Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts on Transportation in the Near Term

We discuss and read a lot about new technologies and fuels for transportation, but some of these are years off for being a widespread alternative to using petroleum based fuels. What I want to throw out here are some ideas of what we could do in the short term that could make a significant impact on our consumption, and consequently, our emissions.

First on the list is always conservation and changing driving habits, changing public behavior (at least in the U.S.) is difficult. So while some of us will drive less, move closer or carpool, the majority of people will still take the Tahoe into work during rush hour.

What I think has the potential to make a difference in the near term is standardizing hybrid powertrain components on all cars. Instead of making the hybrid powertrain a trim level option, the components should be included in every model. All cars could come with regenerative breaking and idle-off capabilities, among other things.

Much like what has been done with power steering, A/C, ABS and many other features that are now commonplace in cars, the same could be done for hybrid technology.

By making hybrid technology standard, prices for components would come down and overall fuel economy would improve. Even more importantly, emissions would be reduced. In the end, everyone wins. It’s senseless to have hundreds of millions of cars on the roads idling at stop lights or in drive-thrus.

Hybrids are one the of the better short term solutions for reducing consumption and emissions, so it would make sense to expand the technology. By not limiting hybrid technology to a select few models, the benefits would increase. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see more of these features become standard, and I hope that its sooner than later.


Tom Dyson said...

How about instead of adding a heavy secondary drivetrain to our already massive vehilces, we put more of a priority on using lighter components?

This also has the advantage of being more fun. Cars would see an across the board performance increase without having to add more power.

Jrod said...

I love the idea David, but what do we do about the hundreds of millions of cars on the road now? I've heard that there are some programs out there right now where you can turn in an older (less efficient) car for a newer (hybrid?) and get some sort of incentive (perhaps a rebate on the new car)? I searched on TX dot's and US DOT's websites, but couldn't find any information on such a program. I would imagine that this type of program could have quite an impact, especially if it were promoted and advertised enough that people actually knew about it.

I can absolutely see hybrid/efficient technology becoming standard on new vehicles...but there will have to be incentive for the car manufacturers to make it that way. Either by government intervention, or by public demand. Once again, we have the power to make such things happen, but the lack of education about this topic and our population's diffusion of responsibility could keep the general public from uniting under a common voice of conservation. It is my hope that one day (preferably soon) a majority of people will realize the environmental problems we face and make the choice to conserve.

Keep up the good posts!