Sustainability 3T: Transforming Tomorrow’s Transportation

By Kathleen Petrich, Graham & Dunn

I believe that we are on the cusp of the next great NW economy:  the transportation economy.  We have had a lumber/natural resource economy, an industrial economy, a software/information economy (of which we are thankfully still in), and we are about to witness the rise of a great transportation economy as drivers naturally adopt more fuel efficient options that are better for the environment.  The potential of what such a transportation economy can mean for our region in terms jobs, sustained environment, and (on a national level) enhanced security, is nothing short of phenomenal –if we do things smartly and collaboratively.

No, we don’t make electric vehicles (EVs) or cars per se in our region, but we do have: 1) a burgeoning telematics industry (think Microsoft, Airbiquity, Inrix, and VoiceBox), 2) a heavy trucking industry in Puget Sound (think Paccar), 3) carbon fiber manufacturers in the state, 4) a Pacific corridor EV infrastructure, 5) world-class research universities, 6) a community filled with high tech-skilled thinkers and workers, 6) a solid investment community, 7) a high tech, early-adopter ethos, and, 8) last, but not least, inexpensive clean power.

A future article will discuss what steps we must still take to make this transportation economy one that will sustain us for generations to come.  But in the meantime, we are witnessing the growing number of EVs out on the road (seeing a Nissan Leaf [link to http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index ] or Chevy Volt [link to http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car.html ] out on NW highways and roads is no longer a novelty).  The infrastructure is being built and we have clean hydro power that generates at night.  So if EVs are charged at night, it is a win-win situation:  clean excess power that may otherwise be wasted being used to fuel EVs that themselves emit zero carbons.  And sustainable transportation is more than just EVs.  Other sustainable transportations options are out there, e.g., better and lighter composite materials, better hybrids, better telematics, better batteries, better software, and even self-driving cars.  How we create policy and environments for sustainable transportation will play a big role in its overall adoption and success.  The future is now.  Tomorrow is here.

We have a great—and inexpensive—opportunity to hear some of the best minds in the future of transportation space including keynotes:  Amory Lovins [link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amory_Lovins ] of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Bob Lutz [link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Lutz_(businessman) ], former Vice-Chair of GM and the man behind the Chevy Volt.  They are both speaking at the September 7th Beyond Oil:  Transforming Transportation in Century 21 along with other notable thought leaders [link to http://www.wwcleancities.org/nextfifty/agenda.html ].  Tickets for this event are only $25 (plus Ticket Master charges), but they will go fast.  To reserve your spot or see the agenda, please go to http://www.wwcleancities.org/nextfifty/ .

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