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AMF - Implementing Agreement on Advanced Motor Fuels

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Advanced Motor Fuels in United States


Drivers and Policies

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) requires that certain centrally fuelled fleets (federal, state, and alternative fuel provider fleets, such as utility companies) acquire light-duty alternative fuel vehicles as most of their new vehicle acquisitions.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Technology Integration Program (formerly the Clean Cities Program) is a government-industry partnership program that supports local decisions to reduce petroleum use in the transportation sector through the use of alternative fuels, hybrid and electric-drive vehicles, idle reduction technologies, smarter driving practices, and improved fuel economy measures. The functioning of the program has been described in previous AMF annual reports. More information on the Program can be found at www.cleancities.energy.gov.

The most recent data from the Technology Integration Program are for 2016 and show that the program saved 1,084,500,000 gasoline gallons equivalent (gge), of which 736,500,000 gge came from alternative fuels/vehicles (15% increase from last year), 100,300,000 gge from electric and hybrid vehicles (9% increase), and 38,900,000 gge from idle reduction technologies. Of the total, 963,800,000 gge savings were from fleets belonging to the coalitions between DOE and individual cities, with the remainder coming from other fleets and vehicle owners utilizing services, resources, and infrastructure funded by the program.

The primary driver of renewable fuel use in the U.S. is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which was adopted in 2005 and expanded in 2007 (RFS2). It requires increasing the volume of renewable fuel to be used in motor fuels. On December 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the volume requirements and associated percentage standards under the RFS program for calendar year 2018 for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. The EPA also finalized the volume requirement for biomass-based diesel for 2019. These volumes were slightly higher than those for 2017 compliance, except for cellulosic biofuel, which was 7% lower. However, the values were significantly lower than those originally targeted in the RFS legislation, which envisioned much more robust growth in cellulosic fuel production than has as yet materialized.

The cellulosic biofuel category was created largely with cellulosic ethanol in mind. However, renewable natural gas from landfills and anaerobic digesters, treated as cellulosic biofuel by the EPA through rulemakings in 2013 and 2014, has dwarfed liquid fuels in that category. Biomass-based diesel is mainly traditional biodiesel, derived from soy, corn, canola, and other vegetable and animal fats and oils. These categories are nested into the category of advanced biofuels, which also includes renewable diesel, biogas, renewable heating oil, and renewable fuels co-processed in petroleum refining. Finally, the broad category “Renewable fuel” includes all of these categories combined with starch- and sugar-based ethanol. Other alternative and advanced motor fuels are incentivized by various federal and state programs. Lists of these are available at afdc.energy.gov/laws/.

The State of California developed the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to reduce the average carbon intensity of its transportation fuels by 10% from 2010 to 2020. Using life-cycle analysis, different carbon intensities were developed for different fuels, including alternative fuels and biofuels. With both the RFS and LCFS, a significant amount of biofuels is used in California, more than 1.5 billion gallons in 2016.


Advanced Motor Fuels Statistics

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that total U.S. transportation energy consumption for the first 10 months of 2017 was 23,462 trillion British thermal units (Btu), up from 23,283 trillion Btu for the same period in 2016.[1] More than 90% of this consumption would be petroleum-based fuels (gasoline and diesel), with most of the remainder being ethanol blended into gasoline at 10%. Biomass accounted for 1,189 trillion Btu during these 10 months, natural gas for 611 trillion Btu, propane for 33 trillion Btu, and electricity for 21 trillion Btu.[2]


The best biofuel use data come from the EPA’s recording of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) filed by refiner/marketers of liquid transportation fuels, as shown in Figure 1.[3] Each RIN is equivalent to 1 gallon of ethanol by Btu content; RINs are generated when a motor fuel refiner/blender blends or sells the renewable fuel or fuel blend.

Fig. 1    Renewable Fuel Volumes Resulting from U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard

Electric Vehicles

Sales of plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in 2017, totaling 195,579, were up strongly compared to 159,616 in 2016. In addition, 370,680 hybrid electric vehicles (non-plug‑in) were sold in 2017, up from 346,949 in 2016.[4] Available plug-in models totaled 90 as of January 2018, up from 56 in February 2017.[5]

Alternative Fuel Infrastructure

The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides the number of alternative fuel refueling stations, in the U.S.[6] As seen in Table 1, the total number of alternative fueling stations, exclusive of electric recharging stations, in the U.S. increased by 33% between 2012 and 2017. However, the number of biodiesel (B20), compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stations decreased slightly in 2017. The total number of public and private nonresidential electric vehicle recharging outlets jumped by almost 400% over this same 5‑year period, with a steady gain in 2017 as well.

Table 1    Number of U.S. Alternative Fuel Refueling Stations by Type, 2012–2017 (including public and private stations)







































































a   Total number of recharging outlets, not sites.


Research and Demonstration Focus

The DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) sponsors research in fuels and advanced combustion engines for the purpose of displacing petroleum-derived fuels, matching engines and fuel characteristics better, and increasing engine and vehicle efficiencies. This research covers a very broad range of fuel, engine, and vehicle technologies. The summary provided here focuses on fuels and fuel effects and is based on annual program reports.[7],[8]

In 2015, DOE introduced a new initiative known as the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines, or Co-Optima. The initiative is led jointly by DOE’s VTO and Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO). The goal of Co-Optima is to identify and evaluate co-optimized technology options for the introduction of high-performance, sustainable, affordable, and scalable fuels and engines. DOE envisions that the effort will span more than 15 years, including not only research on the relationship between fuels and engines to achieve optimum efficiency and emissions reductions, but also fuel production research and pathways for successful commercialization of the products. It includes both spark ignition technologies, targeted for commercialization by 2025, and compression ignition technologies, targeted for commercialization by 2030. Identified metrics include:

  • Enable additional 15% fuel efficiency,
  • Accelerate deployment of 15 billion advanced biofuel gallons/year, and
  • Enable an additional 9% to 1% fleet GHG reduction by 2040.

The DOE’s BETO promotes the development of new fuels from initial concepts, laboratory research and development, and pilot and demonstration plant phases. Research areas include feedstocks, algae, biochemical conversion, and thermochemical conversion for both fuels and high-value chemicals. For additional information, visit energy.gov/eere/bioenergy.



The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 projects decreasing transportation energy use from 2018 through 2034 due to mandated increases in fuel efficiency. It projects that BEV sales will increase from less than 1% to 6% of total light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. over 2016 to 2040, and PHEV sales will increase from less than 1% to 4% over the same period due to falling battery costs. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) sales will grow to approximately 0.6% of sales by 2040. In 2025, projected sales of light-duty BEVs, PHEVs, and FCVs will reach 1.5 million, about 9% of projected total sales of light-duty vehicles. The use of natural gas in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is also projected to increase its share of total sales.


Additional Information Sources

  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2017, “Transportation Energy Data Book,” December, cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb36/Edition_36_Full_Doc.pdf.
  • EIA, 2017, Annual Energy Outlook 2017, eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf.
  • EIA, 2018, Monthly Energy Review, Energy Information Administration, eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/.


Benefits of Participation in the AMF TCP

DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office is an active participant in the AMF TCP through the Advanced Combustion Systems and Fuels Program. The U.S. government benefits through its ability to leverage finances and technical expertise on research programs of mutual interest. U.S. government researchers also benefit from their ability to maintain contacts with international experts and to interact with them in research and policy discussions. Mutual cooperation has proven beneficial in the past and should continue to do so in the future.


[1]   EIA Monthly Energy Review, January 2018.

[2]   Ibid.

[3]    EPA, 2017, “Fuels Registration, Reporting, and Compliance Help,” epa.gov/fuels-registration-reporting-and-compliance-help/2017-renewable-fuel-standard-data.

[4]   Argonne National Laboratory, 2018, “Light Duty Electric Drive Vehicles Monthly Sales Updates,” anl.gov/energy-systems/project/light-duty-electric-drive-vehicles-monthly-sales-updates.

[5]   DOE, Alternative Fuels Data Center, 2016, “Availability of Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles,” afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_availability.html.

[6]   DOE, 2018, “Alternative Fueling Station Counts by State,” afdc.energy.gov/fuels/stations_counts.html.

[7]   DOE, VTO, 2013, Fuels and Lubricant Technologies 2012 Annual Progress Report, DOE/EE-0911, June.

[8]   DOE, VTO, 2012, Advanced Combustion Engine Research and Development 2012 Annual Progress Report, DOE/EE-0872, December.