Category Archives: Urban

Conscious Commuters- What All of Us Should Be

One of the truly interesting elements of the move toward transportation electrification, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, is the iconoclastic challenge they pose to the status quo.  A car seems antiquated when you consider that it was designed to burn fossil fuel, translate most of its energy into heat, and dedicate a fraction of that energy to forward momentum.  You have as a result, a Hummer which weighs in at five thousand pounds transporting a woman of 100 lbs to the gym to work out and burn additional calories.  Am I (are we) missing something?

Yes. In profoundly important ways.

Look at this product and tell me what you see.

This is one of my favorite new designs, manufactured by Bob Vander Woude of Conscious Commuter based in Portland, Oregon. No sweat, no grease. It is a folding electric bicycle with a lithium battery inserted into the tube, shaft driven, and lightweight.  You can get it up hills at 20 mph, ride to the train, fold it and carry it on.  It can be charged at home or the office for the next commute.  It is an electric vehicle.

So, when you think about EVs, don’t think about cars.  Instead, think about what type of transportation needs you must fill and how cost, safety and range  need to be blended to fill those needs.  With EV’s and the miniaturization of hardware and software, the human imagination can better able adapt the design to fit the need.  Of course, we will need to have a transportation policy that makes the road available and safe for increasingly diverse modes of transportation but that is the direction we are moving in.  A Hummer may make sense in Afghanistan loaded with troops and supplies.  Does it make sense to go to Albertson’s for a gallon of milk using a $4 gallon of gas?  Stated alternatively, even if someone can afford it, can the rest of us?

 

 

 

 

Energy and Transportation- Oregon Provides Fuel for Thought

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in Oregon’s Ten Year Future Energy Task Force as part of its Transport Design team. Oregon’s  Governor Kitzhaber is endeavoring to make a coherent vision going forward that promotes decreased petroleum consumption and increased economic activity.  This was my first serious task force and I found the exercise both stimulating and daunting.

As a state, Oregon has in place carbon emission reduction policies that require us to reduce our GHG emissions to below 1990 levels by the year 2050.  One way to visualize how we get there is to pick this number and then, using the tools we have, work backwards to see what will get us there.  Which of these tools must we use to reach the goal we have set?   The short answer is that there are a number of tools  we can use  to reach this goal… and we must use all of them .

Enter transportation electrification.  Oregon spends more than $2b per year for transportation fuels. Transportation relies on fossil fuel for 99% of its energy.  As a sector, efficiency and alternative fuel choices have dramatic effects on GHG.  In addition, all the fuel use we displace through these efforts gets translated into money spent domestically and locally.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by aligning energy policy behind electric vehicles.

What is the future for Oregon in this? We have four recommendations pending:

  1. Build Oregon into a Center of Excellence for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).  We have all the pieces to improve vehicle and freight movement through advanced technology, from the universities and research centers to information technology companies.  Encourage businesses to test new ITS products in Oregon.
  2. Accelerate vehicle and fleet turnover by building the needed alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure with charging stations at home, at work, in public areas and for commercial fleets.  Follow that up with making energy efficient vehicles more visible and more attractive to purchase at the point-of-sale.  This includes the right mix of financial and non-cash incentives to get the older, more polluting vehicles off the road and into the junkyard.
  3. Resolve financing and funding barriers that inhibit the market growth of highly efficient vehicles.  As federal CAFÉ standard increase, zero emission vehicles hit the road and fuel use decreases, there will be challenges to a transportation system funded by gas taxes.  Flexible revenue and financing models will help the state achieve its energy and emission goals.  Current plans such as Complete Streets also need to be funded.
  4. Develop complete communities and re-affirm the benefits of Oregon’s land use system.  Oregon’s transportation and land use strategies have evolved over the last 40 years into a model for strategic planning, community-centered decision­-making and efficient outcomes.  The next 10-to-20 years will require renewed efforts to keep a focus on community development within urban growth boundaries.
These are recommendations, at present, and we await the final draft which then goes out to public comment.  I introduce them to you to get YOU thinking about what matters  during the next ten years- because you will be asked to contribute those thoughts during the spring.  This is, after all,  a process, and not intended only for a select few to issue dictum as part of a “secret cabal”.
So, as you commute from home to work or school and back, as you consider what changes in transportation would make the most difference in your life, make your opinion known.
This is an opportunity to touch the future of transportation, here in Oregon, which is what sustainability-conscious people must do (and I say “must” because our children will have no choice but to live in the world we leave them; wouldn’t it be nice if they had some faith that we considered them in our decisions?)

 

Out of the Boxx- A new electrified urban scooter legend?

Today I saw firsthand why the definition of an electric vehicle should be kept broad. I had seen a picture previously, but it debuted in its many colors at the Portland Auto Show‘s Eco- Center.  Designed by motorsports engineers, meant to be simple but distinctive, and likened to what Apple did for the design of the  PC- meet the BOXX.

 

Weighing in at 120lbs, with two electric drives for each tire, it has an 80 mile range per charge and a top speed of 45 mph (and probably faster).  It is an urban transport vehicle you can drive to the office and take on the elevator with you or leave outside and remove the battery and ignition compartment (seen on the floor next to the silver version). It costs approximately $4000. It is an Oregonian native designed to appeal to men and women with the need for convenience and style.  It has a laser that visually constructs a safety lane around it as it moves at night (which I have not seen but is really cool sounding).  You can buy them on line- and several have already been sold that way. The throttle and brakes are together on the handles, along with an emergency brake on the foot peg.  Portland is a homebase for electrified motorcycles and bicycles and unicycles– no one can accuse us of not thinking out of the Boxx.  What do you think?

Here’s a different color: