Paving the Way for Our Future Transportation Network While Using Less Energy

Paving the Way for Our Future Transportation Network While Using Less Energy
AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Transportation in the U.S. is in the midst of a revolution.

The steadily increasing number of electric vehicles available provide cleaner options with lower operating costs. Autonomous vehicles, when they arrive, will undoubtedly reshape our daily routines. And ride-hailing and transit payment apps will continue to influence how many people interact with the transportation system. All of these technologies need to evolve in concert.

This transformation, if done well, offers a unique chance to move people and goods more conveniently and economically while reducing the significant energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector.

But here’s the challenge: As a nation, we don’t yet have a cohesive plan to ensure this technological transition takes hold – rather, we have a regional patchwork of policies and programs that too often creates confusion and serves as a barrier to wider implementation and further investment.

Together with two dozen corporate, non-profit, and government leaders, we are announcing a pathway for policymakers to help guide this transformation to success.

As leaders of an auto company and an energy company, we co-chair this effort, the Alliance 50x50 Commission on U.S. Transportation Sector Efficiency because we know that our industries need to take the initiative here, not individually or within our own sectors – but collaboratively.

The 50x50 Commission, convened by the Alliance to Save Energy, set a goal of ensuring our transportation network of 2050 serves Americans better while cutting energy use by 50 percent.

If energy is the enabler of our mobility, why cut its consumption in half? Because using energy more efficiently focuses us in a direction that provides benefits across the board – reducing costs for families and businesses, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and improving our energy independence. It’s an ambitious target but the alternative – letting these technology trends unfold without some forethought – could leave us trailing our foreign competitors.

Here’s our call to action for realizing a new kind of American transportation.

First, we need to make our entire transportation system – and not just individual vehicles – more efficient. That means working toward an integrated system with more coordinated and transparent information about the most efficient options available, and policies encouraging passengers and goods to choose the best options.

Second, the U.S. needs to preserve and even expand its leadership in research and development. Many of the technologies in today’s vehicles come thanks to transportation research supported by the federal government and private sector, and these efforts will become even more important as we seek solutions to an evolving set of challenges.

And third, policymakers need to invest in the sector’s backbone: its vehicles. We should encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, hybrids, and efficient renewable natural gas vehicles. We need to incentivize the deployment of these efficient options, from personal cars to freight trucks, as well as their electric charging or alternative fueling infrastructure.

Electrification is the single most efficient choice for most light, medium, and heavy-duty types of vehicles, so it should be a focus. Numerous charging options – whether at homes, workplaces, or rest stops – exist today, but we need to expand them significantly while making them more uniform and ubiquitous. The private sector, including utilities and their regulators, will need to help deliver that infrastructure, supported by policies encouraging market growth.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, we’ll be taking our campaign to federal, state, and local policymakers alike. The benefits of getting this right will be enormous. It will take the pressure off families strained by fluctuations and uncertainty in gasoline prices, slow the extraordinary growth of traffic congestion, and stimulate the deployment of a new class of vehicles that are cleaner and more efficient than ever before.

With the public and private sectors working together, we’re confident that we can create an improved and more sustainable system for moving people and freight alike. The future transportation network we envision will lay the path to better serve all Americans – but we can only realize it if we work in coordination with our policymakers to make it a reality.

Scott Keogh, President of Audi of America, and Dean Seavers, President of National Grid U.S., co-chair the Alliance 50x50 Commission on U.S. Transportation Sector Efficiency.

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