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Webinar: Bus Fleet Transition Technical Assistance (Text Version)

This is a text version of Webinar: Bus Fleet Transition Technical Assistance, presented on Sept. 15, 2022.

Veronica Vanterpool, U.S. Department of Transportation: Good afternoon, everyone. You are joining the webinar on the Bus Fleet Transition Technical Assistance Program. We're going to get started in a short moment.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Veronica Vanterpool the deputy administrator at the Federal Transit Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation. I want to thank you all for joining our webinar today, where you will hear a little bit more about our new technical assistance service that we are offering in partnership with the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.

The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation was created in December 2021, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to facilitate collaboration between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Joint Office will align resources and expertise across the two departments toward leveraged outcomes.

The Office will be a critical component in the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, providing support and expertise to a multitude of programs that seek to deploy a network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and zero-emission transit and school buses. The scope of the Joint Office will continue to evolve as directed by both departments.

Today I want to highlight a new technical assistance offering to transit agencies receiving and or planning to apply for Federal Transit Administration funding and the purpose of today's webinar.

Just about one month ago the Federal Transit Administration announced just over $1 billion in grants through our Low- or No-Emission Grant Program to help transit agencies by or lease U.S.-built, low- or no-emission vehicles, including related equipment or facilities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $5.5 billion over five years for the low- or no-emission program more than six times greater than the previous five years of funding.

More than 1,100 of these vehicles will be using zero-emission technology. This year's funding alone will nearly double the number of known mission transit buses on America's roadways.

While FTA has been providing technical assistance to our grant recipients for many years, we know that growing interest in fleet transitions to greener vehicles comes with a growing number of questions. Some questions are:

What a recommended financial model for EV charging stations, or what would be the best, low- or no-emission vehicle type for my community for our transit system? Or how do we negotiate with our utility provider as we transition our fleet to low- or no-emission technologies.

As we continue to unveil this technical assistance with the Joint Office, we will also, at some point be announcing some planning awards in the next six months or so to support many of your free transitions, and we'll have some announcements down the road in the upcoming months to share with you. So you're aware of what that looks like, and how you might be in eligible recipients of that.

Before I turn it over to my colleagues, I want to note that this webinar will be recorded, and it will be available on the Federal Transit Administration's website. So, if you miss any portion you can go back.

We're also going to be doing some live polling, soliciting some of your feedback in the sector for the type of information and expertise and assistance that you're seeking. So with that, I want to introduce my colleague from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Mike Laughlin, who is going to explain more about this relationship and the ability for the Department of Energy to provide technical assistance. Mike turning it over to you.

Michael Laughlin, U.S. Department of Energy: Thanks very much. I'm just going to spend a minute providing an overall perspective of what the Department of Energy has to offer, because not everyone on the phone might be aware of it.

From the DOE side we're bringing the long-standing programs in the history of providing technical assistance that dates back almost 30 years from the Clean Cities Coalition Network of 75 coalitions and over 20,000 stakeholders nationwide.

The Technical Response Service is part of the technical assistance we provide to that Clean Cities network. The TRS industry experts have been providing timely and detailed answers to technical questions about alternative fuels and advanced transportation for a number of years.

For more complex technical issues. Our Tiger Teams program provides detailed technical problem-solving resources to overcome obstacles to demonstrating and deploying new technologies.

The technical assistance that Veronica was just talking about that's being offered by the Joint Office with the FTA is an extension of the Technical Response Service and Tiger Teams expertise and framework that I've just described.

And now, I'll turn it over to Abby Brown from the National Renewable Energy Lab to provide more details on the transit technical experience and the technical assistance being offered in partnership with FTA. Abby over to you.

Abby Brown, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Great. Thank you, Mike. Hi. Everyone thanks for joining us today. So, as I mentioned, my name is Abby Brown. I'm with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or NREL, which is a U.S. Department of Energy national lab that provides alternative fuel technical assistance in partnership with DOE.

So I'm here with you today because NREL is leading the technical assistance being discussed today for the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. Before I dive into the technical assistance we are providing, I first wanted to frame the discussion with a quick background on our extensive history, in low- and no-emission transit vehicle technical assistance. We have over two decades of experience providing technical assistance for transit agencies, and are in our 30th year of providing technical assistance to the Clean Cities Coalition Network which I just discussed on the previous slide.

Not only do we proactively provide resources and planning based on the anticipated needs, but we're also great at providing reactive assistance to solve technical issues that arise. We understand that hands on assistance that's unique to each agency is a key part of what's unique with transit technical assistance. We also have extensive experience with evaluating zero-emission bus technology and real-world service, which I'll detail more now.

So many of you are already familiar with our bus evaluations. But for those of you who are not, we have completed a number of third-party zero-emission bus evaluations in real world service in partnership with DOE and FTA. Many of them are shown here on this slide and are also accessible on the link from this slide.

But for these evaluations we have an established evaluation protocol that provides consistent data collection and reliable analysis, and provides unbiased results in a common format.

As part of these evaluations, we gather detailed operational data like fueling records, maintenance records, daily bus use and availability, the number of road calls, and fleet experience lessons learned. And in each of these reports we've included information on the key lessons learned throughout the project, and we've taken these lessons and share them with the industry, providing a feedback loop to transit agencies, government, OEMs, and other stakeholders to aid in purchase decisions, fleet operations, understanding technology statuses, and understanding performance results compared to baseline bus technologies.

So on the next slide, and as I've already highlighted, we have a strong established partnership in the clean transit vehicle industry. And at next week's Zero Admission Bus Conference in Anaheim, California we are excited to expand our partnership with CTE to host the first ever electric transit user group or ETUG to identify and address technical issues specific to zero-emission transit bus adoption.

So I just want to take the opportunity today to give a final plug for ETUG participation. So attendance is limited. But if you were invited, and have not please do that today. And if you weren't invited, but would like an invitation, please reach out via the contact listed on this slide and we'll get back to you. So, we look forward to seeing some of you there next week and having some great discussions.

So now kind of the bulk of the thinking today, we're excited to build upon our extensive history and clean transit vehicle technical assistance to offer the Transit Vehicle Technical Assistance Concierge Service for the Joint Office and FTA. Transit agencies that are currently receiving Low No funds, are planning to apply for Low No funds, or are using FTA program funds are eligible to receive technical assistance. The technical assistance provided through the concierge could range from simple questions and solutions like how to get in touch with your electric utility to more in-depth technical issues or challenges related to low- and no-emission transit vehicle deployments and fleet transitions.

The next slide will show how you can request assistance by filling out the online contact form at So once you submit your inquiry, you will receive an initial response back from our dedicated technical assistance team within 48 business hours. So during regular business hours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, and depending on the type of assistance needed they'll either provide you with key resources right away, or other subject matter experts will be looped in to provide more in-depth technical assistance as appropriate. And while we're standing up the technical assistance, note that we always welcome general questions, or if you had feedback you can send that through this contact from as well.

So now we'd like to move on to the main part of our meeting today. While we believe that we have a really good idea of what your technical assistance needs may be while you transition your fleet we really want to hear directly from all of you about what your biggest technical assistance needs are, so that we can better shape our program. So today we're going to run through a series of interactive activities to try to get to just that. What are your agency's challenges, hurdles, and technical assistance needs? And this is a really great opportunity for each of you to get your voices heard and provide your invaluable feedback while we shape this program.

So we're going to be utilizing this interactive polling feature right now. I'd like each of you to pull up a separate browser on your computer or phone and type in the web address displayed here on the slide, which is Or if you're on the go, and would rather text your response, you can text NRELWEBINARS303 to 22333 once to join the activities.

So we're going to run through a series of questions which you can input your open-ended responses. And the neat thing about this platform is that not only can you view the responses you, provide, but you can also view all the responses coming in from others anonymously here on the screen. So for any of the responses coming in, you can up or down vote them. If you like a response and really agree with that, you can like it to move it up the list, or if you don't like it, you can do it thumbs down, and it'll move it down the list. And this will allow us to really get a sense of what's the most important for the larger collective group.

Note that we do want to hear from you, no matter what stage of the process you're in, so please feel free to respond to any of these prompts, even if it seems like it may not be phrased in a way that directly applies to you.

So if everyone's ready, we will go ahead and move into our first prompt on the next slide. So our first question is, we want to know what are the key challenges that your fleet has experienced in planning for and deploying clean transit buses?

I'm going to give a minute for their responses to start flowing in to see if we get some duplicates. I'll give it just a minute, so you can start typing. So a reminder that we want to hear from you in all stages. So don't worry about putting your response in, even if you haven't started yet, and don't forget that you can like and dislike their responses coming in. We see that we are getting some thoughts about funding. It's a good thing You're all here. That is a directly related to this webinar today.

Veronica Vanterpool: I know I said it in my remarks, but the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is providing $5.5 billion dollars for low- or no-emissions programs over five years. So if you're not a recipient already, we encourage you to apply for these grant funds.

Abby Brown: Charging management. Infrastructure route planning. Winter driving, yes, it's a good one for folks in states like me in Colorado. It seems like we've had some good responses. So we're going to go ahead and move into our next question. We just give one minute to finish up your responses.

So for our next question we'd like to know what areas does your agency need the most technical assistance on, as you assess transitioning your fleet. I'll give you just a couple seconds to start to plug in your responses.

All right. So infrastructure upgrades. That seems to be a big one. Workforce development and training. Yes, creating a transition plan.

Veronica Vanterpool: And while some of the other answers are populating, I want to point out that the Federal Transit Administration has actually invested in a new transit workforce center and part of the priorities of this new center is to support workforce development training. So to provide resources, but also to provide the assistance to transit agencies that are seeking to transition and prepare their workforce with these new skills, as they transition to new equipment and technology, etc. So, another plug for the transit workforce center under a Federal Transit Administration.

I'll put some information in the chat.

Abby Brown: Thanks for Veronica. All right. We've got some good thoughts coming through here, so infrastructure upgrade seems to be by far the biggest one, so we will definitely see what we can do to provide some resources there.

All right. So I think we've got some good responses here. We're going to go ahead and move on to our next question. Looks like we need to get it down to the next slide.

All right, I think I think we're on the next question. Now it's just taking a minute to load. So our next question is, what assistance do you need to determine what low- or no-emission vehicles meet your service demands. In other words, what kinds of assistance does your fleet need with determining what vehicles and technologies are a good fit for your routes. For example, do you need help identifying the toll vehicles needed to meet your needs? And I'll give you just a few minutes to through that.

Range. Yes, I have analysis. That's another big one.

Great, all right. Lots of range concerns. Noted. Great.

All right in the interest of time we're going to go ahead and move on to our next question.

So our next question is, what assistance does your agency need for working with your utility? I know we've already heard a lot about infrastructure being concerns. Do you also need help with other topics to discuss regarding fueling infrastructure planning and costs. Possibly evaluating your facilities for fleet transition. Possibly understanding utility rates for planning for future expansion. Those are all possible topics that might rise to the top. I'll give you a couple of seconds to put in your questions.

All right. So partnership that's a big one. Yes, how to create that good partnership with your utility. Rates another big one. Load at your facility. Absolutely. They are all key utility needs. Load capacity. Yes.

So that's great guys. Thank you for providing that feedback. We're going to go ahead and move on to our next question.

The next question is, what assistance does your agency need to plan for charging and fueling infrastructure. I know we've already talked about fueling infrastructure being a challenge. What are the specific challenges that you're facing with your charging and fueling infrastructure. For example, do you need assistance with determining charging level needs, managed charging, vehicle-to-grid, or wireless charging?

I'll give you a couple seconds to put in your responses.

So funding is a big one. Backup plans for power loss. Absolutely. What do you do in the case of an emergency. How do you manage the charging and software vendors? What charging type do you need? Yes all of these are great.

Space management. Yes, where to put your charging at your facility. Yes. Who to work with?

Veronica Vanterpool: I just want to note for those of you interested in charging, including infrastructure, that our sister agency, the Federal Highways Administration, within the Department of Transportation has unveiled its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program known as NEVI for short. There's a lot of resources for states looking to develop and expand site charging and fueling infrastructure. So I encourage you to look at federal highways under the NEVI program.

Abby Brown: Thank you, Veronica. All right, Thank you, everyone. I think we'll go ahead and move on to the next question.

So what are your agency's primary technical assistance needs for maintenance and driver training. For example, do you need assistance identifying training programs for your operations and maintenance personnel? What kind of training do you think is most needed. Possibly driver training, battery and high voltage maintenance training, or other regular maintenance training.

It looks like the screen might be lagging, but I believe the poll is up, so we'll just give it a minute to catch up on the slide. Looks like the slide is still on the previous question. I think I saw it pop up earlier, so I think the responses were going through.

It looks like we lost the slide, so just give it a minute. Sorry, everybody technical issues. While we're waiting. I saw a couple of questions come through about the ETUG link. We are working on the correct link for you, and I will reshare it. But in the meantime, you can also email Sarah Cardinali at NREL, who is leading that ETUG working group. Her email You can reach out to her directly, and she will get you to the right place.

So it looks like the poll was active. We just had a little technical issue with the screen share. So the biggest issues with technical assistance for maintenance and driver training for our labor shortage. Yes, huge one. We've been hearing a lot about that Again we'll talk to the workforce development piece. Lack of available training in your area. Great.

Training facilities and equipment and funding. Great.

All right, so we'll go ahead and move on to the next question. Where are you currently receiving technical assistance from, if you need it? So, for example, are you getting help from your OEM, utility, or other trusted partners? And if you're not, that's great. That's why we're here. We just want to make sure that we're providing you with all the right resources.

So utilities and consultants, OEMs.

All right. Great, Thank you everybody.

All right. In the interest of time. We're going to go on to the next question, our last and final kind of catch-all question. So this one is: Are there any additional topics of interest for technical assistance that we have not already mentioned. Let us know if there's anything that we didn't cover already today that you want to bring up to us as an area that you think you need assistance with, or that your peers need assistance with who maybe aren't on the line today.

We'd love to hear what else?

Fire suppression. Yes, that's a that's a good one. Deciding which fuel. PARATRANSIT. Grant writing. Awesome.

All right. We are right at the bottom of the 30 minutes so, but we do have a little bit of time to wrap up here. I would like to give one final plug; that if you had questions that we weren't able to answer during the chat, or if you have additional feedback or comments that you like to provide that you were not able to provide during the polling exercise. Please send additional questions or comments for feedback through the contact form listed here. You can bypass all of those eligibility notifications that you're seeing. If you have just general questions about the technical assistance, other feedback, that sort of thing. We'd love to hear it through the contact form.

And with that, Veronica was there anything else that you would like to close us out with?

Veronica Vanterpool: No other than a thank you to you, Abby and Mike and the NREL team. And thank you all for participating. There is tremendous interest in today's webinar, and we're delighted to see that. So good luck to you all! We're very excited to offer this new resource to you. Thank you for joining.