Can We Cut Energy Use in US Transportation While Making it Better? We’re Taking on the Challenge

Black electric SUV recharging in parking garage. 3D rendering image
20 Dec 2017

Transportation is a key part of American life. Nearly all of us own cars or take public transportation, rely on freight transport for packages and groceries, and depend on transportation’s invisible support for industries, hospitals, businesses and government.

But transportation is also a major energy user. In 2016, 29 percent of U.S. energy was used for transportation. So now the question is, can we improve our transportation system while at the same time use less energy?

Now is a good time to take a step back and look at the opportunities for improving transportation efficiency. As a variety of commentators argue, a transportation transformation is underway. New technologies are emerging that can increase vehicle efficiency, but also do much more: create unprecedented coordination among trains, public buses, taxis and personal vehicles; optimize freight shipments into the smallest vehicles traveling the fewest miles; and incorporate smarter designs, in everything from cities to traffic lights. This is a vision for transportation as a service that maximizes efficiency and safety, while producing far fewer emissions.

In light of this transformation, the Alliance to Save Energy recently announced a new Commission of business, government and civil society leaders that will work together to develop a pathway and recommendations to reduce energy use in the U.S. transportation sector by 50 percent by 2050 – all while meeting future mobility needs. And we’re happy to have Thomas Passek, President of the Copper Development Association (CDA), as one of our commissioners. Copper is a key component of electric motors, batteries, inverters, and wiring which help vehicles run more efficiently, and it is also critical in the electrical infrastructure needed for charging such vehicles.

The “50 by 50 Commission” will take a fuel-neutral look at opportunities relating to light duty, heavy duty, freight, and non-road vehicles. Key to this is a cross-cutting examination of infrastructure and advanced information and computer technologies, as well as diverse stakeholder outreach.

This includes exploring opportunities to deploy more efficient vehicles; reduce unnecessary miles traveled; improve logistics and freight; reduce fuel waste; and increase vehicles’ occupancy. This future is one in which travel and freight transportation is more affordable and more competitive, has a far smaller environmental footprint, and is more accessible for all. The Commission will issue a final report next year. Stay tuned!

By Natasha Vidangos, Director for Research, Alliance to Save Energy


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