Funding and Grants — Get Connected
Funding sources for green trucks can be a complex subject. Funding may be in the form of grants or tax incentives; may be targeted at development or deployment; may come from federal, state or even municipal sources; and may be distributed to vehicle manufacturers, purchasers or fleets.
Finding green funding sources can be a substantial and rewarding endeavor for work truck producers, but it can take time and effort to achieve success. As with any new product, market or customer, you will need to devote resources to this venture and do your homework.
Qualifying for tax incentives is typically a simpler process than qualifying for grants. Primarily, you need to identify the opportunity and verify that your product or activity falls within the parameters set by the administrator of the incentive (typically the Internal Revenue Service at the federal level) or verify that you can tailor your product or activities to qualify for the incentive.
The grant qualification process is significantly more complex and time-consuming. Grants are typically competitive, so your proposal must explain why your project can better accomplish the goal of the grant than others. Also, be aware that many grants require matching funds from the applicant.
The Department of Energy hosts a helpful Web site for companies searching for funding opportunities: www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/laws/matrix/tech. The tables on this site summarize the clean transportation laws, regulations and funding opportunities (both tax and grant) in a particular jurisdiction (federal or state). By selecting the tabs above the table, you can view summary information by technology/fuel, incentive, regulation or user (recipient of the incentive).
When applying for federal grants, visit www.Grants.Gov, which is devoted to federal grant opportunities only. By definition, a federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the U.S. Federal grants are not federal assistance or loans to individuals. More than 1,000 grant programs are offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies, and these programs fall into 21 categories, including energy, environmental quality and transportation.
In addition to Grants.Gov and the Department of Energy, many of the Clean Cities Coalitions list available funds (particularly state-level) on their Web sites.
The GTA carefully monitors new funding opportunities and includes them in the GTA Insider, the Association’s bi-monthly e-newsletter. For example, a recent issue included information on a request for proposals (RFP) for CNG engine development and demonstration projects.
It’s important to recognize that applying for a grant opportunity is very similar to a bidding process —proposal submissions have short timelines and, in many cases, it is helpful to know how you can best position your company to win the grant.
Federal grants involve a multi-layered process. Grants are originally authorized at the legislative level, but RFPs are drafted, submissions are analyzed and grants are ultimately administered at the agency level.
The GTA recommends that you get to know your legislators (representative and senators). Start by communicating your concerns and then inviting them to visit your facility. Work with their staff members — these are the people likely to be most involved in the issues that are of interest to you. This relationship building is a long-term project but can be beneficial to your efforts in learning about and taking advantage of funding opportunities.
It is also helpful to know the federal agencies administering these grants. Lately, the Department of Energy has been most active with green truck funding, but the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation have been involved as well. Research these agencies and their goals online and begin a correspondence when you have questions or comments.
Congressionally appropriated grant funding is generally targeted. These grants have a stated purpose and may require that the funds go through an organization like Clean Cities.These grants will involve a specific activity, such as diesel emissions reduction or the electrification of vehicles and their systems. One road to success with competitive grants is connecting with organizations such as Clean Cities and becoming a partner in their grant application.
Currently, 23 Clean Cities grants have been awarded. Even if you were not part of any of the original grants, it may not be too late. Review the list of grant winners, particularly those near your area, and find out if any of their grant partners have been unable to produce the needed vehicles.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Tracking grant opportunities and writing applications is a time-consuming effort and one in which professionals specialize. If you want to be successful in developing this source of funding, be prepared to put forth some effort. Consider connecting with a local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which may be able to offer assistance in writing grant applications. Also, consider hiring a consultant who specializes in grants and get involved with organizations like the NTEA and GTA to get your voice heard in Washington, DC and to connect with local groups working on grants for fleets/buyers. As with any new market, create a strategy and take a long-term, multi-level approach.
The MEP is a national network with thousands of specialists who understand the needs of manufacturers and small businesses. MEP centers are located in all 50 states and have worked on hundreds of projects with NTEA members. They can help with many of your business improvement and expansion efforts. To learn more, visit http://www.nist.gov/mep/.
Most of the companies and organizations that receive grants have been investing in the specific area for some time and have targeted most of their development funds so that they are better positioned to take advantage of available deployment funds.
Funding opportunities for clean and fuel-efficient vehicles will likely continue for awhile. Legislation has already passed the House and is being considered in the Senate (H.R. 3246, the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act) that would create a five-year program providing more than $1 billion for the research, development, demonstration and commercial application of advance technologies in medium- and heavy-duty truck and transit vehicles.
Now is the time to consider positioning your company to take advantage of these future funding opportunities.