The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is accepting applications for the Volkswagen Settlement Fund, 2020 Vehicle Replacement Program to replace older, higher emissions diesel vehicles or engines with cleaner electric, alternative fuel, or diesel vehicles or engines.

Applications will be accepted from January 30th to March 30th, 2020. Given the disappointing results of the 2019 funding cycle, CVI hopes to see more applications submitted and approved for electric vehicles in 2020.

What’s the Volkswagen Settlement Fund?

In 2015, Volkswagen was caught installing mechanisms that cheated vehicle emissions tests in violation of the Clean Air Act. The mechanism allowed Volkswagen vehicles to pollute our air without the knowledge of vehicle owners, communities, or regulatory agencies. The company was forced to settle with the federal government for almost $15 billion.

A large portion of the settlement has been divided up among U.S. states and tribal nations to fund local pollution mitigation and to invest in green vehicle technology. The State of Idaho received $17.3 million, to be distributed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Idaho’s funds are split between two programs: the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Program (EVSE) and the Vehicle Replacement Program (VRP). DEQ appropriated $2.5 million to the EVSE program to improve upon and expand Idaho’s EV charging grid while dedicating $14.5 million to the VRP to replace older, higher emissions diesel vehicles with new alternative fuel vehicles.

2019 Vehicle Replacement Program Funding

In their first round of funding, DEQ distributed $8 million for replacement vehicles. Unfortunately, 103 of the 132 vehicles were diesel-for-diesel replacements. For example, one company merely replaced four older diesel logging trucks with four newer diesel logging trucks. These are not the types of replacements many had in mind for this program. 

Only 8.3% of the total vehicle replacements were electric vehicles. Some of the grantees included:

  • Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, Blaine County – 3 electric transit buses
  • Republic Services of Idaho, Ada County – 5 electric garbage trucks
  • J&M Sanitation, Inc., Ada County – 3 electric garbage trucks

Click here for a full overview of the 2019 funding cycle. 

EV Funding Challenges

The main barriers to EV applications seemed to be a lack of knowledge of the opportunity, the limited existing infrastructure, and a lack of training around managing electric vehicle fleets.  

The EV charging grid has significantly improved in recent years, but it’s clear from the Department of Energy’s EV grid map that Idaho could use significant improvements to increase coverage. We expect that DEQ’s Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Program, along with programs like Idaho Powers’ EVSE incentive offering, will help improve the system and continue to make electric fleets more viable throughout Idaho. 

2020 Vehicle Replace Program Funding

The 2020 VRP funding cycle to distribute the remaining $6.5 million opened on January 30th, and will remain open for 60 days through March 30th. The 2020 application can be viewed here, and is open to both governmental and nongovernmental fleet owners. 

This funding is a significant short term opportunity to invest in a cleaner transportation system for Idaho, and it was disappointing to see the 2019 funding spent in such a limited way. CVI would like to see the 2020 cycle dedicated to more meaningful investments in electric and alternative fuel vehicles.