InTransition Magazine
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InTransition Magazine : Transportation Planning, Practice & Progress

Archive Edition

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Letters

Letters to the Editor

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Charging Infrastructure the Key to Electric Cars’ Success

With the Obama Administration committing billions of dollars to the proposition that electric cars will become a meaningful segment of the U.S. auto market and every major carmaker developing new-generation electric vehicles, an estimated 40 million plug-in electric vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2030.

Poised to revolutionize transportation while simultaneously reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions, these cars simply won’t run without the necessary charging infrastructure.  This charging infrastructure is expected to reduce the amount of transportation dollars sent overseas and in return, will keep this money in our economy.

Research indicates that consumers are interested in electric vehicles because they have the potential to save drivers money on fuel and pollute less than gas-only vehicles.  While consumers indicate strong interest in purchasing electric cars, they are not willing to give up on performance or convenience.

Driving range remains the biggest barrier to adoption of all-electric vehicles.  To accommodate differences in driving range needs and availability of public charging stations, a nationwide infrastructure of charging stations must be networked now. The infrastructure to support the electric car revolution, from upgrading voltage at homes to providing hook-ups in public parking lots, must not be an afterthought or the proliferation of the electric car will come to a halt. 

According to the Consumer Reports National Survey Center, approximately one-quarter of U.S. consumers surveyed said they are likely to consider a plug-in vehicle on their next auto purchase.

Continually expanding electric vehicle options, coupled with increased consumer acceptance, represent a key step toward adoption of cleaner transportation, but they are only part of the solution.  A well-planned, nationwide network of charging stations is as critical to protecting the environment as cars that use less fuel

—Andy Kinard
President, Car Charging Group, Inc.
Miami Beach, Fla.

Transportation Expert Applauds High-Speed Rail Program

The Obama administration’s launch of a high-speed rail program is the most important transportation initiative that the U.S. has seen in my 47-year lifetime. The program opens the door to a post-carbon mobility future in ways that tinkering with vehicle fuel efficiency, auto emissions and “intelligent” vehicle and highway designs can never accomplish.

High Speed Rail

Bombardier

All of these fast trains will be powered by electricity, an open-ended energy carrier that can blend renewable energy sources with a decreasing carbon content. Most of the major corridors in the U.S. will need to be electrified in the next 25 years, meaning now would be the ideal time to connect the high-speed rail plan with the emerging “smart grid.” New transmission lines could be run atop the tracks, with a periodic step-down of their current to power freight and passenger trains without using a drop of oil.

Now is the time to recognize that the United States has a lot to learn from others when it comes to building modern passenger trains. We face a steep learning curve in building modern electric railroad infrastructure and equipment after decades of neglect and disinvestment.

We should partner with Asia and Europe to share their know-how, rather than reinventing the wheel at greater expense and with more mistakes than if we opt to go it alone. If we can overcome the hubris of having only a “made in the USA” high-speed train, we will get where we need to be a lot faster, and generate more jobs and economic development as a result.

—Anthony Perl
Transportation Fellow
The Post Carbon Institute
Santa Rosa, Calif

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