2010 was a weird year all around. For green transportation though, this feels like the real and true beginning of fundamental changes in the way Americans get around. Here are five stories I feel broke new ground in green transportation.
5) Shipping Gets Cleaner
There are a lot of benefits to a world economy, though nothing that helps the environment. Lax standards on shipping emissions have for decades allowed huge ships to burn dirty fuel along populated coastlines, leading to breathing disorders and horrible air quality. But governments and the shipping companies are taking action, with everything from tighter emissions requirements, bringing back sails, and all-new aerodynamic ship designs. There have even been advancements in solar-powered sailing. Cleaner air, cleaner seas, and less money wasted on fuel. Everybody wins!
4) 40 MPG Fuel-Sippers Now the Norm
Automakers have heard the call loud and clear; consumers (and governments) want more efficient cars. It isn’t just about the environment either; as gas prices continue to edge upward even as the economy slowly recovers, people don’t want to be caught off guard by $4-a-gallon gas again. Americans are feeling frugal, and automakers are appealing to them with a rash of 40 mpg cars, from the Ford Fiesta to the Chevy Cruze Eco and the new Hyundai Elantra. Even the new V6 Mustang managed to get nearly 50 mpg around a track. And they are doing it without the help of hybrid systems in cars that cost under $20,000. See, I knew they could do it!
3) Cars That Drive Themselves
I feel it is far, far too easy to get your license in this country. Why? Because our roads are overrun with bad drivers, and I’m not just talking about the guy driving too fast and cutting off three lanes of traffic. No, I’m calling out grandma and grandpa driving 55 mph in the fast lane, the teenagers and business people chatting on their cell phones, and all the idiots who do stupid things on the highways that put us all in danger. Luckily, engineers are working on cars that drive themselves. From Google’s driverless Prius to the two orange vans that drove across continents, the technology isn’t ready for prime time…but it isn’t far off either. While I’ll never surrender to a Skynet chauffeur, for all the people who’d rather talk than drive, this is a gift from the tech-gods.
2) Racing Goes Green
I love to watch any kind of motorsports, though I can’t help but think of all the spilt fuel and tons of emissions pouring into the atmosphere for our entertainment. Yet even racing series are embracing the green theme. The American Le Mans Series continues to pioneer the use of hybrid and cleaner-burning alternative fuels like E85, clean-diesel, and biobutonal, and even NASCAR has embraced E15 Ethanol and fuel injection. Then there are electric motorcycle races, electric ice racing, and all-electric drag racers that can take down Nissan’s mighty GT-R. 2011 holds the promise of even more green racing to come.
1) Arrival of the Electric Car (Again)
What 2010 really comes down to, though, is the arrival of affordable, practical, electric vehicles; the Volt versus the Leaf. Sure the Chevy Volt is only electric for between 25 and 50 miles, and yes, the EPA may have only rated the Nissan Leaf at 73 miles. But unlike earlier efforts that were undone by the efforts of the very automakers building electric cars, this new generation of electrified vehicles has the full backing of both the government and the companies. The Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are the vanguard for a slew of electric vehicles that will hit showrooms throughout 2011 and 2012. This time, electric cars are here to stay.
So that’s it. My last post for 2010. Kinda lame, I know, but Monday brings a new week, a new year, and some new changes to Gas2, so make sure you come back and check it out. 2011 is gonna be a good year.