Posts tagged “transportation”
Energy use in the US can be split into two large (very, very large) pies. One is electricity for use in homes, buildings, and industry and the other is transportation, which is powered primarily by liquid fuels (gasoline and diesel) from oil. There are some exceptions, and small overlapping fuel uses – direct industrial use of liquid fuel (a fairly significant quantity), some liquids burned to make electricity (this used to be a significant amount, but is now only a very small amount), and now a very small amount of electricity used to power electric vehicles (“EVs”).
American consumers spend, on average more than $1 billion every day on each of these energy uses.
Daily U.S. Consumer Energy Spending
Electric utilities have never made a serious effort to attack the transportation market at scale. Historically this made sense. Transportation infrastructure was built around liquid fuels and virtually the entire fleet of U.S. cars and trucks run on liquid fuels and there was no viable electric-drive alternative and fueling infrastructure was non-existent.
The Electric Highway
The New York Times reporter John Broder recently published his account of an East Coast road trip he took with the Tesla Model S electric vehicle (EV). It marked an important development: Tesla has opened two new public “supercharging” stations some 200 miles apart in Delaware and Connecticut that can fully replenish the Model S battery in an hour and potentially provide consumers the ability to drive the well-traveled Interstate 95 corridor at near-zero carbon emissions. Unfortunately, Broder’s test results came up short, showing the limitations of existing EV technology, the need for more innovation, and the division of opinions on how the United States should decarbonize transportation.
The set-up was simple: Broder was to travel from Washington D.C. to Milford, Connecticut in the souped-up Model S. But according to Broder, he faced a host of inconveniences as the Model S fell short of its projected 300 mile range, resulting in the car losing charge mid-drive and the need to re-route to find additional charging stations. Since then, he and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have traded accusatory statements, (Musk, Broder, Musk, Broder), with even the New York Times Public Editor chiming in with an investigation.
The back and forth ignited a mini-Internet firestorm. The Atlantic Wire, for example, heavily scrutinized Musk’s rebuttal while Chelsea Sexton at Wired defended Tesla by characterizing EVs as being different from gas cars and thus deserving of different expectations. “The day-to-day experience EVs offer is so much better than gas cars for 95% of driving. Long-distance road trips are among the last 5% of usage scenarios,” Sexton writes, before concluding that “it’s ridiculous to expect EVs to deliver the same experience as the incumbent product.”
As I wrote yesterday, I believe that High Speed Rail (HSR) is the best option for linking the country’s major regions together. The past week has seen two major developments in America’s development and deployment of high speed rail.
First, last Friday, the California Senate approved $4.6 billion in funding for the construction of the first section of the state’s HSR. This would allow $3.2 billion in federal stimulus funding to be released to the state. Second, on Tuesday, Amtrak released its updated proposal (pdf) to upgrade its Northeast Corridor (from Washington DC to Boston) to true high speed rail, capable of cruising at 220 miles per hour.
Connecting Massive Population Centers
As the population of the U.S. grows from a country of 300 million to 400 million over the next 30-40 years, we’re going to have some decisions to make about how we keep the country moving. In our biggest cities — also the source of the greatest portion of our wealth creation — the highways and transportation systems are becoming more jammed by the day. It should be obvious that more transportation infrastructure options are needed in America’s densely packed regions.
The Interstate Highway System has been successful in linking the country together, but I’m afraid that it promotes sprawling, auto dependent development — which essentially outsources a major cost (fuel) to consumers. More highways, even if they could be built to meet capacity, are not the answer for dense regions because they have proved to only encourage more oil-dependent sprawl.
I believe that High Speed Rail (HSR) is the way to build dense, interlinked cities and regions. This past week saw two major developments about the future of HSR, as the California Senate approved $4.6 billion in funding for the construction of the first section of the state’s HSR and Amtrak announced a plan for significant upgrades to the lines along the Northeast Corridor.
The Center for Transit-Oriented Development launched a web database that provides comprehensive information about more than 4,000 transit zones across the U.S.
The latest in the snazzy series of useful tools and research on housing and transportation published by the Center for Neighborhood Technology is called Abogo.
Thirteen students from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning have recently spent months helping the city of Recife, Brazil get ready for the 2014 World Cup.
Access to the system is made difficult by broken escalators and elevators, slow and unpredictable service, and dirty and crowded cars.
The number of walking trips taken by Americans has more than doubled in the last 20 years, from 18 billion in 1990 to 42.5 billion in 2009, according to a new report.
Last Friday Paul Krugman warned about the possibility of another decade of zero. Krugman warned about the risks of being over-zealous in fighting inflation, and suggested—indirectly—that additional stimulus might be needed. He ended by saying that we could hope that past stimulus will jump-start the economy, but concluded “hope is not a plan.” So what IS a plan? The plan would have to begin by correcting the underlying economic imbalances that led to the recession. While we have made some progress on the direct triggers of the recession, by tightening up credit, especially on home mortgages, and by trying to regulate lending more thoughtfully, we still have not addressed the underlying causes. For mortgage lending, we have made almost no… Continue»