Electric vehicles (EVs) will be critical for meeting ambitious climate goals at the national, state, and local levels, but their rapid adoption continues to face challenges. This wrap-up touches on the latest barriers that are essential to overcome.
Transitioning to electric power has been a major focus of state and local agencies trying to meet ambitious emissions reduction goals. That involves rolling out more charging stations, bolstering the grid, and offering incentives for drivers to go electric; but consumers will also need plenty of cars to choose from. American-made options, however, are going to be limited.
There have been a number of studies studying the relationship between in-store and online shopping behavior and its impact on retail-related travel. A broadly accepted idea is that online shopping, in more ways than one, is substituting for in-store shopping and can thereby reduce shopping related travel. However, major demographic and economic factors affect shopping behavior, and expedited delivery options may reduce the potential of e-commerce to reduce VMT and greenhouse gas emissions.
The necessary transition away from burning fossil fuels for transportation could be quite resource intensive. So say leading UK scientists in a recent letter in response to a recommended target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The letter lays out the difficulty of producing enough raw materials, and energy, to fulfill the needs of this transition, using known technologies.
Most GHG emissions in transportation come from on-road vehicles, but construction is a large contributor as well. In particular, concrete manufacturing generates emissions both from energy needed to heat materials in cement kilns and from a chemical process known as “calcination.” Because concrete is so widely used these emissions are substantial, amounting to an estimated 5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. A New Jersey-based startup has begun to commercialize a process that it claims reduces GHG emissions by up to 70 percent. The technology relies on lower-emission cement chemistry, and it sequesters carbon dioxide—from a companion industrial or power plant—during hardening.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, California has met its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels four years early, an impressive feat, and one that comes while the California economy continues to flourish. But the reductions come almost entirely from the generation of electricity, while emissions from transportation continue to rise. More driving, public preferences for larger cars, lower gas prices, and a booming economy are all to blame for the rise. Despite the relative lack of progress in transportation, the Trump administration announced on Aug. 1 that it plans to eliminate the waiver California enjoys from national mobile source pollution rules, allowing the state to impose GHG emissions limits.
Cities, counties, and states are setting ambitious emissions reduction goals, requiring them to cut transportation sector emissions, which account for more than a quarter of the national total. Electric vehicles powered by clean energy could make a big difference, but it is unlikely those technologies will be deployed at a fast enough rate. To meet their goals, governments need policies that not only keep vehicle use from rising, but also push it down considerably.
The Federal Highways Administration announced on Thursday that it will lift the suspension on the rule requiring state departments of transportation to measure on-road greenhouse gas emissions. With the lifting of the suspension, that requirement has gone into effect immediately. Furthermore, in its notice, FHWA specifically mentions that it has “initiated additional rulemaking procedures proposing to repeal the GHG measure and anticipates publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2017 with a goal of issuing a Final Rule in Spring 2018.”
In the waning days of the Obama administration, FHWA finalized the last set of performance measures for states and MPOs. That seemed to end a 4.5-year rulemaking effort that had kicked off in mid-2012 with the signing of the MAP-21 transportation bill. However, the incoming Trump administration delayed the rule’s February starting date, then allowed the rule to go into effect in May—except for a provision that would have required states and MPOs to track greenhouse-gas emissions related to the National Highway System. That provision was indefinitely delayed. Now the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups are suing to have the GHG measure reinstated.
In 2011, U.S. EPA and NHTSA established a national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set new fuel efficiency standards for commercial vehicles starting in 2014. The requirements of this program are a driving force that is causing manufacturers to advance diesel technologies to achieve more environmentally sustainable outcomes, and they are starting to pay off.