NREL Shares Insights for Alternative Fuel and Infrastructure Transportation Project Success

Nov. 21, 2017

Launching a new transportation project can be a daunting experience, especially when the stakes—and the likelihood of challenges—are high. With the release of two new guides, experts at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provide stakeholders such as fleet managers, state and local departments of transportation, and transportation planners with insights into anticipating, mitigating, or altogether avoiding common problems.

As cities and states continue to explore mobility options, new fuel and vehicle adoption will play a large part in fulfilling that vision. These resources will be valuable in informing management practices and implementing new clean transportation projects successfully. The guides' findings were garnered from NREL's extensive interviews with project partners and nearly 50 coalitions within the DOE's Clean Cities program involved in past alternative fuel vehicle and infrastructure projects. The program strengthens the nation's energy and economic security by building partnerships to improve transportation energy efficiency and advance the use of affordable, domestic transportation fuels and technologies.

While many fleets have already incorporated alternative fuels and advanced vehicles in their lineups, others are just now considering these options as a means of achieving fuel economy or sustainability goals, and reaping long-term return on investment. Knowing which option to choose, and where and how to get the job done right, is important.

Vehicle manufacturers offer a variety of choices, and there are additional options offered by aftermarket companies. The new NREL guide, What Fleets Need to Know About Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversions, Retrofits, and Repowers, walks readers through options and factors for fleets to consider when pursuing a conversion, retrofit, or replacement of an engine with a cleaner alternative (known as "repowering"). It also identifies best practices for selecting and working with project partners, service providers, and reputable vendors. The guide presents key findings, such as:

  • Understanding what type of driving and work a vehicle will experience can help determine which fuel offers the greatest return on investment.
  • Fleet managers should consider vehicle downtime in their planning, converting vehicles incrementally, if possible, to avoid having a significant portion their fleet out of service at any given time.
  • Performing a risk assessment prior to committing to an aftermarket company will ensure it has the capability to complete the project and address warranty issues once the conversions are complete.

A second guide, Designing a Successful Transportation Project, summarizes the high-level design and administrative considerations vital to a successful transportation project. Key trends identified in the study include the following:

  • Ongoing training and technical support for new fuels and technologies is critical.
  • Involving local and national fleets early and often in the infrastructure installation decision-making process, while considering factors of convenience and reliable access, increases potential market impact.
  • Broadly focused projects with multiple fuels and technologies are often able to leverage a larger pool of matching funds and community buy-in.

Learn more about NREL's sustainable transportation research.