Imagining sustainable transportation: How new technologies and cleaner fuels can transform our transportation network
Transportation, a vital part of our economy, is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — generating 41 percent of carbon emissions across the United States. It doesn’t have to be that way. A reimagined transportation network that includes electric vehicles and new technologies can reduce emissions and help better manage climate change.
Developing these solutions requires innovation and fundamental change — from the way we commute to the movement of goods to the establishment of our communities. It also requires new partnerships between states, municipalities, transit agencies and utilities. Implementing these changes can make our transportation systems greener, more sustainable and more equitable. There are three key goals to achieve for advancing this vital transition.
Accelerate adoption of greener vehicles and cleaner fuel
Electric vehicles have already started making an impact on our transportation system. By 2030, electric cars will make up about 28 percent of new car sales, a significant increase compared to the expected 2.7 percent sales increase for 2020. And even now, according to Electric Vehicles Outlook, this small increase is displacing 1 million barrels of daily oil demand.
After recognizing the impact of GHG emissions, states, cities’ utilities and transit agencies are converting conventional public vehicle fleets to electrified vehicles — a move that accelerates electrified vehicle adoption and advances state and local economies as well as social equity goals.
Implementing infrastructure that supports these vehicles creates jobs. A study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute estimates that school and transit bus fleet electrification could create 280,000 jobs over the next five years. Reducing GHG emissions would improve cities’ air quality, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, which are often home to fleet vehicle terminals. A recent Ontario Public Health Association study showed that electrifying fleets has a social benefit of US$1.1 billion annually and can save up to 143 lives per year.
Policy changes also advance electric vehicle adoption. For example, in June, the California Air Resources Board mandated that all buses purchased in the state after 2030 should be electric and beginning in 2024, trucks must be zero emission. The Board has a goal to have all trucks zero be emission by 2045. All municipal buses in the state are expected to be electric by 2040 with more policy changes to follow that encourage the adoption of clean vehicles across the state. These mandates are being provided economic support. Congress’ proposed INVEST bill significantly increases grants to transit agencies that move to low or no emissions vehicles and provides billions to support transportation agencies aiming to reduce their carbon emissions.
Develop partnerships for electrification
Decarbonization requires strategies such as electrification and connecting mobility options. Oftentimes, success hinges on partnerships between groups that have not traditionally worked together and incentivizing shared risks and rewards that drive innovation. Collaborations between utilities, cities, public and private fleet owners, and landowners ensure we incorporate key issues like public health, access to mobility services, jobs and equity in infrastructure decisions.
Strategize and plan for the future of clean energy infrastructure
A cohesive, infrastructure development strategy is essential to enable clean energy use in our transportation networks. These strategies must extend beyond borders and include utilities that provide the energy for vehicles, making electric vehicles more attainable and cost effective. The objective is to put infrastructure in place that supports a range of clean energy solutions including microgrids, vehicle to grid, renewable power generation as well as charging facilities and smart infrastructure for electric vehicles.
A more resilient, sustainable transportation network requires a multi-level approach. With a robust ecosystem of clean energy solutions, partners including public transportation and transit agencies, utilities and private investors will be able to capitalize on a technology that promises improved efficiency and operations. By establishing a multi-faceted network, communities will benefit for years to come.