Utahns are turning the key: 11 years in, the idle free campaign has caught hold

Catalyst Magazine – September 30, 2018

By Ashley Miller

Do you ever find yourself sitting in your car with the engine running? Sure, we are probably all guilty of idling from time to time. Idling, however, is one of the easiest behavioral changes people can make to improve our air.

Exhaust from idling vehicles contains particulate matter and other pollutants that are known to cause serious health problems. Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah, and unnecessary idling contributes a significant amount of emissions into our air shed each day. Of course, there may be times when idling is necessary, but if we stop the unnecessary idling, our air quality and our health will benefit.

Last month marked the 11th anniversary of the Idle Free Governor’s declaration. For the past 11 years, every September begins the kick-off of the Idle Free season in Utah. The declaration encourages Utahns to refrain from idling whenever possible, especially at schools, businesses and neighborhoods where idling creates concentrated hot spots of pollution. The declaration also shows the immense support for Idle Free campaigns from local leadership. This year, 71 Utah mayors signed on to the declaration. These 71 mayors represent the majority of Utah’s population, roughly 76%, and all of the 17 mayors representing cities in Salt Lake County, along with Mayor Ben McAdams, have signed this year’s Idle Free Declaration.

Utah had the first Idle Free campaign in the nation, and it started in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was also the second city in Utah to adopt an Idle Free ordinance, passed in 2011. Now, eight cities, including Park City, Salt Lake City, Alta, Holladay, Logan, Murray, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights have idle free ordinances on the books.

But these ordinances didn’t come easily. In 2012, after Salt Lake City enacted its ordinance, the Utah State Legislature tried to strip the City (and any other city for that matter) of its authority to enact such an ordinance. The result was a state law on the books (that remains today) ensuring that any Idle Free ordinance in Utah will be toothless. It is written into any idling ordinance that an idling driver must be given three warnings before a citation, and the penalty can only be similar to that of a parking ticket. Even so, participating cities respect the power of education, viewing Idle Free ordinances as the best way to spread awareness of the issue to its citizens.

In addition to ordinances, other educational programs have played an important role in Idle Free. State organizations such as Utah Clean Cities and Breathe Utah have developed a unique idle free curriculum that reaches over 10,000 students each year. Local businesses are also clean air conscious with idle free policies, such as Kennecott’s haul truck idle management project and Intermountain Health’s Idle Free policy. Many other businesses erect Idle Free signs to encourage patrons to “turn the key.”

The real boots-on-the-ground champions of Idle Free are perhaps the Utahns most affected by idling vehicle exhaust: school kids. It’s usually the school kids that storm the city councils, urging them to take clean air seriously by starting with Idle Free. I personally witnessed several incredibly patient and well-behaved elementary schoolers waiting nearly five hours through a Sandy City Council meeting this past March to see their hard work pay off when the Council passed Sandy’s first Idle Free ordinance. It’s also difficult to say no to a child tapping on your window asking you to kindly turn your key.

One of the greatest success stories of Breathe Utah’s K-12 education program and Utah Clean Cities Idle Free campaign came recently when a Monte Vista Elementary school student was so concerned about idling and inspired to take action, she decided to do her STEM Fair project (science, technology, engineering and math) on the air quality around the parking lots, drop-off and pick-up locations at her school. She was able to show that air pollution was elevated in these areas. Her project won at the district level and she received second place at the BYU regional STEM Fair. Because of her findings she wanted to propose a solution to her school, which consisted of turning it into an idle free zone. Monte Vista Elementary then joined the growing list of Idle Free schools in Utah. Both Canyons and Granite School District are now 100% Idle Free.


What about Utah’s cold winter climate? Isn’t idling just an evil necessity of living with the greatest snow on earth? One clean air innovator said “no” to that question and came up with a solution that works in Utah.

Meet Joel Ewell, a real likable Utahn with a passion for solving problems. Ewell won the Bright Skies Clean Air Challenge two years ago for his invention, Idle Free Heat (see CATALYST Bright Ideas Reap Rewards, Feb. 2017). Idle Free Heat is a device that uses the heat from an engine block to provide heat for the cab without the engine running. His invention is perfect for school buses. After only 15 minutes of driving, a bus engine is hot enough to heat the passenger compartment of the bus for up to an hour. Ewell saw this as the perfect solution for a bus driver’s daily dilemma: keep warm with an idling engine, or turn the key and freeze while waiting for those precious passengers.

Idle Free Heat made its debut on two Granite School District buses as a pilot project in February, 2017. Ewell said at the time, “I tell my kids that some day every school bus will have Idle Free Heat. I’m hoping that in two years every school district in the state will have their fleets converted.” Fast-forward just one year: With a grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) and matching funds from Granite School District, Idle Free Heat is now installed on 40 Granite School District buses.

One idling school bus emits 81 grams of pollutants in just one hour. With all of the buses in Utah, that’s roughly 429 pounds of unnecessary pollution. Granite School District expects to eliminate hundreds of pounds of pollution each year by using the Idle Free Heat technology on these buses.

Air quality remains a complex issue. There is no “silver bullet” solution to solving Utah’s air pollution challenges. The Idle Free Campaign helps each of us to understand the importance of taking even small steps to help to clean the air. It helps us understand that each action we can take, however small it may seem, combines with the actions that others take, and when combined makes a big difference.  

Ashley Miller, J.D., is the program and policy director for Breathe Utah. She is a member of Utah’s Air Quality Policy Advisory Board and on the Salt Lake County Health Department Environmental Quality Advisory Commission.

Utah District Celebrates State’s Biggest CNG School Bus Fleet

NGT News – September 19, 2108

By Betsy Lillian

This year, the Jordan School District in Utah has added 36 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to its fleet, bringing the total to 105. Notably, this represents the largest CNG school bus system in the state, according to Utah Clean Cities.

On Sept. 12, local lawmakers, city leaders, school district officials, students and clean air advocates came together to celebrate the school district’s investment in CNG.

“Utah Clean Cities is honored to be allied with this tremendous accomplishment achieved by the Jordan School District,” said Tammie Bostick-Cooper, executive director of Utah Clean Cities. “We have been closely partnered with the advanced fuel fleet project since inception and watched the progression, setbacks and success of a goal. They have created a model for Utah and the nation.”

She continued, “The leadership piece they have achieved has been the capacity to translate vision into reality and to navigate an untraveled path. This has truly been a triumph; balancing the leadership attributes of patience, innovation, planning and the spirit of try, try again and never stop trying for end goal. Today, we celebrate a fleet and the leadership of that fleet that is a shining example of hard-won success.”

Source: Utah Clean Cities

The Jordan School District says it used $1.7 million in state and federal grant money to purchase the 36 buses this year. In total, its 105 buses are expected to save the district about $630,000 per year in fuel costs.

According to Utah Clean Cities’ estimates, throughout the 41 school districts and charter schools in Utah, school buses travel approximately 32 million miles each school year. This equates to a significant amount of diesel exhaust, which can lead to the formation of both wintertime particulate air pollution and summertime ozone pollution. Utah Clean Cities says CNG buses emit 40%-86% less particulate matter into the air compared to older diesel school buses.

In turn, numerous efforts have been made over the past several years to remove older diesel school buses in Utah and replace them with cleaner fuel alternatives such as CNG, clean diesel, electric, propane or hybrid. One CNG school bus can save the equivalent of the emissions produced by roughly 35 passenger cars on the road, the coalition notes.

Last year, Utah Clean Cities points out, Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, announced that the state would use approximately $7.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement to upgrade diesel school buses to a cleaner-burning alternative fuel.

A video of Jordan School District’s CNG bus celebration can be watched here:

Salt Lake City unveils EV roadmap, gets serious about electrification

FuelFix – July 26, 2018

By Utah Clean Cities

Pop-out doors, instant acceleration, electric bikes, autonomous electric ride-share programs; the future is exciting when it comes to electrified transportation. And, in many cases, the future is here. So, local governments had better get ready!

That’s why SLCGreen and Utah Clean Energy have introduced their new report: the Electrified Transportation Roadmap describes 25 steps that local governments can take to accelerate the electric transportation revolution. The Roadmap outlines how local governments can implement a variety of electric powered modes of transit including electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes, electric transit, and electrified ridesharing.

Salt Lake City has integrated a number of these best practices into their internal operations, and theyre’re now working toward more community-scale projects as part of their Climate Positive SLC plan.

As the capital city’s sustainability department, they also believe it’s important to share what we’ve learned with other local governments. This is the central idea behind the Roadmap, as well as the organizing principle behind a workshop we organized March 14 with representatives from 16 local governments across the Wasatch Front to talk about best practices and to view EV offerings from a variety of local dealers.

Workshop attendees examining different electric vehicle models.

Why is there so much focus on electrified transportation? in short, because “electrifying everything” is a key component of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is an important part of Salt Lake City’s Climate Positive plan. If their transportation becomes electrified, SLC can control what types of (clean) energy make that electricity. Salt Lake City’s goal is to power our entire community with 100% clean electricity by 2032. Every year, more renewables are coming onto the grid. SLC wants to see as many cars, bikes, trains, and other vehicles running off that power as possible.

From an air quality perspective, electric vehicles also produce virtually no localized air pollution—so promoting EVs is a huge component of local governments’ efforts to clear the air. And the good news is that, according to a recent Bloomberg report, EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. The demand for EVs is increasing as technology improves. Range is going up, prices are going down, and manufacturers are adding more capabilities that are attracting consumers. Significantly, Utah was recently recognized as the #1 state for the growth rate of new EV drivers.

Still, EV adoption is in a critical phase.In Utah, there are currently roughly 4,400 EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in the state, which is about 0.7% of the total passenger vehicles in Utah. That’s where local governments, working with non-profit, utility, and business partners, can play a role. The next wave of EV adopters needs assurance that their vehicles will have the supporting infrastructure to refuel in a timely manner.

Attendees from 16 local governments listened to best practices in promoting electric transportation, March 14, 2018.

Local governments can build and maintain charging stations to alleviate “range anxiety,” as well as offering priority or free parking—like SLC’s Green Sticker program. They can work to integrate EV-ready infrastructure into new construction, particularly multi-family developments. Incentives to help cover the cost of business and multifamily EV chargers as well as public “fast chargers” are available today. Finally, governments can work with non-profits like Utah Clean Energy to offer bulk-purchase discount programs, ride and drives, and other programming.

Public outreach is a big component of what’s needed and the Roadmap provides recommendations for outreach strategies, as well as key messages. For example, electric vehicle ranges now often exceed 100, or even 200, miles per charge. Since the average American drives just under 40 miles/day, electric vehicles provide more than enough range for most personal use.

Another significant way that municipalities can take the lead on electrifying transportation is by integrating EVs into their fleets. Not only does this do the right thing for the environment, it sends a message to residents that electric vehicle technology is reliable.

Finally, moving toward EVs offers significant savings in both fuel and maintenance costs for fleets (crunch the numbers for yourself at FuelEconomy.gov).

Salt Lake City’s fleet has seen successes in recent clean vehicle upgrades and we’ve also installed workplace charging stations for fleet and employee use. These are strategies that other workplaces—whether in the private or public sector—can adopt. Collectively, we can make a significant dent in local air pollution and carbon emissions.

Check out the full Electrified Transportation Roadmap to learn more, and to see SLC’s whole list of “Live Electric” partner organizations helping bring cleaner transportation solutions to Utah.

FLEETFIX: Ace Recycling and Disposal- Fleet Introduction

FuelFix – July 10, 2018

By Utah Clean Cities

Fleet Name:  Ace Recycling and Disposal

Home Office West Valley City, Utah

Service area:  Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Weber, Tooele and Summit Counties in Utah and Uintah county in Wyoming

Fleet Purpose:  Ace Recycling and Disposal picks up trash and recycling for 13 Utah cities, and for commercial customers across the state. They run front-load, roll-off, side-load and rear load trucks to accommodate the range of waste disposal needs of customers in its footprint.

Alternative fuel or technology:  Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

When started:  They received their first CNG truck in 2009. Now, in 2018, almost 60% of their garbage and recycling trucks are running on CNG!

Leadership:  Our mechanics and drivers work together to keep our CNG fleet running optimally.

From the Fleet:  At Ace Recycling and Disposal, we see environmental waste every day and consider taking care of the Earth as part of our core mission. We hope that by demonstrating the versatility of green technologies, we can encourage others to transition to lower-impact fuels as well. We care about the air our employees and their families breathe, the water they drink, and the future of this beautiful state.

One of Ace’s refuse trucks connected to a time-fill CNG system. These systems are common in the refuse industry where the trucks are almost always parked overnight, and can get a more complete, fuller fill of CNG using a lower-pressure filling system.

FLEETFIX: Packsize | EV Fleet for Employee Use

FuelFix – July 10, 2018

By Utah Clean Cities

Fleet Name: Packsize

Domicile site: Salt Lake City, Utah

Service area: An Electric Vehicle (EV) fleet is utilized at Utah headquarters and across 16 states nationwide.

Fleet purpose: Packsize International CEO Hanko Kiessner is one of Utah’s most outspoken proponents of the state’s clean air initiative. As such, he founded the nonprofit, Leaders for Clean Air, with other clean air corporate supporters and has taken the “walk the walk” approach by installing 50 level-2 EV charging ports plus two DC fast chargers at their headquarters. In addition, Packsize has currently purchased 30 EVs for select employees, beginning with the Honda Clarity. Packsize is committed to purchasing 15 to 20 more EVs for employees in various regions across the country. At the end of the employee program lease, Packsize plans to offer its employees the opportunity to purchase the EV to promote EV adoption and zero emissions.

Alternative fuel or technology: Electricity using EV charger stations.

When started: In 2012, Packsize CEO Hanko Kiessner decided to take on the issue of air quality along the Wasatch Front. Recognizing the Utah’s poor air quality while growing Packsize in Salt Lake City, Kiessner looked at the viability of switching to EVs to help curb pollution. He began driving an electric car and then wanted others to enjoy the experience and benefits, so he took the idea to the workplace to complement the company’s sustainability mission and tagline: Smarter Packaging for a Healthy Planet®. In April 2017, the new Packsize headquarters opened with 50 level-two EV charging stations as part of the company’s architectural footprint.

Financials: To date, approximately 125 of 270 Packsize employees–or approx. 50 percent, both in Salt Lake City and nationwide–drive EVs. A 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that electric vehicles cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. The average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117, a significant statistic that Packsize is taking very seriously.

FLEETFIX: Utah Transit Authority Fleet Introduction

FuelFix– July 9, 2018

By Utah Clean Cities

Fleet Name: Utah Transit Authority (UTA)

Domicile sites: Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Orem, Utah

Service area: The cities of Weber, Davis and Salt Lake, Utah, and parts of Box Elder and Tooele Counties in Utah

Fleet Purpose: Provide an integrated system of innovative, accessible, and efficient public transportation services that increase access to opportunities and contribute to a healthy environment for the people of the Wasatch region.

Alternative fuel or technology: Diesel-Electric Hybrid, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

When started: Hybrid buses were introduced into the fleet in 2010 and 2012 while CNG buses were introduced to the fleet in 2013. UTA’s CNG fueling facility was opened in 2015. UTA now has about 30 hybrids and almost 50 CNG buses, and those make up almost 15 percent of the total fleet.

Financials: Received grant monies through Utah Clean Cities to offset the costs of purchasing hybrid and CNG buses rather than diesel buses, which began the movement of UTA’s bus fleet towards alternative fuels. Current funding for alternative fuels vehicles is mostly through federal grants.

Leadership: UTA’s current leadership to continue bus fleet diversification is driven by Steve Meyer, Interim Executive Director as well as the Board of Trustees.

Vision: To continue bus fleet alternative fuels diversification to include the introduction of Battery Electric buses as well as Hybrid Articulated BRT (bus rapid transit) buses.

Just what we need’: Utah gets electric vehicle corridor along I-15, more than 350 charging stations statewide

Deseret News– June 29, 2018

DRAPER — The state’s most traveled freeway is among the first in the nation to go “Live Electric.”

Rocky Mountain Power, in conjunction with Utah Clean Air Partnership and Maverik, announced Friday the completion of an electric vehicle corridor along I-15 and more than 350 charging stations statewide.

The multi-entity project called Live Electric — a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Energy, Utah Clean Air Partnership, Utah Clean Cities, and other state and local organizations — is a dedicated effort to develop creative and effective ways to speed the transition to a clean transportation future, explained Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News- An electric vehicle fast-charging station at the Maverik at 14814 Minuteman Drive in Draper is pictured on Friday, June 29, 2018. Rocky Mountain Power and Maverik are celebrating the completion of the electric vehicle corridor along I-15 with the grand opening of several charging stations across the state.

Live Electric partners are installing 700 charging stations over the next three years, including fast chargers along the I-15, I-80 and I-70 corridors, Crane said during a news conference at a Maverik station in Draper. The infrastructure means that electric vehicle owners can experience Utah’s iconic ski resorts and national parks without worrying about running out of battery life in between, she said.

The total cost of the project was $14 million, with $4 million coming from a U.S. Energy Department grant, explained James Campbell, strategic projects adviser for Rocky Mountain Power. The current network of charging stations is set up with locations between 50 miles to 100 miles. That distance will decrease as the network grows in the coming years as electric vehicle travel is more widely accepted, he added.

Economically speaking, he said charging at Live Electric stations will cost a bit more than charging at home — which is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, or 80 cents to 90 cents per gallon (of traditional fuel), Campbell said. He noted that charging at a network station would run up to approximately 35 cents per kilowatt-hour in addition to a nominal “connection fee.”

“Depending on your battery, it would cost between $10 and $15 to fill up,” he said. “It would be between $15 and $20 if it was it was at zero.”

“When you add it all up, the total cost of ownership of an electric vehicle is cheaper,” Campbell said. “Most electric vehicles don’t require maintenance. You dealing with a motor, not an (internal combustion) engine.”

He acknowledged that purchasing an electric vehicle can cost more initially, but the long-term expense of ownership is substantially less.

New charging stations installed at Maverik stores in Draper, Farr West, Fillmore, Santaquin, Stansbury, Syracuse, Washington and Wellsville represent a significant contribution to the clean transportation future of the state, explained Maverik CEO Chuck Maggalet.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News – Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane stands in front of an electric vehicle fast-charging station as she talks with members of the media at the Maverik at 14814 Minuteman Drive in Draper on Friday, June 29, 2018. Rocky Mountain Power and Maverik are celebrating the completion of the electric vehicle corridor along I-15 with the grand opening of several charging stations across the state.

“We recognize while there is a relatively low fraction of our customers using electric right now, we expect that is going to grow in the future,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that our customers are able to recharge their electric vehicles when they are out on their adventures.”

He said more stations could be added if demand from electric vehicle owners increases in the coming years.

Thom Carter, executive director of Utah Clean Air Partnership, said increasing the number of electric vehicles on the roads will go a long way toward environmental enhancement in Utah and potentially adding new choices to the selection of vehicles available for purchase by the driving public.

“Completing this corridor really says to consumers now this is a viable (driving) option,” he said. “When you’re out there buying a car figuring what you can do to affect the air quality of the state, this (project) really does (make it a legitimate transportation alternative).”

Tooele County resident Patrick Wiggins has owned an electric vehicle since 2014. He said having an extended network of charging stations available to travelers is “just what we need.”

“Having places like this where you can charge up quickly is one of the major hurdles to people that want to drive electric,” he said during the event at the Draper Maverik. “Slowly but surely this is becoming more and more adopted.”

Steve Griffin, Deseret News- An electric mountain bike is attached to an electric vehicle at the Maverik at 14814 Minuteman Drive in Draper on Friday, June 29, 2018. Rocky Mountain Power and Maverik are celebrating the completion of the electric vehicle corridor along I-15 with the grand opening of several charging stations across the state.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake City International Airport also announced the installation of 24 electric vehicle charging ports for public and employee use. The 12 charging stations are dual port, Level 2, with standard connectors to accommodate all models of electric vehicles, according to a news release. The stations include an instructional video for users and will have 24/7 phone support, explained Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City International Airport.

A mobile application is also available for download that shows the locations of available airport charging stations, she noted.

“The airport is implementing programs to help improve Utah’s air quality,” said Bill Wyatt, Salt Lake City Department of Airports executive director. “Come 2020, the new SLC Redevelopment Program will incorporate 50 EV charging stations in the new parking structure.”


Rocky Mountain Power split the cost of the installation project, which totaled $306,000, he said.

The airport stations are located in the employee parking lot, economy parking, and parking garage levels P1 and P2, the release stated. In addition, the Touch n’ Go Convenience Store near the airport also has one charging station, Volmer said.

There is currently no charge to use the airport stations, she said. Access to all charging stations is on a first-come basis and cannot be reserved in advance, she added.

36 new natural-gas buses, which save money and pollute less, are added to Jordan School District’s fleet

36 new natural-gas buses, which save money and pollute less, are added to Jordan School District’s fleet

By Salt Lake Tribune

Jordan School District now has the largest fleet of natural-gas fueled school buses in Utah.

Read more

Utah’s nation-leading idle-free campaign: celebrating 10 years of success

Published October 21,2017

By Utah Clean Cites

Source: FuelsFix

Read the entire article HERE 

Utah Clean Cities (UCC) created Utah’s Idle Free Campaign with a declaration led by Governor John Huntsman and two prominent mayors in 2007. This year’s event, held on September 9th, celebrated the 10 years of successful partnerships that have allowed for a successful campaign. During the event, 35 awardees were recognized for their idle reduction efforts, with recipients ranging from Alta Ski Resort to Zion’s National Park. Today, over 50 Utah mayors have signed the declaration for Idle Free in Utah. There are seven Idle Free Cities and four large school districts that are 100% Idle Free, and with air quality reaching up in to the “red zone” during winter inversions, Utah takes the challenge seriously. Read more