DOT Reports Climate Action from Electric Cars to Public Transportation

DOT Reports Climate Action from Electric Cars to Public Transportation

Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. DOT April 2010 Report to Congress

A wealth of potential solutions, from electric cars, to better transit, to reduced VMT, are detailed in the recent Department of Transportation’s report to Congress. Not only is the report rich with promising climate action, solutions are detailed to address U.S. energy security, with 97 percent of our transportation coming from one source – petroleum.


The DOT report offers a wealth of data and tactics supporting these four strategies:

1. Low-carbon fuels
2. Fuel economy
3. Transportation system efficiency
4. Reduce carbon-intensive travel

The report also details cross-cutting policies that facilitate the above strategies:

• Align transportation planning and investments to GHG reduction objectives
• Price carbon

Low-Carbon Fuels

The alternative fuels evaluated in this report include ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, synthetic fuels, hydrogen, and electricity. Considering scalability, the potential to follow a favorable cost reduction curve, and lifecycle emissions, electricity, hydrogen, and advanced biofuels have the most promise. Report summary:

If significant advances were to occur in battery technology and the use of low-carbon energy sources for electricity generation, battery-electric vehicle could reduce transportation GHG emissions by 80 percent or more per vehicle in the long term (25 years or more). Aggressive deployment could reduce total transportation emissions by 26-to-30 percent in 2050 if a 56 percent light-duty vehicle (LDV) market penetration could be achieved.

The estimates for plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles depend on reductions in the GHG emissions intensity of U.S. electricity production. The estimates were calculated using GHG emission intensity modeled by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The input is 379 to 606 g/kWhr in 2030, and 240 to 421 g/kWhr in 2050. This compares to a 618 g/kWh national average today and would require increased use of low carbon electricity production technologies such as wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro-electric power. However, even under a very high GHG intensity scenario relying on coal generation using older technology (1,014 g/kWhr), at a low battery efficiency of 0.4 kWhr/mile,

PHEVs operating in a charge depleting mode would still result in 12 percent lower GHG emissions than corresponding conventional gasoline vehicle operation, on a per mile basis. However, under these extreme circumstances, PHEV operation will not provide benefits relative to an HEV baseline.

In the long-term, if technical successes in fuel cell development and low-carbon hydrogen production, distribution, and onboard storage can be achieved, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could reduce per vehicle GHG emissions by 80 percent or more. Aggressive deployment could reduce total transportation emissions by 18-to-22 percent in 2050.

Fuel Economy

Fuel use per light duty vehicle averages 578 gallons per year. In addition, average new vehicle fuel economy improved from 2005 to 2007 as the market share of passenger cars increased compared to light-duty trucks

Vehicle and fuel efficiency strategies include developing and bringing to market advanced engine and transmission designs, lighter-weight materials, improved vehicle aerodynamics, and reduced rolling resistance. Many of these technological improvements (such as hybrid-electric powertrains, truck aerodynamic improvements, and more efficient gasoline engines) are well developed and could be further incorporated into new vehicles in the near future. In the long-term, propulsion systems relying on more efficient power conversion and low- or zero-carbon fuels.

Fuel economy benefits are limited by the turnover time of the fleet. Passenger cars and light trucks last about 16 years on average before retirement, compared to 20 years or more for trucks, up to 40 years for locomotives and marine vessels, and about 30 years for aircraft.

• Increased fuel economy in light-duty vehicles could reduce GHG emissions significantly. On a per vehicle basis, compared to a conventional vehicle, GHG reductions are 8-to-30 percent for advanced gasoline vehicles; about 16 percent for diesel vehicles; 26-to-54 percent for hybrid electrics; and 46-to-75 percent for plug-in hybrid electrics.

• Retrofits can be used to expedite improvements. Heavy-duty trucks retrofitted to use aerodynamic fairings, trailer side skirts, low-rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels, and planar boat tails can reduce per truck GHG emissions by 10-to-15 percent. For new trucks, combined powertrain and resistance reduction technologies are estimated to reduce per vehicle emissions by 10 to 30 percent in 2030.

Reduce Carbon-Intensive Travel

These strategies would reduce on-road vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) by reducing the need for travel, increasing vehicle occupancies, and shifting travel to more energy-efficient options. The collective impact of these strategies on total U.S. transportation GHG emissions could range from 5-to-17 percent in 2030, or 6-to-21 percent in 2050.

• Transportation pricing strategies, such as a fee per vehicle-mile of travel (VMT) of about 5 cents per mile, an increase in the motor fuel tax of about $1.00 per gallon, or pay-as-you-drive insurance—if applied widely—could reduce transportation GHG emissions by 3 percent or more within 5-to- 10 years. Lower fee or tax levels would result in proportionately lower GHG reductions.

• Significant expansion of urban transit services, in conjunction with land use changes and pedestrian and bicycle improvements, could generate moderate reductions of 2 to 5 percent of transportation GHG by 2030. The benefits would grow over time as urban patterns evolve, increasing to 3-to-10 percent in 2050. These strategies can also increase mobility, lower household transportation costs, strengthen local economies, and provide health benefits.

Recent trends indicate that light duty vehicle emissions are leveling off as VMT growth slows and fuel economy improves. Growth in passenger vehicle VMT slowed from an annual rate of 2.6 percent from 1990 to 2004 to an average annual rate of 0.6 percent from 2004 to 2007. In 2008, VMT on all streets and roads in the United States decreased for the first time since 1980, likely due to a combination of high fuel prices and a weakening economy. Light-duty vehicles average 1.6 persons per vehicle.

Land use changes — such as density, diversity of land uses, neighborhood design, street connectivity, destination accessibility, distance to activity centers, and proximity to transit — reduce trip lengths and support travel by transit, walking, and bicycling.

Transportation and land use are interdependent. Decisions on the locations and densities of housing, retail, offices, and commercial properties impact travel patterns to these destinations. Similarly, the geographic placement of roads, public transportation, airports, and rail lines influences where homes and businesses are built. Areas of lower density tend to have higher levels of automobile use per capita.

Over the past several decades, housing densities have decreased and the amount of developed land in the country has grown faster than population. Land use strategies yields a reduction of U.S. transportation GHG emissions of 1 to 4 percent in 2030 and 3 to 8 percent in 2050.93 The Moving Cooler study assumptions, which fall in the middle of the range, rely on 43 to 90 percent of new urban development occurring in areas of roughly greater than five residential units per acre, which accommodates single family and multifamily homes.

TCRP Report 128: Effects of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) on Housing, Parking, and Travel, surveyed 17 housing projects that combined compact land use with transit access and found that these projects averaged 44 percent fewer vehicle trips per weekday than that estimated by the Institute for Transportation Engineers (ITE) manual for a typical housing development.

Commuter/worksite trip reduction programs have modest potential for GHG reductions—0.2 to 0.6 percent of all transportation sector emissions in 2030. The most effective actions from a policy perspective are trip reduction requirements combined with supporting activities such as regional rideshare and vanpool programs and financial incentives for the use of alternative modes.

Investing in transit sufficiently enough to nearly double the average annual ridership growth rate from the current 2.4 percent to 4.6 percent and expanded urban transit could reduce GHG emissions from 0.2 to 0.9 percent of transportation GHG by 2030, or 0.4 to 1.5 percent in 2050.

Buses have the lowest emissions per PMT because of their high occupancy rateaveraging 21 people per bus. Transit buses have a lower occupancy rate of 10 people per bus averaged across the U.S. However, transit buses only account for 15 percent of all bus passenger-miles traveled. Intercity passenger rail averages about 20 passengers per car, while rail transit averages 23, and commuter rail averages 31.

Price Carbon

Mechanisms to price carbon emissions include:

• Federal motor fuels tax

• Cap and trade system, in which GHG emissions allowances are traded in the market to cap overall emissions

• Carbon tax

Transportation GHG emissions are 29 percent of total U.S. emissions

The report provides detailed data on sources of transportation greenhouse and air quality emissions. For GHG, the new GREET 1.8b model is used to measure emissions from source to wheels. Emissions from on-road vehicles accounted for 79 percent of transportation GHG emissions.

• Emissions from light-duty vehicles, which include passenger cars and light duty trucks (e.g., sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans) accounted for 59 percent of emissions

• Emissions from freight trucks accounted for 19 percent

• Emissions from commercial aircraft (domestic and international) for 12 percent

• Emissions from all other modes accounted for 10 percent of total emissions

The United States is starting to reduce its total consumption of oil, become a bit more energy secure, and to implement promising strategies. By eliminating some of the biggest subsidies to oil and widening of highways, with some positive policy shifts, and with a modest carbon price, we could achieve significant reduction of oil use and reduce damaging emissions. Individuals, fleets, and regions have a wealth of options to use low-carbon fuels such as renewable energy, improve fuel economy including implementing electric cars, improve system efficiency, and reduce VMT.

DOT 600 Page Report PDF

Climate Action Scenario 26-Page for SF Bay Area

Car Sharing + Ride Sharing = Saves Thousands per Person

Car Sharing + Ride Sharing = Saves Thousands per Person

By John Addison (4/15/10)

Ride sharing has long been a popular way to commute to work; people save money, have some company, and travel faster in high-occupancy lanes. At colleges, universities, and major events, people are using social networks to hook-up and ride together. More recently, sharing cars by the hour has allowed hundreds of thousands to free themselves from the $8,000 per year cost of owning a car.

In the last year, due to trends such as ride share and car share growth, Americans reduced their ownership of 3.5 million cars.  Now car sharing and ride sharing are offered together.

Zipcar, the world’s largest car sharing provider announced a partnership with Zimride, the world’s leading social online ride sharing community. The partnership will integrate car sharing and ride sharing services and make it possible for Zipcar 275,000 members to seek, offer and share Zipcar rides with friends and others in or outside of their social network. It also will enable Zimride 300,000 ride sharers to use Zipcar as their vehicle, removing the need to own a car. The joint service is offered to colleges and universities; Stanford University has starting using the program.

“Zipcar is the perfect partner, given that they are operating car sharing programs on over 120 colleges and universities across the country,” said John Zimmer, co-founder and COO of Zimride. “Both companies aim to decrease emissions, reduce vehicle miles traveled and save people money. Sharing a Zipcar and ride sharing with your friends magnifies the benefit all the way around – it’s a 1+1=5 kind of impact.”

Zipcar leverages Web and wireless to make reserving and using a car by the hour easy. I am a member, with Zipcars only two blocks away. Zipcar is the world’s leading car-sharing service with 6,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout 26 North American states and provinces as well as in London, England. As a leader in urban transportation, Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models including a few plug-in hybrids.

“The market for our services on campuses across the country is huge. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are nearly 13 million faculty, staff and students on more than 2,500 campuses, many of whom don’t have convenient access to transportation,” said Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar. “We chose to partner with Zimride because their innovative and scalable platform is a great foundation for building a national network of rides. Zipcar fills the car ownership gap for the Zimride model, since people most likely to ride share are those that are least likely to own a car.”

Given the parking constraints, socially-oriented populations, and high demand for ad-hoc transportation at universities, Zimride and Zipcar have created a customized version of their application specifically designed to allow students, faculty and staff direct access to the system.

The integrated service will allow Zipcar members to share a ride by automatically posting the date, time and destination of the Zipcar trip to the Zimride campus community. Once posted, Zimride’s route matching algorithm finds and notifies users looking for a ride. Additionally, Zimride members may find a local Zipcar to share at anytime. This is done seamlessly through a customized campus Zimride website or Facebook application.

Zipcar’s low hourly rates already include gas, insurance, parking, maintenance and 24/7 service: sharing that ride with others can lower the cost even more. This practice will also further reduce carbon emissions. Zipcar members already reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 40 percent compared to owning a car. Now, with ride sharing in a Zipcar, VMT’s are reduced even further.

More Smiles, Less Miles

APA PowerPoint and Podcast

Now you can hear John Addison’s presentation to the American Planning Association (APA) and download the presentation. Transportation is a major consideration when planning a region, city, suburb, or even a town center. It has become increasingly common for plans to discuss greenhouse gas emissions in addition to traffic congestion. The good news is that every day, more people are riding clean, riding less, and riding together. This means that millions are spending less on gasoline, helping our country become energy secure, and reducing emissions.

John Addison, author of the book Save Gas, Save the Planet, discussed how planners, government leaders, and engaged citizens can help create vibrant and sustainable communities through rail, bus rapid transit, last miles solutions to make transit accessible, bicycle and walking mode shifts, electric and high mileage cars, transportation demand management programs, and smart growth initiatives that include transit oriented development.  Invite John Addison to speak at your next event. APA Presentation