Sustainability: Oct. 8, 2011
The next generation of efficient vehicles will save money at the pump, improve national security and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
New fuel economy standards crafted by President Barack Obama and auto makers raise the bar for new cars and trucks from 27 miles per gallon to 35.5 miles per gallon for 2016 models.
Subsequent incremental increases will achieve 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The race is on and we must travel down many avenues to create practical components and infrastructure for evolving alternative vehicles.
Widespread acceptance of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles depends on improved batteries and a network of quick, electric charging stations.
You can charge electric vehicles in a time-consuming Level 1 process from a regular 110-volt socket at home or wherever you happen to be.
Dedicated Level 2 charging stations deliver 220 volts and cut the charging time in half.
A small home unit for the Ford Focus will be offered through Best Buy and take four hours to charge.
Individual states are joining the effort to advance electric vehicles, and 150 homes in North Carolina will receive home charging stations at little or no cost through the Plugged In Program.
Public charging stations are located primarily on the East and West Coasts and in major metropolitan areas. Several hotels and parking facilities in Colorado have Level 1 and 2 public charging points.
Rare Level 3 480-volt DC quick-charge units can charge your battery in as little as 20 minutes. Companies such as Walgreens are jumping on board and already offer public quick charge stations at some locations in Texas.
A number of companies in the natural gas industry are smoothing the way for natural gas vehicles by initiating compressed natural gas fueling stations all over the country.
Encana is helping to create a corridor of natural gas fueling stations from Denver to Los Angeles. California and New York have more than 100 natural gas stations each, while other states producing natural gas offer 10 to 100 stations.
Powered by hydrogen, fuel cell electric vehicles may sound like science fiction, but Honda will be leasing 200 FCX Clarity cars in Southern California over the next three years.
One advantage of hydrogen is you can fill up the tank in mere minutes. Currently, only a handful of hydrogen fueling stations in California are open to the public on a “call-ahead” basis.
A small number of stations around the rest of the country are for private use by fleets and research facilities.
Toyota has a 2015 target for making FCEVs available to customers. The Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California-Berkeley is working with Toyota to explore “smart” hydrogen refueling stations and other infrastructure issues.
Last year, personal vehicle transportation accounted for about 17 percent of the energy used in this country, almost entirely in the form of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
We need to improve and embrace alternative cars in order to meet new fuel economy standards and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Perhaps, when you pull into a station in the not-too-distant future, you can fuel your vehicle with electricity, compressed natural gas or hydrogen.
Next week, I’ll examine some of the impressive research taking place in Colorado relating to alternative vehicles.