Electrifying gains in transportation

By Robert and Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

A student from Ghana once told us he wondered if his country would ever have a transportation system similar to ours. He spent two days to reach the airport, walking miles to a truck stop, standing in the back of a truck with farm animals, then riding a bus to catch his plane.

While his expressed desire is understandable, an auto centered transportation system is clearly unsustainable in a finite world. Those of us who live in an auto centered culture and are concerned about the environmental impacts of our behavior often look for ways to reduce ours.

As a society, we remain car centered but continue to implement incremental change. One new effort is the creation of an environmental rating system for road construction. The Greenroads Foundation certifies road construction projects that meet its standards. Features such as permeable pavement to improve drainage and groundwater recharge, LED lighting, runoff quality treatment, a new concrete mix including aggregate from old toilets, and bike and pedestrian access are included.

With more fuel-efficient cars and hybrid and electric vehicles, taxes for road construction have been dropping so some states are considering implementing a tax structure based on how many miles a vehicle travels. Such a tax might serve as a stimulus to curtail excessive driving.

With increased reliance on batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles, two recent comments are encouraging. One hybrid owner reported a battery pack has powered his car for over 300,000 miles. Another reported his battery pack provided 250,000 miles of service before giving out. While the dealer wanted $4,000 to replace it, he found a rebuilt one with the same warranty for $1100 and after carefully reading the directions safely installed it himself.

Fuel efficient vehicles will be included at this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fair. Chris Schneider, the ‘Hybrid Guru” who both had exhibits and made presentations at the first few Fairs, will return with a look at the changing world of efficient vehicles. When he began presenting at the first Fairs, there were only two hybrid models available. Now there are 34 hybrids, 14 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, 11 battery vehicles, nine natural gas vehicles and three hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles. If you would like to talk with someone who has experienced most of these first hand and ask questions about renewability and sustainability, attend his session and visit his display.

Tom Brunka, who bills himself as an engineer and tinkerer, will provide a new look at electric vehicle conversion focusing on the maintenance steps and simple modifications that will prolong the life and improve the efficiency of such vehicles.

“Mr. Green Car,” Allen Penticoff, will explore future transportation options. Will we be able to use solar, wind, biofuels or other technologies to keep us moving in the direction to which we have become accustomed? Listen as he draws back the curtain on these questions.

As an alternative to auto transportation, Josef Appel will provide a look at E-Bikes. He will also display a solar RV, solar powered garden tools and 12V/24V DC refrigerator complete with signs explaining how all of these devices work.

Plan a trip to the future at this year’s Fair on August 22 and 23.

Major sponsors of the Fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

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