Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment

South Coast AQMD's Clean Fuels Program strives to lead technology development and commercialization efforts to accelerate reduction of criteria pollutants.

A large number of emissions sources contribute to the air quality problems in Southern California. Given the diversity of these sources, it is unlikely that a single technology or clean fuel will solve these problems. As a result, the South Coast  AQMD continues to support a wide range of advanced technologies and cleaner alternative fuels to address this diversity. While South Coast AQMD’s Clean Fuels Program has evolved over the years since its creation in 1988, it continues to provide cofunding for research, development, demonstration and early deployment (RDD&D) projects, for both mobile and stationary sources of air pollution.

Historically, mobile source projects have targeted low-emission technology developments in automobiles, transit buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and off-road applications. These vehicle-related efforts have focused on advancements in engine design, electric power trains, emissions control technologies (e.g., retrofits) and energy storage/conversion devices (e.g., fuel cells and batteries); and implementation of clean fuels (e.g., natural gas, propane and hydrogen), including their infrastructures (e.g., electric charging and fueling stations). More recently, the focus has moved to technologies that can achieve zero and near-zero emissions including renewable fuels to further reduce NOx as well as greenhouse gases. Stationary source projects have included a wide array of advanced low NOx technologies, low VOC coatings and processes, and clean energy alternatives, such as fuel cells, solar power and other renewable energy systems.

The Clean Fuels Program (Program), administered by South Coast AQMD'S Technology Advancement Office (TAO), continually seeks to support the deployment of lower emitting technologies. The design and implementation of the Program Plan, which is updated every year to re-calibrate its direction based on technology progress and direction by South Coast AQMD's Governing Board, must balance the needs in the various technology sectors with technology readiness, emissions reduction potential and cofunding opportunities. The South Coast AQMD Program is significant. From 1988 to 2018, the Clean Fuels Program contributed more than $320 million towards $1.5 billion in projects. However, national and international activities affect the direction of technology trends, so the real challenge for the South Coast AQMD is to continue to strive to be a leader in technology development and commercialization efforts to accelerate the reduction of criteria pollutants while concurrently identifying project or technology opportunities in which its available funding can make the most significant impact in deploying progressively cleaner technologies in the Basin.

The overall strategy is based in large part on technology needs identified in the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) and the South Coast AQMD Governing Board’s directives to protect the health of residents in the Basin. The AQMP is the long-term “blueprint” that defines:

  • the basin-wide emissions reductions needed to achieve federal ambient air quality standards;

  • the regulatory measures to achieve those reductions;

  • the timeframes to implement these proposed measures; and

  • the technologies required to meet these future proposed regulations.

During calendar year (CY) 2017, the Governing Board approved 59 new projects or studies and modified 8 continuing projects adding additional dollars toward RDD&D of alternative fuel and clean fuel technologies in the South Coast Air Basin (Basin). During CY 2017, the South Coast AQMD supported a variety of projects and technologies, ranging from near-term to longer-term research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. This “technology portfolio” strategy provides the South Coast AQMD the ability and flexibility to leverage state and federal funding while also addressing the specific needs of the Basin.

Projects in CY 2017 included significant electric and hybrid electric technologies and infrastructure to develop and demonstrate medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in support of transitioning to a zero and near-zero emissions goods movement industry; fuels and emissions studies to conduct in-use testing and fuel characterization and usage profiles as well as evaluating strategies for reducing emissions in the goods movement sector; development, demonstration and deployment of large displacement natural gas engines and continued demonstration and deployment of both electric charging infrastructure and natural gas and renewable natural gas deployment and support. 

The South Coast AQMD contributed approximately $17.9 million in partnership with other governmental organizations, private industry, academia and research institutes, and interested parties, with total project costs of nearly $118.7 million. These projects or studies addressed a wide range of air quality issues with a diverse mix of advanced technologies. The pie chart below shows the distribution of the Clean Fuels Program funds approved by the Board in 2017.

In addition to the new projects, 19 RDD&D projects or studies and 24 technology assessment and transfer contracts were completed in CY 2017. Two-page summaries for each of these projects are provided in Appendix C of the Annual Report.

Pie Chart -Distribution of Funds for Executed CFP CY 2017

Distribution of Funds for Executed Clean Fuels Projects CY 2017 ($17.9  million)

As noted earlier, South Coast AQMD’s TAO re-evaluates the technical direction of the Clean Fuels Program every year to develop a Plan Update. The proposed projects in the Plan Update reflect promising low, near-zero and zero emissions technologies and applications that are emerging in the different source categories. The figure below shows the potential 2018 distribution of South Coast AQMD Clean Fuels Program funds, based on projected program costs of $16.7 million for the 9 project areas discussed above. The expected actual project expenditures for 2018 will be much less than the total projected program cost since not all projects will materialize. The target allocations are based on balancing technology priorities, technical challenges and opportunities discussed previously, and near-term versus long-term benefits with the constraints on available South Coast AQMD funding. Specific contract awards throughout 2018 will be based on this proposed allocation, the quality of proposals received and evaluation of projects against standardized criteria, and, ultimately, the Board’s approval. Upon presentation to the Board for project approval, additional details will be provided about the technology, its application, the specific scope of work, the project team capabilities and the project cost-sharing.

Pie Chart-Projected Cost Distribution for Potential Projects in 2018

Projected Cost Distribution for Potential Projects in 2018 ($16.7 Million)

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