Kathleen Petrich: Transportation is About to be Transformed in the Northwest – Part One

By Kathleen Petrich, Graham & Dunn, September 18, 2012.

On September 7, 2012, Steve Marshall, executive director of CATES (Center of Advanced Transportation and Energy Solutions), Next 50, and Washington Clean Cities hosted the Beyond Oil: Transforming Transportation in Century 21 conference at the Seattle Center.  Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of GM (North America) and the man behind the Chevy Volt, were the keynote speakers. They, and the other clean transportation thought leaders, gave the audience many things to ponder:

From Amory Lovins:

  • Implement revenue-neutral feebates (consumers of highly efficient vehicles given a rebate offset by a fee to consumers of inefficient vehicles in a similar class)
  • Create ultra-light, slippery (low-drag) vehicles to significantly reduce fuel consumption (Amory showed example of ultra light, but very strong carbon fiber “cap”)
  • Can triple efficiency of heavy trucks and planes
  • Can eliminate addiction to coal and oil and use less than 1/3 natural gas—and save $
  • All of the energy savings can be executed at a state or local level even without a coherent federal energy policy

From Bob Lutz, who is a proud, passionate republican, but who believes in electrification of vehicles as the future of transportation:

  • If you want to conserve a commodity, increase the price (e.g., gasoline in Europe is $9/gal, so that extra $4.50 goes a long way to infrastructure)
  • For electricity to trump, has to be the best choice in the market place for the consumer (he is not buying the security argument or the climate science argument, and only 5% of the consuming public will pay a premium for an EV)
  • Best argument for electrification of vehicles is that they are much more efficient than the old internal combustion engine, which is an old technology that is at best 30% efficient
  • Battery technology is improving—current EV design uses lithium ion technology, but future (and cheaper) lithium sulfur will be able to ultimately get us to 400-450 miles per charge. Then, it’s a game changer.

From Charlie Allcock, Portland General Electric:

  • If we combine our economic buying power with BC and Oregon, we have a combined economy of 14 million people to create an ecosystem for buying EVs, network capabilities, charging stations—which creates a value proposition for the Pacific Northwest
  • The grid is fine—plenty of capacity, particularly if EV charging is done at off peak times

From Paula Hammond, head of Washington Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT):

  • We have to think of transportation more like a utility, shift revenue from ₵/gal to road usage

From Kamyar Moinzadah, Airbiquity:

  • Addressing range anxiety through software/telematics to let consumer know how much charge is left, what is the traffic, where are charging stations

From Gordon Feller of Cisco:

  • On the roadways, increased use of ‘Big Data’ as part of ‘Connected Highways’

From Bryan Mistele of INRIX:

  • Private sector INRIX provides consumer and government access to data about crowd sourcing leads to decreased congestion

During the breaks, conference attendees spent time looking at various EV/electrified options, including the Nissan Leaf, Arcimoto’s Generation 6 three-wheeled motorcycle (I call it a transporter), CODA (the newest kid on the block), Fisker Karma, Tesla Roadster, an extended range electric van from VIA Motors, and others.

The entire conference was video-taped and can be found on the left-hand side of the CATES website.

Over the next few days, I will write more about the pre-conference reception ideas, conference, and solutions that were shared to transform transportation in the Northwest.