Opinion: Introducing America’s First Transportation Transition Plan

 

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Okay people. I’ve had enough of these willy-nilly government programs and incentives in the transportation market without being given an actual national plan of action. This habit our country has of “let’s throw out everything and see what sticks” is not in any way in our best interest. All of these programs cost us taxpayers money — something that is scarce for many of us today.

I’m tired of waiting around for our legislators to create a long-term sustainable transportation platform so I went ahead and did it myself. Someone had to do it. Why not me?

Now, I’m no expert as I’m sure many of you will comment about. The purpose of my plan is to get drivers around the country and around the world to have a stake in our future. Let’s not let the auto companies tell us what technologies we need; let’s tell them what technologies we want. Let’s not let government tell us how they are going to spend our money; let’s tell them how they are going to spend our money. But to make this dialogue worthwhile, we need to create the plan and then “present” it to the powers that be.

Let me give you an example of why we need a Transportation Transition Plan. If I live in California, where a hydrogen highway is being developed and I purchase a hydrogen vehicle, how will I get fuel when I drive to Colorado to visit my best friend? The same situation arises if I live in Portland and have an all-electric vehicle and I want to drive to Texas to visit relatives, how do I re-charge my vehicle?  Don’t get me wrong, these are great technologies that are being developed, but we need a plan that will enable drivers to get from point A to point B no matter what type of car they drive.

That being said, I present you the first draft of the Transportation Transition Plan. As I mentioned earlier, this plan is by no means all encompassing. It is merely designed to get people to take a step back and evaluate our decisions before we move forward with a hodge-podge of ideas that won’t help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels nor help us curb global warming emissions.

The Transportation Transition Plan

2010 – 2025 – The Age of Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs)

2012 – 2027 – The Age of Plug-In Electric Hybrid Flex-Fuel Vehicles

2015 – 2030 – The Age of Plug-In Electric Vehicles

2025 – 2045 – The Age of Hydrogen Vehicles

When looking at the time line, keep in mind that it takes 15 years to turn over a fleet (the federal government is trying to do this faster through the proposed Cash for Clunkers program). In addition, within each “Age” the transition to the next “Age” begins to ensure we don’t fall prey to the chicken or the egg syndrome.

How did I come up with this particular plan? Let me explain. Currently, the only technology we have in place to get drivers from the West to the East is gasoline. Today, the only viable, renewable liquid transportation fuel we have are biofuels such as ethanol. In addition, all gas stations in the country can blend E10 (10 percent ethanol / 90 percent gasoline) and more than 2,000 E85 stations already exist. It can cost as little as $4,000 to convert a pump to E85 so this makes the cost to develop infrastructure fast and feasible since you can utilize the infrastructure that’s already in place. As the infrastructure is put into place, the auto industry produces FFVs, only (unless it the car is hybrid, electric, fuel cell, etc.) which only costs $100 per car extra in production costs.

While the age of flex-fuel vehicles emerges, the infrastructure and technologies for hybrids continue to improve and be brought to market. This should be the next step because a plug-in electric hybrid with flex-fuel technology has a “back up” of ethanol-blended fuels when there are no plug-in stations available. Obviously, the goal during this stage is to complete the plug-in electric infrastructure across the country.

Once that is complete, then you can completely remove the need for a liquid fuel and move to plug-in electric vehicles only. By this time, the electric grid should be up to snuff and producing electricity from renewable resources such as wind and solar with little to no energy produced from coal or natural gas. By now, our country should have also figured out how to store electricity in large quantities that will allow people to re-charge at any time without adversely affecting the grid.

Here is where it gets interesting. Do we stop at the Age of Plug-In Electric Vehicles or do move into the Age of Hydrogen Vehicles? There are estimates that it could cost in the neighborhood of $1 trillion dollars to develop the infrastructure needed for America to run on hydrogen. If America decides to move into the hydrogen economy, then we have give or take 30 years or so to develop it.

In a future post, I’ll begin to layout the pros and cons of the technologies listed in the Transportation Transition Plan so stay tuned.





About the Author

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.
  • Cindy

    Great idea! I nominate you for Transportation Secretary!

  • Cindy

    Great idea! I nominate you for Transportation Secretary!

  • Wow, this is really excellent. Can we send this to the government? 🙂 That is tough on the transitioning part to Hydrogen, but maybe by then it will be easier to make the transition?

  • Wow, this is really excellent. Can we send this to the government? 🙂 That is tough on the transitioning part to Hydrogen, but maybe by then it will be easier to make the transition?

  • Ed Savage

    Why go to hydrogen cells? Why alcohol (unless done a la Dave Blume)?

    It takes energy to make the hydrogen. It takes energy to make alcohol. The way our corporate entities make energy and would make hydrogen and alcohol are mostly wasteful. And we are still burning something to make things work. That same energy could be put into an electric car battery directly and and not be lost to the extra steps.

    Why, once again, make energy production so convoluted?

    Why, once again, put our mobility under control of large corporations?

    Why not work toward a more sustainable answer? One that relies on the citizens of this country. What ever happened to old fashioned self-determination?

  • Ed Savage

    Why go to hydrogen cells? Why alcohol (unless done a la Dave Blume)?

    It takes energy to make the hydrogen. It takes energy to make alcohol. The way our corporate entities make energy and would make hydrogen and alcohol are mostly wasteful. And we are still burning something to make things work. That same energy could be put into an electric car battery directly and and not be lost to the extra steps.

    Why, once again, make energy production so convoluted?

    Why, once again, put our mobility under control of large corporations?

    Why not work toward a more sustainable answer? One that relies on the citizens of this country. What ever happened to old fashioned self-determination?

  • Greg

    Should this not be called the fuel transition plan? I don’t see any transitions in transportation listed here, only the car. That’s the problem that really needs solving.

  • Greg

    Should this not be called the fuel transition plan? I don’t see any transitions in transportation listed here, only the car. That’s the problem that really needs solving.

  • Jeff

    Issues-

    Infrastructure for EV’s would be around $1 B for 1 million charge stations today.

    This plan does some ‘kingmaking’ and usually innovation+markets does a much better job than grand plans if looking back at history of technology adoption.

    Perhaps obvious here is that emissions are the central focus for decreasing and thus smaller changes actually impact more here than flex-feul options would (tire pressure, routing like in smart cars and carpooling/public transit)

    I think grand plans are better for infrastructure projects than adoption projects but I hope this conversations teases out some good ideas along the way.

  • Jeff

    Issues-

    Infrastructure for EV’s would be around $1 B for 1 million charge stations today.

    This plan does some ‘kingmaking’ and usually innovation+markets does a much better job than grand plans if looking back at history of technology adoption.

    Perhaps obvious here is that emissions are the central focus for decreasing and thus smaller changes actually impact more here than flex-feul options would (tire pressure, routing like in smart cars and carpooling/public transit)

    I think grand plans are better for infrastructure projects than adoption projects but I hope this conversations teases out some good ideas along the way.

  • russ

    Corn ethanol is an expensive donkey! An energy negative fuel such as ethanol is just digging ourselves in deeper.

    Electric needs to come first – Renault is coming out with a full line of all electrics starting in 2011. Others will have to follow.

    The time fram for H2 seems realistic though.

  • russ

    Corn ethanol is an expensive donkey! An energy negative fuel such as ethanol is just digging ourselves in deeper.

    Electric needs to come first – Renault is coming out with a full line of all electrics starting in 2011. Others will have to follow.

    The time fram for H2 seems realistic though.

  • kenny

    What about compressed air powered cars? These are already available rather inexpensively and they don’t require much infrastructure.

  • kenny

    What about compressed air powered cars? These are already available rather inexpensively and they don’t require much infrastructure.

  • Hi Joanna,

    I think you’re right in many issues. The future will be electric traction after all. However, the automakers are stalling on producing affordable electric vehicles with legitimate reasons: EVs. have very few moving parts as compared to the hundreds on ICEs, which will kill the profitable OEM and after-market parts and component profitable business. EVs. will last at least twice as long as ICEs., and that is no good news for them either. Allied to big oil, they make a rock solid wall between all EV projects and the consumer. Remember what happened to EV-1? That roadster was doing 0-60 in 8.something seconds, speeding up to 80 mph. with a range up to 90 miles, using good ol’lead acid batteries.

    With todays technologies, any vehicle using the same kind of battery would do much better and reach the showroom with a sticker price under $20K – government incentives =<$12,500. So…what are we waiting for?!

    Roberto DePaschoal

    info@ev-motion.com

  • Hi Joanna,

    I think you’re right in many issues. The future will be electric traction after all. However, the automakers are stalling on producing affordable electric vehicles with legitimate reasons: EVs. have very few moving parts as compared to the hundreds on ICEs, which will kill the profitable OEM and after-market parts and component profitable business. EVs. will last at least twice as long as ICEs., and that is no good news for them either. Allied to big oil, they make a rock solid wall between all EV projects and the consumer. Remember what happened to EV-1? That roadster was doing 0-60 in 8.something seconds, speeding up to 80 mph. with a range up to 90 miles, using good ol’lead acid batteries.

    With todays technologies, any vehicle using the same kind of battery would do much better and reach the showroom with a sticker price under $20K – government incentives =<$12,500. So…what are we waiting for?!

    Roberto DePaschoal

    info@ev-motion.com

  • I’m impressed. Finally someone is starting to think about this fues/transportation problem at the individual’s level instead of the global level.

    Let me ask you a question and those of you reading this post also. How many EVs or hybrid EVs do you own? Do you own an electric powered scooter; bike, motorcycle, automobile? Do any of you even have a solor powered light in your yard?

    Someone made a comment about inovation+marked does a better job. I think they hit the nail on the head. There are many inovative thinkers out there trying to figure out how to make a dollar in the future with alternative energy, albeit solar, wind geothermal, biofues ect. ect. ect…, BUT! if there isn’t a market then their progress is slowed ( not enough incentive). Right now, there are hundreds if not thousands of solar items that you can buy and many, many solar collectors for making your own electricity. I know not too many of us are DIY’ers not can many of us afford a TESLA ROADSTER vehicle, but ye can create a market for these types of items that will promote the increased research and production that will eventually bring down the prices so we can afford even more of them.

    Arace begins with the first step, and we can’t win a race if we don’t take that first stem.

  • I’m impressed. Finally someone is starting to think about this fues/transportation problem at the individual’s level instead of the global level.

    Let me ask you a question and those of you reading this post also. How many EVs or hybrid EVs do you own? Do you own an electric powered scooter; bike, motorcycle, automobile? Do any of you even have a solor powered light in your yard?

    Someone made a comment about inovation+marked does a better job. I think they hit the nail on the head. There are many inovative thinkers out there trying to figure out how to make a dollar in the future with alternative energy, albeit solar, wind geothermal, biofues ect. ect. ect…, BUT! if there isn’t a market then their progress is slowed ( not enough incentive). Right now, there are hundreds if not thousands of solar items that you can buy and many, many solar collectors for making your own electricity. I know not too many of us are DIY’ers not can many of us afford a TESLA ROADSTER vehicle, but ye can create a market for these types of items that will promote the increased research and production that will eventually bring down the prices so we can afford even more of them.

    Arace begins with the first step, and we can’t win a race if we don’t take that first stem.

  • ChuckL

    Joanna, You’ve got a good start when only personal transportation, i.e. cars, is what is considered. But, unless there is a fantastic breakthrough in batteries, this will never work for long haul trucks.These trucks will still need a liquid fuel for range. Biodiesel could be a very good solution, and could be incorporated as diesel-hybrids, or simply as diesel electric trucks copied directly from the trains that haul freight long distances.

    As I said, it is a start and much better than the hot air from Washington, D.C.

  • ChuckL

    Joanna, You’ve got a good start when only personal transportation, i.e. cars, is what is considered. But, unless there is a fantastic breakthrough in batteries, this will never work for long haul trucks.These trucks will still need a liquid fuel for range. Biodiesel could be a very good solution, and could be incorporated as diesel-hybrids, or simply as diesel electric trucks copied directly from the trains that haul freight long distances.

    As I said, it is a start and much better than the hot air from Washington, D.C.

  • I like the overall concept. About hydrogen, however. I think we blow that off, and focus instead on battery and battery charging technology. If hydrogen comes about, it can be used at the charging source or through transmission lines from power generating stations.

    The easier we make this, the more likely it is to get done.

  • I like the overall concept. About hydrogen, however. I think we blow that off, and focus instead on battery and battery charging technology. If hydrogen comes about, it can be used at the charging source or through transmission lines from power generating stations.

    The easier we make this, the more likely it is to get done.

  • You said: “Currently, the only technology we have in place to get drivers from the West to the East is gasoline”.

    That is simply not true. It is now possible to drive coast to coast, from New York to LA, on ONLY E85. Over the last year, the number of stations offering E85 has risen dramatically, even in these tough economic times- ethanol is growing rapidly. We’re up to 2.164 stations nationwide, and growing by about 60 per month.

    So yes, you can now drive coast to coast on E85. Check it out on e85prices.com, find stations across the nation.

  • You said: “Currently, the only technology we have in place to get drivers from the West to the East is gasoline”.

    That is simply not true. It is now possible to drive coast to coast, from New York to LA, on ONLY E85. Over the last year, the number of stations offering E85 has risen dramatically, even in these tough economic times- ethanol is growing rapidly. We’re up to 2.164 stations nationwide, and growing by about 60 per month.

    So yes, you can now drive coast to coast on E85. Check it out on e85prices.com, find stations across the nation.

  • Ken

    Great Idea. We need to move from Gas stations to FUELING stations that have gas, ethanol, diesel, biodiesel, CNG, electric charging stations, and hydrogen. This will allow consumers choice and develop competition for fuel choice and price.

    This will also free us from the OPEC strangle hold and help with energy security and independence.

  • Ken

    Great Idea. We need to move from Gas stations to FUELING stations that have gas, ethanol, diesel, biodiesel, CNG, electric charging stations, and hydrogen. This will allow consumers choice and develop competition for fuel choice and price.

    This will also free us from the OPEC strangle hold and help with energy security and independence.

  • Chris DeMorro

    Not bad, but I have a few quibbles, especially with electric cars. Namely, it takes much longer to charge an electric car than to fill a fuel-powered car. Even with long-range batteries and advanced charging systems, how many people would be willing to sit around and wait for their car to re-charge every few hundred miles?

    In my vision of the transportation future, electric cars never leave the city. We should really be pushing bio-fuel vehicles, since the infrastructure is already there as well as the technology. We just need an efficient way to harvest the fuel without taking food out of peoples mouths.

    We need to figure out a way to make the technology we have work harder, cleaner, and more efficiently while pursuing future transportation possibilities. But there needs to be a market too, and until crude prices climb again, I’m afraid interest will dry up faster than the oil wells.

  • Chris DeMorro

    Not bad, but I have a few quibbles, especially with electric cars. Namely, it takes much longer to charge an electric car than to fill a fuel-powered car. Even with long-range batteries and advanced charging systems, how many people would be willing to sit around and wait for their car to re-charge every few hundred miles?

    In my vision of the transportation future, electric cars never leave the city. We should really be pushing bio-fuel vehicles, since the infrastructure is already there as well as the technology. We just need an efficient way to harvest the fuel without taking food out of peoples mouths.

    We need to figure out a way to make the technology we have work harder, cleaner, and more efficiently while pursuing future transportation possibilities. But there needs to be a market too, and until crude prices climb again, I’m afraid interest will dry up faster than the oil wells.

  • MichaelBryant

    I think once we enter The Age of Plug-In Electric Hybrid Flex-Fuel Vehicles we never going to leave.I think 90% of our transportation energy can come form electricity then biofuels can easy take up 10 percent.

  • MichaelBryant

    I think once we enter The Age of Plug-In Electric Hybrid Flex-Fuel Vehicles we never going to leave.I think 90% of our transportation energy can come form electricity then biofuels can easy take up 10 percent.

  • Ani

    one correction – hydrogen can be made from distilled water . 1 litre of water , can produce enough hydrogen to drive for 20 000 miles .

    no special infrastructure needed , as a person may carry a bottle of water in their trunk , for just in case .

    CHEERS !!! 😉

    another correction – electric vehicles can charge themselves constantly by placing a solar collector panel on the top of the vehicle !!!

    CHEERS !

    It is really not as complicated , as the oil companies make it look , who are blocking the technologies , as they seek to re-face themselves for more big profits through special infrastructures or whatever else they find *;) heh

  • Ani

    one correction – hydrogen can be made from distilled water . 1 litre of water , can produce enough hydrogen to drive for 20 000 miles .

    no special infrastructure needed , as a person may carry a bottle of water in their trunk , for just in case .

    CHEERS !!! 😉

    another correction – electric vehicles can charge themselves constantly by placing a solar collector panel on the top of the vehicle !!!

    CHEERS !

    It is really not as complicated , as the oil companies make it look , who are blocking the technologies , as they seek to re-face themselves for more big profits through special infrastructures or whatever else they find *;) heh