Drive Clean Rural USA program demonstrates alternative vehicle use in Southern Utah [St. George News]
Copied from St. George news on June 4th, 2022
Alternative fueled vehicles are being explored by the Drive Clean Rural USA program, Zion National Park has two battery-electric buses, Springdale, Utah.
ST. GEORGE — Alternatives to fuel-driven vehicles may soon be on the road as Washington County and five counties in Southern Utah explore the Drive Clean Rural USA program opportunities.
The program is funded in part by the Department of Energy Vehicles Technology program. Utah is one of eight states chosen for the project, which involves county government and private fleet partners. The groups will receive free assistance from Utah Clean Cities once they commit to the program. The three-phase project will run through June 2024.
“The pilot project goes into rural communities to work with them to build out an advanced alternative transportation plan with the alternative fuels in Utah: propane, electric, natural gas and possibly hydrogen,” Tammie Bostick, Utah Clean Cities Coalition Executive Director, said.
According to the Utah Clean Cities website, the program assists local governments and organizations save money by transitioning vehicle fleets to clean fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. Large cities nationwide have many businesses, hospitals, schools, and local governments that have started the process.
The goal of the program is to help communities build an advanced alternative transportation plan designed by the community’s leadership and their fleet expertise.
A Drive Clean Rural Utah tour is currently in the planning stages for Southern Utah and other rural Utah communities to demonstrate state-of-the-art alternative vehicles. Bostick said this would allow different regional communities to try out the various state-of-the-art vehicle options for alternative transportation.
She said that the demonstrations would start ideally at Zion National Park, head to Bryce Canyon National Park, and then finish in Moab, bringing along nearby parks and public lands.
These partnerships are in the negotiation stages, Bostick said. Later, they hope to demonstrate the vehicles at more parks around Utah, including state parks, national monuments, and other recreation areas.
“For the parks, we have a collection of six to eight all-electric vehicles, everything from light-duty trucks to full-size trucks to sporty three-wheelers. There are some ideally sized small utility size yard trucks,” Bostick said. “We plan to launch a campaign across our major national parks and possibly state parks if our timeline permits.”
The communities and organizations could try out these advanced vehicles for a few weeks at a time to see if the new technologies are comparable to traditional vehicles.
“We think they are really going to enjoy the electric vehicles in the parks, as the range is perfect and the fueling is on-site. It is a plug-and-go system,” Bostick said.
A public demonstration of the Drive Clean Rural Utah program is in the planning stages for St. George through the Five County Association of Governments (FCAG).
“We definitely need to look at this program; we’re excited,” Scott Buys, FCAG Mobility Manager, said. “We are interested in becoming more educated and seeing what options are out there.”
Buys said there’s a big push to give attention to rural areas from the Utah Department of Transportation. He was recently in a meeting where the Utah Department of Transportation discussed long-range alternative transportation.
Alternative transportation would help the environment and the residents that FCAG serves.
“I’m an advocate for what we call our target population, which is seniors, people with disabilities and low income, accessing public transportation for the five counties,” Buys said. “That’s Garfield, Kane, Beaver, Iron and Washington County, so it’s a big area. With this comes some geographical challenges because we have mostly rural areas.”
Buys said larger towns like St. George and Cedar City already have many buses. But in the rural areas, it’s a challenge to keep drivers since wages are sometimes lower. But he is optimistic due to the recent federal funds set aside for the program.
“I understand that the feds allocated additional funds for rural areas, which I’m delighted to hear because that’s where a lot of our needs are even though they’re a smaller population,” Buys said. “Sometimes the rural areas can be the ones that get left out and yet have some of the greatest needs; whether it’s transportation, medical attention, and those sorts of things.”
Buys said FCAG is learning more about the program and how they can be involved more with the Drive Clean Rural USA program.
“One of the big questions is affordability,” Buys said. “We’re supportive if we can find ways to have cleaner air and improve the quality of air and the emissions in all communities.”
Buys said the program is unique because it’s not just electric vehicles. Many different alternative fuels are being explored.
Businesses and non-profits can receive incentives for fueling these alternative fueled vehicles. In the case of electric cars, Rocky Mountain Power offers incentives for installing electric vehicle charging stations, covering up to 75% of charger costs depending on the project. According to the Drive Electric Utah website, electric vehicle charging will help encourage clean transportation and improve Utah’s air quality.
Federal tax credits of up to $7500 for all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased after 2010 are available. The credit amount will vary based on the battery’s capacity to power the vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, state and local incentives may also apply.
According to the Drive Electric Utah website, there is a grant for businesses, non-profit organizations, and other governmental entities to apply for reimbursement of up to 50% of the purchase and installation costs for electric vehicle supply equipment. This grant is the workplace charging program funded by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ.
For webinars and events about different types of fuel, click here.