What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Back in the 80’s my company built a CNG facility and invested a substantial amount of money in CNG conversion kits to convert vehicles. This facility was located in Reno Nevada and was the only public CNG facility within the 55,000 square miles of our territory. This last year the station was decommissioned, being the person in charge of the facility, I found this disappointing, but there just wasn’t enough demand for the station to justify the expenses associated with maintaining it.
I’m sure that when my company built the facility, they imagined that if there were vehicles around that needed CNG, fuel providers would follow suit and invest in infrastructure to support those vehicles, but this just never happened. We soon found out that the vehicles we had purchased to run on CNG were limited to being kept within a 30 mile range of the filling station; not very effective when you have 55,000 square miles to cover. As vehicles began to age, they were replaced by gasoline vehicles, not only because of the available infrastructure, but because they ran so much better than the old CNG vehicles.
When the station finally shut down early this summer, me and the five people in town who had CNG vehicles felt terrible. We still hope to relocate the facility to another location in town so there can be at least one public CNG station between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, but only time will tell if this will be feasible in our current economy. At the current time there are no chickens or eggs, what a great opportunity to solve the age old question of which comes first.
The future of personal transportation is yet to be determined, but several companies have made a push towards determining that future. With the release of two new plug-in electric vehicles an electric future is gaining some momentum. The recent releases of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are showing that electric vehicles can play a meaningful role in our future personal transportation needs. The company that I work for, NV Energy, has recently purchased several Volts and Leafs and so far the reviews have been quite good.
I have found both of these vehicles to be every bit as comfortable as any compact sedan that I have driven, and I have also found the performance to be very comparable. When we think about driving anything other than a gasoline fueled vehicle we tend to think of something that lacks power and is slow and unresponsive. That is not the case with either of these electric vehicles as both drives very comparably to a gasoline powered vehicle.
The primary advantage to an electric infrastructure is that vehicle charging can be done during non-peak hours allowing electric generation to be provided on a more consistent basis throughout each twenty four hour period, reducing the need to add generation facilities. While the Leaf is rated to have a range of 62 to 138 miles, Nissan admits that the high end of this range would be for ideal circumstances, our experience has shown that while running some form of climate control and playing the radio, a user could reasonable expect to achieve a range in the lower end of this estimate, but for the average person commuting around town, this would be quite acceptable. For the Volt you can expect a shorter all electric range, 35 miles, but this unit offers and extended range application that allows the unit to travel up to 375 miles using an alternative gasoline motor which charges the batteries.
My experience with both of these plug-in electric vehicles has been very positive. The technologies applied to these vehicles bring a comparable driving experience to that of a gasoline powered engine while offering a clean and efficient alternative. The average commuter could expect their daily commute to be fueled entirely by electricity provided by plugging the vehicle in while they slept. The future of electricity has clearly taken a step forward.
The world population is now around 7 billion people! Wow, that’s a staggering number. It’s amazing that our planet can provide healthy food, clean water, clean air, and natural resources to support all of these people, what an amazing place. About eight years ago I found myself accepting a job in a fleet services department, at the time I just thought it was kind of cool to be able to learn about and play with all of this great equipment, but as I became more familiar with my industry, I realized that this was an opportunity to make a difference, to contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet.
Fossil fuel has been the easiest and most efficient source of energy available on our planet and has fueled incredible growth throughout the industrial revolution, but this is not a source of fuel that contributes to a clean environment, nor is it a source of fuel that will last over the long run. In addition, as we deplete the easiest to extract and process sources of oil, it will become increasingly expensive and unrealistic as a source of energy to fuel the world’s hungry economies.
While people may dispute whether global warming is natural or human caused, the fact is that the planet is warming and the consequences will have dire effects on the human race. We take for granted that the earth will always supply the essential elements that we need to survive, but as the planets populations grow and the worlds economies continue to shift from an agricultural to an industrial base, the human contribution to the problem will continue to grow.
As transportation professionals we have the ability to help reduce the amount of fossil fuel consumed and bridge the gap towards a lasting and clean source of energy. By promoting the technologies that will enable the transportation industry to reduce carbon emissions we can play a significant role in reducing the human impact on global warming. Our planet truly is an amazing place, and those of us who work in the transportation industry have the opportunity to help our planet by moving the transportation industry towards a more sustainable future that will allow the Earth to continue to provide the essential elements that are necessary to support our growing populations.