Opinion: Introducing America’s First Transportation Transition Plan


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.


Joanna Schroeder

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