As California and the nation continue on the path to building a healthier future, one of the main areas of focus is the transportation industry. Reducing carbon emissions from diesel and gasoline vehicles has an enormous impact on our air quality, powering the way for a cleaner, greener planet!
Cleaner vehicles impacting air quality
According to the American Lung Association’s 2017 State of the Air Report, 125 million Americans – nearly four in ten – live in regions with significant levels of ozone or particle pollution, putting them at risk for serious health issues. The good news; the report also found that there has been improvement in air quality in recent years, with the best progress resulting from cleaner power plants and an increase in the use of cleaner vehicles and engines.
24,000 electric vehicle drivers and counting
Despite the strides California has made over the past 30 years, we still have the worst air quality in the country. The transportation sector contributes 40 percent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California, with 55 percent in San Diego. Driving zero-emission electric vehicles (EV) is one way to help reduce carbon emissions. At SDG&E, we’re supporting our more than 24,000 EV drivers here in San Diego by installing 3,500 new electric vehicle charging stations at 350 sites around the county. Our efforts to increase the number of EV drivers also include a recent proposal to deploy tens of thousands of electric charging stations in new, key areas to encourage the transition to zero-emission vehicles.
MTS turns to CNG to help improve air quality
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) is one SDG&E customer that is a leader in the adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. This low-emission technology provides an affordable and cleaner option for moving San Diegans throughout the region.
Over the past decade, MTS has converted 94 percent of its fleet of 612 fixed-route diesel buses to CNG, which has reduced emissions by 95 percent since 2002. And, the effect of getting people to choose MTS buses over cars has resulted in 350,000 fewer tons of CO2 emissions.
By transitioning to CNG technology, California could cut vehicle nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 50 percent and GHG emissions by 20 percent immediately—just by switching from traditional petroleum to natural gas vehicles.
New “near-zero” natural gas engine for trucking on the way
Heavy-duty trucks are the second largest and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. transportation system for both energy use and emissions of harmful pollutants. Today, approximately 65,000 heavy-duty natural gas vehicles are being operated nationwide; avoiding combustion of an estimated 400 million diesel gallons annually. But, this still represents less than 1% of the nation’s heavy-duty fleet.
Fortunately, new advancements in truck engines will pave the way for a cleaner future, including next year’s adoption of the Cummins “near zero” 11.9-liter natural gas engine for heavy-duty trucks. This next generation engine would reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent of today’s standards with an 80 percent GHG emission reduction while offering comparable range and power to diesel engines. This new “near-zero” natural gas engine has the potential to immediately transform the heavy-duty transportation sector.
Natural gas is a clean energy source that can help deliver on California’s air quality and greenhouse reduction goals.