not least, CMCSS again applied for funding for propane school buses and was awarded funds towards seven more school buses, bringing their propane fleet up to a total of 23 buses. They are the leading alternative fuel school district in Tennessee!
Jonathan Overly of ETCleanFuels noted that “these partners are interested in all the benefits that alternative fuels offer—from improving air quality and reducing diesel emissions to using more American fuels—and this rebate program is helping them either begin or continue their efforts.” Greg Riggs of TDEC said “We applaud these fleets for working to make a difference in Tennessee. It takes leadership to do things differently and these fleets are diverse examples of just such leadership. We hope their examples spur other fleets to act as well.”
To learn more about the “Reducing Diesel Emissions for a Healthier Tennessee” Rebate program, visit the TNCleanFuels website and see the 2018 funding release announcement. The funding is Tennessee’s portion of the annual DERA funds that are allocated to states to reduce diesel emissions. All of the vehicles that have been funded have removed diesel vehicles from the road in Tennessee. TDEC and ETCleanFuels expect to release the next round of funding (for 2019) in late 2018.
About East Tennessee Clean Fuels: The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition works proactively with fleets of all sizes to reduce dependence on petroleum and improve air quality and sustainability. It is a voluntary effort built on partners working together to create positive changes for Tennesseans in Tennessee and beyond. ETCleanFuels also partners regularly with the Middle-West Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition – working collaboratively as “Tennessee Clean Fuels” – to help fleets across the entire state. The two coalitions share one website to provide information to all Tennesseans about meetings, educational opportunities, funding and other events and news that can help them learn about alternative fuels and make the switch for their own bottom line and for a healthier Tennessee.
About the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation: The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation exists to enhance the quality of life for citizens of Tennessee and to be stewards of our natural environment by: protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee’s air, land, and water through a responsible regulatory system; protecting and promoting human health and safety; conserving and promoting natural, cultural and historic resources; and providing a variety of quality outdoor recreational experiences.