Car Sharing and Saving in a Tough Economy

Car Sharing and Saving in a Tough Economy

Buses Popular at Universities

Buses Popular at Universities

By John Addison (2/25/09)

American’s rise to tough challenges. This recession is hitting people hard. Transportation is 20 percent, or more, of many people’s expenses. American’s are finding smart ways to save. Public transportation use is at its highest in over 50 years. Commute program participation is breaking records. Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles in 2008 than the previous year.

A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that the average cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is 54.1 cents per mile. This is over $8,000 per year per vehicle, based on 15,000 miles of driving. Depreciation is part of that cost. Anyone who has bought a car for $20,000 and later sold it for $5,000 understands depreciation. Fuel, maintenance, tolls, parking, financing, and insurance add up. Most U.S. households have two vehicles, costing them over $16,000 per year.

The opportunity to save on transportation costs depends on many factors: living in the city or suburbs, household size, number of kids, type of work, and feasibility of car sharing.

A friend of mine is getting hit hard with vehicle costs and by being in an industry that is in a downward spiral. He and his wife are refinancing the home to stay above water. Their family of five includes four vehicles – primarily SUVs and a pick-up truck. When their youngest turns 16 this year, my friend is planning to get his son his own car. Vehicle number 5. At first glance, it looks like they have no other choice. Like most suburbs, frequent public transit is not in walking distance. Everyone is busy with work, school, sports, and community activity.

A closer look shows that this family could save over $10,000 per year. The three teenagers/young adults could share one or two vehicles. They live two-miles from a main street where public transit is reasonably frequent. All are great athletes who could bike to and from transit. Transit includes express buses during morning and evening commute hours that connect to a major downtown, other transit systems, rail, colleges, and more.

No one likes to deal with conflicts with teenagers and vehicle sharing is sure to create some conflict, yet communication and conflict resolution are important lessons for teenagers to learn. Family members might surprise you in creating sharing solutions that work, especially when bike and transit options are there. Taking the bus or biking to and from high school is not the end of the world. A young adult that insists on having their own vehicle can take the responsibility of working part time to pay for the vehicle, insurance, and fuel.

For years, Mark and Lisa Williams shared one vehicle. Both Mark and Lisa commuted during similar work hours from Elk Groove to Sacramento. They rode to work together. By riding together they saved up to an hour daily by using the HOV lane for vehicles with two or more passengers.

They also saved the $1,740 per year that would be necessary to pay for two Sacramento parking spaces instead of one. Mark and Lisa were not always able to commute together. When their jobs were miles apart, Lisa would take Mark to the nearby light rail that transported him to Sacramento. The Williams, including their son, never ceased to find irony as the three of them in one vehicle drove past the three vehicles parked in the driveway of a single neighbor.

When their teenage son approached driving age, the Williams bought a second vehicle, a Toyota Prius. Most of the time, the three rode together, leaving their SUV in the garage. When someone was going in an opposite direction, then the second vehicle is used. After seven months, they we’re using the SUV so little that they could not justify the cost of keeping it. They are back to a one-car family which works for the three of them. On rare occasions, the SUV is missed. Mark says, “It does require some compromises, like borrowing a vehicle when we want to use our kayaks, but it is well worth it, and will only become more so as gas prices slowly start climbing again.”

When I talk with people aged 14 to 30, I am surprised by how many do not want a car. My niece Lindsay Short was given the family’s 2001 Prius when she graduated high school with honors. She leaves the car with her parents and lives car free at the university. Like many universities, anything is faster going from class to class than trying to drive and search for the impossible parking space. On campus transit, bicycling, and walking work best. When cars are needed, car sharing services such as Zipcar, offer qualified students aged 18 and older, vehicles by the hour. What many students need is a monthly allowance that is a fraction of the cost of car ownership, so that they can pay for car sharing, public transportation, and trips home to see family. As an environmentalist, Lindsay wants to be true to her values.

You do not need to be in school to make a difference. For everyone, from those who live alone, to roommates, to families, transportation costs can be cut with flexwork, commute programs, public transit, and car sharing.

During his February 24 Address to Joint Session of Congress, President Obama stated, “The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil… That is our responsibility.”

Millions of Americans are responding to the current challenge of being financially secure; they are also addressing the need to provide their children with a future that is energy secure and climate secure. People are riding clean, riding together, and riding less.

US Ethanol Industry Eyes Valero’s Bid for VeraSun

(by Jennifer Kho) Just over a year ago, ethanol manufacturer VeraSun Energy Corp. was one of biofuels’ fastest-rising stars. The company is the largest publicly traded ethanol producer in the United States. It has about 1.64 billion gallons of annual production capacity and uses about 5 percent of the country’s annual corn production. Now, the company has become a poster child for the industry’s troubles. VeraSun locked in high prices for corn under hedging agreements that put the company at a disadvantage when corn prices fell, and also — like many other ethanol companies — found its margins squeezed by lower ethanol prices. In October, VeraSun filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing is part of a series of ethanol bankruptcies, including Panda Ethanol, Renew Energy, Gateway Ethanol, Greater Ohio Ethanol, Northeast Biofuels, Cascade Grain and many more. Earlier this month, Archer Daniel Midlands told analysts that nearly 21 percent of U.S. ethanol production capacity had been shut down. Valero’s Day said. “As an oil company, we buy up a good amount of ethanol,” he said. “We believe ethanol is here to stay as part of our fuel mix — we don’t believe the renewable fuel standard will go anywhere but up — and we thought it was a good time to make a bid for those plants.” Renewable Energy World Article

Intelligent Charging Infrastructure for New Electric Vehicles

Intelligent Charging Infrastructure for New Electric Vehicles

Mayor Newsom Charges Plug-in Hybrid Prius

Mayor Newsom Charges Plug-in Hybrid Prius

By John Addison (2/19/09)

Momentum continues for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. BMW is already leasing its freeway speed MiniE. Sports car lovers navigate curving mountain roads in their Tesla Roadsters. Toyota is putting 500 plug-in Priuses into fleet tests this year. Next year, Nissan, Chrysler, BYD, and Ford plan to start taking consumer orders for electric vehicles from cars to vans. Toyota and GM will be fighting for plug-in hybrid market leadership. Over 100 EV players will be competing for your business. Electric Cars for 2010

Forty-thousand electric vehicles are now on the road in the United States; 99 percent max out at 25 miles per hour. These light-electric vehicles (LEV) are surprisingly popular in college towns, retirement communities, and in a variety of practical fleet applications from maintenance crews to parking meter attendants. Most of these electric vehicles are in California.

Will consumers buy or lease EVs in large numbers? Yes, if a few problems are overcome. Most will want freeway speed. Customers want an affordable vehicle. Many will want the types of vehicles planned by Toyota, Nissan, and GM – four door sedans and larger vehicles that can carry several people and lots of stuff. The vehicles will need greater range than today’s LEVs. Although the average household in the U.S. has two vehicles, with one rarely going over 40 miles in a day, many people will insist on EVs and PHEVs with much greater range. Consumers fear getting stuck.

“There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies.  Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Yesterday, the City of San Francisco demonstrated its installed Coulomb Smartlet Networked Charging Stations by charging a city-owned plug-in hybrid Prius.  Unveiling of the charging stations was done by Mayor Gavin Newsom, a former EV1 driver who has a Tesla Roadster on order (yes, he is buying it with his own money).

San Francisco is an ideal city to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Every year over 100 million rides are taken on the city’s fleet of electric trolley buses and BART rail/subway system. The city already has electric and plug-in vehicles in its fleet.  San Francisco is recognized as one of the greenest cities in the United States, if not the world. Citizens have been early adopters of electric vehicles, e-bikes, and plug-in hybrid conversions.

San Francisco, like most cities, needs a charging infrastructure. Only 16 percent of vehicles in SF have access to a garage with an electric outlet. (Clayton Cornell’s Post)  Most vehicles are parked on streets, apartment buildings, co-ops, and public garages without charging infrastructure. San Francisco does have at least 17 charging stations. Most are not publicly accessible. Others are older generation and not compatible with new vehicle standards.

“Our goal is to transform the Bay Area into the EV Capital of the United States, and a networked infrastructure is essential for the adoption of electric vehicles,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  “San Francisco is proud to be the first city to feature charging stations with technology to support our city’s clean electric fleet vehicles and car-share fleets.”

City CarShare, a successful non-profit pioneer in car sharing, is including in the demonstration progarm a Prius converted to be a plug-in by 3Prong Power. “City CarShare is pleased to participate in the Mayor’s Green Vehicle Showcase,” said Rick Hutchinson, CEO of City CarShare.

“Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco.”

Zipcar’s 250,000 members use car sharing to save $5,000 to $8,000 per year by reducing their need for a second vehicle or for any vehicles. Members also use Zipcar as part of their multi-modal transportation. For example, in a few years a Zipcar member in LA could take LA Metro to California’s new high-speed rail, then use a Zipcar plug-in hybrid for a few hours of cross-town meetings, and then return the car to take rail and transit home. All in the same day.

“Zipcar encourages sustainable lifestyles in several ways – fewer personally owned cars, less driving overall, and now the addition of these super efficient plug-in cars,” said Mark Norman, President of Zipcar.  “Our members strongly support the notion of adding next-generation clean cars, and this program is an important first step in exploring the potential.” The plug-in hybrid for the San Francisco Zipcar fleet is a Toyota Prius converted with the A123 HymotionTM L5 Plug-In Conversion Module to deliver 30 to 40 miles of electrically assisted driving on a single charge.

San Francisco is taking an important step forward by implementing a smart charging infrastructure that can be centrally managed and supported. The intelligent system can send text messages to drivers when their vehicle is charged, or that their hours of free parking are ending. The charging adheres to new SAE standards agreed upon by automakers and charging infrastructure providers. By making EVs a reality in a city with excellent transit and a future hub of high-speed rail, EVs will solve last-mile issues, and car sharing partnerships will allow long journeys to be zero-emission end-to-end.

Global Warming Solutions Included in Transportation 2035

Global Warming Solutions Included in Transportation 2035

Record Transit Riders in New Economy

Record Transit Riders in New Economy

By John Addison (2/10/09)

Last year, Americans drove 100 billion miles less than the year before. They also used public transit and participated in commute programs in record numbers. Regional transportation plans have the opportunity to accelerate these trends, help people cost-effectively meet their transportation needs, and be part of the global warming solutions now needed.

In 2035, 9 million people will be more efficient and less stressed in traveling the San Francisco Bay Area if all goes according to plan. Transportation 2035 is one of the nation’s first regional transportation plans to make reducing carbon emissions integral to such a plan. This regional plan will accommodate a 26 percent population increase compared to 1990, improve their transportation, while reducing CO2 emissions by 14 percent compared to 1990.

Jack Broadbent, Executive Officer, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, observed, “Transportation is the largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in the Bay Area. To protect public health and protect the climate, we need to make better use of our transit systems, and we need to build and create livable communities that reduce our dependence on the automobile.”

Addressing the threat of a climate crisis is welcome in this multi-county region that includes cities, suburbs, ports, and an economy that includes manufacturing, services, agriculture, and diverse enterprises. Agriculture is already impacted by the draughts that impact vast parts of the United States. Rising seas threaten one of the nation’s most active ports and all living near the water.

“Climate change is expected to significantly affect the Bay Area’s transportation infrastructure through sea level rise and extreme weather. The transportation sector’s adverse contribution to climate change is primarily through greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, buses, trains and ferries. Our transportation decisions and actions can either help or hinder efforts to protect the climate….”according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Most of the transportation budget will go to public transit which is forecasted to increase 75 percent over the 30 years. Clean Fleet Public Transportation Reports

The $226 billion of transportation funding over 30 years is primarily from local sources including transit fares, sales tax, and gasoline tax. Local, federal and state support is part of the funding, as it is throughout the nation.

In part, it is a demographic shift that will make the feasible the growth of public transportation. Although most people in the Bay Area now live in the suburbs, the Bay Area Governments forecast almost 70 percent growth in urban living and little growth in suburban living in the 30 years to 2035. Part of the shift to urban living is in the 25 percent of the Bay Area’s population that will be 65 and older in 2035. Similar percentages will be seen throughout the nation as 78 million U.S. Boomers are increasingly free from raising children and discover new priorities.

Planning trips will continue to get better. By Internet or a mobile phone call, trips can be planned via car or transit with systems like Google Maps and 511. Enter a beginning and end address, and these friendly information systems provide the best route, alternatives, and even include estimated walking time. Realtime transit arrival and traffic information will be ever more integrated into these systems.

Public transit is far less used in suburban and rural areas.

To speed suburban travel, an 800-mile Regional High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Network on Bay Area freeways is mapped. The Plan states, “High-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes for short, are carpool lanes with a twist: buses and carpools use the lanes free of charge, but solo drivers are allowed to use available capacity in the lanes, too — for a price.”

The estimated $3.7 billion construction cost of the network would be paid for with HOT toll revenues that are estimated at $6 billion. These lanes also allow commuter buses, vans, and carpools to get people to and from work much faster than driving solo.

I personal experienced the benefit of using a HOT lane a few months ago when attending the American Public Transportation Association (APTA TransitVision 2050) convention at the San Diego Convention Center. I was staying with family out in the suburbs where conventional wisdom dictates that public transportation does not work. My brother dropped me at a bus stop two-miles from his home. From there, I took a commuter bus that sailed past stop-and-go traffic in a HOT lane taking me to downtown San Diego where I hopped on a trolley to the Convention Center. The journey was faster than driving solo. The bus fare lower than parking cost.

HOT lanes are effectively deployed in Houston, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City.

Increased use of public transportation often hinges on those half to three “last miles” from home to transit to work. For many, the last mile solutions are walking and bicycling that improve health. Transportation 2035 thoughtfully includes Safe Routes to Transit programs and Safe Routes to Schools.

57 million Americans own a bicycle. The bicycle is especially effective for the last miles when simple things are in place such as painted and maintained bicycle lanes, secure bike parking, and sufficient space on buses and trains to carry a bicycle.

Although 30 percent of travel by bicycle is common in European cities from Copenhagen to Groningen. In the United States, however, Portland is the only city to even approach 3 percent. Transportation 2035  details a regional bicycle network to expand the carbon-free use of bicycles and improve the “last miles” solutions.

Better transportation for all of us certainly includes better expressways and bridges to somewhere, especially if they are significantly funded with tolls, HOT fees, and revenue tied to usage such as gasoline taxes. Ideally, better transportation is the result of a process that involves many employers, commuters, travelers, and governments throughout a region to plan effective multi-modal solutions. Transportation 2035 is one such plan.

Save Gas, Save the Planet

Save Gas, Save the Planet

Ride Clean. Ride Together. Ride Less.

Be inspired by the strategies and real-life stories in this new book by John Addison.

Available in paperback and ebook at Amazon and other booksellers.

  • Improve the quality of your life
  • Save thousands each year in vehicle costs
  • Take advantage of flexible work
  • Avoid unnecessary stress when you travel
  • Help the country end its dependency on oil
  • Stop the climate crisis
  • Make the right decision when you buy a car

“Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and next generation fuels are all part of the clean tech revolution. John Addison delivers the fascinating details of today and tomorrow.”
Clint Wilder
Co-Author of The Clean Tech Revolution and Contributing Editor at Clean Edge

Millions are spending less on gasoline, helping our country become energy secure, and reducing emissions. Every day, more people are riding clean, riding less, and riding together.

Explore clean vehicles that are becoming available and affordable including electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen vehicles, turbodiesels, and new cars with great mileage. See how the best employers promote flexible work and commute programs. Learn how families and friends are taking new approaches to sharing gas misers, gaining free time in the process.

Develop new insights in the future of transportation, the auto industry, and into the great fuel race. Know your options for today and tomorrow. The solutions to saving money and saving the planet are now available.

“This is the best book that I have seen describing practical solutions for driving less and buying the right vehicle. John Addison offers accurate insights into the latest electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, biofuels, and flexible work strategies. As someone responsible for the air quality for 7.5 million people, I recommend this book.”
Jack Broadbent
Chief Executive Officer Bay Area Air Quality Management District


1     Smiles per Gallon
2     The Promise of Electric Vehicles
3     Plug-in Drivers get Charged
4     Lighter than Air
5     Riding on Sunlight
6     The Temptation of Biofuels
7     Flexible Work and Flying Less
8     Cool Commutes
9     Yours, Mine and Ours
10    The Car-free Option
11    New Diet for Oil Addicts
12    Energy Security
13    Global Action
14    Living in a Sustainable City
15    What Choices Should You Make?

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. He is a member of the Western Automotive Journalists and of the Society of Environmental Journalists. His articles have appeared in print and electronic magazines with up to 1,000,000 readers including the CNET, Green Options, Cleantech Blog, and EV World. Mr. Addison is a popular speaker, conducting over 1,000 workshops in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

“Read this book if you care about the future of our children. John Addison details the transportation solutions that will bring clear skies and reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. It is fascinating to read about everything from smiles per gallon to electric vehicles, from people oriented development to high speed rail, and from driving less to enjoying life more.”
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma,
California State Assembly Majority Whip