Interest Grows in Pennsylvania’s Grant Program to Electrify Fleets

Deadline Nears to Apply for $12.7 Million
EVs charging
PA Department of Environmental Protection via YouTube

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Pennsylvania’s new $12.7 million environmental grant program to electrify freight truck fleets is generating interest from municipal and commercial truck fleet owners.

The “Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities” program was launched in November to create a transformational change in transportation and combat air pollution by helping to electrify local freight trucks, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said.

The grant application deadline has been extended by a month to March 31 to allow applicants more time to develop their fleet electrification plans prior to applying. To participate, an applicant must schedule and hold a pre-application meeting with DEP no later than March 1.

“So far, more than 20 fleets have scheduled pre-application meetings, and we continue to receive requests for these meetings,” said Geoff Bristow, DEP energy program manager. “We’re emphasizing to all applicants that they need to develop a charging infrastructure plan that matches their truck operating profiles.”

This aspect of the program has compelled applicants to co-develop their EV truck fleet plans and charging plans at the same time. In the pre-application meetings, DEP discusses individual projects and provides help to ensure competitive applications are submitted, Bristow said.

“In these meetings, we emphasize the high level of commitment we’re looking for with regard to the number of trucks, at minimum of five, and detailed project plans to ensure the applicants are fully aware of costs, infrastructure needs and data reporting requirements they’ll need to address in their applications,” he said.

A total of $12.7 million is available to local governments, businesses and nonprofits to replace at least five old diesel trucks with new all-electric versions. For smaller fleets, DEP will consider allowing an exception for a three-truck minimum replacement.

Funding will cover local freight trucks (garbage, recycling, utility and delivery trucks), electric vehicle charging infrastructure and installation. Those receiving the grants must scrap older diesel vehicles within two years and have new EV trucks on the road.

DEP will grant 90% of project funding to local municipalities, or 100% if the municipality has attained government status as being financially distressed. Nongovernmental applicants can receive money to fund 75% of their projects.

“The response has been very positive. We’re getting significant interest from municipal and commercial truck fleet owners covering a good range of local freight operating scenarios,” Bristow added. “We’re really pleased with the level of response so far and expect a solid number of well-developed project plans to be submitted by the application due date.”

The state aims to lower air pollution especially in places that historically have borne a disproportionate share of negative environmental impacts, Bristow noted.

“Our main focus is on trucks serving Environmental Justice areas, though traffic density and population density are secondary priorities in application evaluations,” he said.

In urban, rural and suburban locations throughout Pennsylvania, EJ areas are census tracts where at least 20% of residents live at or below the federal poverty line, and at least 30% of the people there identify as a nonwhite minority.

Making a business case for EV adoption is also a focus.

“A big secondary goal of this grant program is the development of case studies on medium- and heavy-duty fleet electrification using key performance and cost data reported by the truck owners over a two-year operational period,” Bristow said.

DEP has teamed up with Penn State University’s Larson Transportation Institute to develop monitoring parameters and telematics reporting requirements for the case studies.

“The goal is to provide valuable insight to other truck fleet managers who are considering zero-emission trucks,” Bristow noted.

The agency also is offering a total of $1.7 million Clean Diesel Grants to three projects to replace old diesel trucks with zero- or low-emission trucks. These efforts are among a suite of initiatives within the DEP’s “Driving PA Forward” project to lower vehicle emissions in Pennsylvania.

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