As part of a larger nearly $70 million public-private effort, the California Energy Commission (CEC) last Friday awarded $20 million to 11 alternative fuel demonstration projects covering natural gas-powered, hybrid and electric trucks and buses that the CEC said will reduce petroleum use, cut pollution and create jobs.

Added to the state grant monies are $9.3 million in federal stimulus funds and $39 million in private-sector funding. The projects will demonstrate what the CEC called "cutting edge" applications of natural gas-fired, hybrid and electric vehicles.

"California's investment in alternative fuels and technology will leverage nearly two-and-a-half times as much money for an important part of our transportation sector," CEC member Anthony Eggert said. "While electric and hybrid cars get much of the media attention, advances in large, heavy-duty trucks and buses can replace millions of gallons of petroleum each year."

A 2007 state law, Assembly Bill 118, created the CEC's alternative and renewable fuel and vehicle technology program that was subsequently amended the next year (AB 109) authorizing the CEC to develop and deploy alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies.

The CEC-funded 11 projects include a $35 million effort by the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) involving 262 natural gas-powered trucks and two liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations; $2.1 million for hybrid heavy-duty commercial trucks; another $4 million spread over three projects involving heavy-duty hybrid trucks, eight hybrid electric drive/gas-powered micro turbine trucks, and a unique, low-emission high efficiency natural gas engine designed for regional hauling by Cummins Westport and the Gas Technology Institute.

Other projects involve battery-electric 45-foot transit buses in Los Angeles County ($888,595 from CEC); electric-drive systems in a class 4 shuttle bus from Motiv Power ($1.3 million); 12 medium and heavy duty Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility service vehicles with a hybrid system ($494,678); medium-duty electric vehicles using an LNG-powered motor and generation to extend the range ($1.1 million); Lemoore, CA, School District partnering on a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station ($200,000); and the Sacramento Regional Transit District installing three CNG dispensers at its bus maintenance facility ($500,000).

In each of the projects there is also equal or more funds from private sources, and in the case of the SANBAG natural gas truck project, there is also $9.3 million of federal stimulus funding, along with another $17 million from the project's participants, which include 24 cities in San Bernardino County.

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