The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vision for Hybrids in the Puget Sound


P-I REPORTER 5/08/07

Imagine at first hundreds of Northwesterners -- but later thousands, and ultimately tens of thousands or even millions -- plugging in their electric hybrid cars every night. Then they all commute the next day without dipping into their fuel tanks.

Imagine that the other cars on the road, still using fuel systems more like today's, get around on the byproducts of cow poop or wheat stubble.


ZoomGrant M. Haller / P-I

This could be a common sight on area roads in the future if hybrid gas-electric vehicles take off.

Imagine further that this new fleet of cars carries devices to signal the traffic-light system, reducing congestion by half at rush hour. And imagine these same devices prevent cars from running into one another no matter what their idiot drivers do. The same devices could offer drivers a choice between the fastest route, the cheapest route (because many roads will have tolls) and the "greenest" route.

These were some of the visions that emerged Monday at a broad-ranging conference of Seattle-area businesspeople, utility executives, public officials, environmentalists and others titled "Jump Start to a Secure, Clean Energy Future" at Microsoft Corp.'s Redmond campus.

State Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald said questions about how to start a Northwest pilot project on plug-in electric hybrids are flying fast as the technologies are emerging.

"Just exactly where is the project going to happen? Just exactly when is it going to start? Just exactly what is it going to be about?" McDonald asked participants. "We don't exactly have all those answers just exactly yet."

Frank Ziegler on hybrid motorcycle

ZoomGrant M. Haller / P-I

Frank Ziegler, hybrid technologies director of sales and distribution, demonstrates his company's all-electric motorcycle. He says it will travel up to 85 mph and travel 75 miles before needing a four-hour recharge. The bike was developed in Mooresville, N.C.

That hasn't stopped many entrepreneurs from launching into efforts to move the technology along, get it to market -- and make some money.

But one roadblock for the Northwest is that lack here of an efficient market for buying and selling power, such as the ones in Texas and California, said David Kaplan, president and chief executive officer of V2Green.

His Seattle software and electronics company is working on moving power from the electric grid to plug-in hybrids -- and back again, allowing owners of the cars to earn cash for the power their cars create.

"Can we launch a Northwest pilot demonstration project this year?" Kaplan wondered aloud. "The basic technologies are all developed and pretty well understood. However, what has to happen is all these technologies have to be pulled together."

Technology companies, electric grid operators, utilities and regulators all have to communicate, Kaplan said -- which was exactly the goal of the sponsor of the conference, the Cascadia Center, a project of the Seattle think tank Discovery Institute.

"The key is uniting them and getting them talking to each other," said Bruce Agnew, the center's policy director. "In the end, you could be completely petroleum-free, which is our goal."

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