Re-Envision Transportation, Yes We Can!

Following the decisive Obama victory on election day yesterday, I immediately went into visioning mode about what is possible for America and the world from this place.

Energy tops my list as the most interesting and world-changing opportunity we face. Energy is one of those “root-cause” issues—solutions here lead to all manner of positive changes across all systems.

Being an intensely practical person, I am drawn to energy solutions where the “rubber-meets-the-road” so to speak—with transportation. Fix the way we humans get from point A to point B to point…San Francisco and we have produced a monumental shift towards a sustainable existence on this planet.

I grew up in the west. I understand the value of horsepower and the value of freedom. After several years in LA, I understand the value of mass transit(or lack therof.) No one solution is going to immediately address all the transportation challenges we face, but a complex and interaged approach certainly can, and with the resources and technology we have available today.

Rocky Mountain Institute
has been publishing transportation solutions for over two decades, most of which are seldom adopted or capitalized on in the mainstream. It has simply been too cheap and easy to rely on existing petroleum and steel. These days are obviously coming to an end, and RMI is more relevant than ever. They have been in talks with such organizations as Wal-Mart and the US Army around hyper-efficiency and alternative energy.

These organizations are feeling the cost of energy dependence and looking to the future to stay competitive. Whatever their motives, it is good for the planet, and if major entities like these get on board, real solutions are not far to follow.

So what can I do?

I live with my girlfriend a few miles outside of Boulder in an amazing little house in the canyon. We’re near the river, and both get so much from our mountain retreat. The progressive suggestion is that we get rid of our cars, move to town and bike everywhere to reduce our carbon footprint and get more sustainable. I don’t want to do that and I refuse to think that is the only way I can lend a hand.

My girl recently traded in her inefficient Jeep Liberty for an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza (we need the 4 wheels for the winter snow.) After an initial resistance to the smaller size, she now loves this car and especially the extra mpg’s.

She works in Denver, which is a major energy drain. She negotiated to work 2 days a week from home, saving 60 miles of commute time and energy. She also rides the bus from the park-n-ride every day she does go to the city, a little more time consuming but a lot more efficient. She has come to enjoy the downtime of the ride to listen to great podcasts or read.

I heard of a start-up recently(name and link forthcoming) that is going to be offering gas-to-electric conversions of existing vehicles at a reasonable price. These conversions will get all the performance of a combustion engine at about a 60 mile range. At first thought, 60 miles does not seem like much, but when I did an analysis of my transportation, i rarely drive more than 60 miles in a single day…usually its less than 10.

The company will set up financing for the conversion, effectively replacing your monthly gas bill with your monthly conversion loan payment. This is at current fuel prices, when fuel hits $5 a gallon, the loan payment will be much cheaper.

I started shopping for old mini-trucks with millions of miles or busted engines to get my conversion. I love the idea of tooling around in a little truck, making no sound and using no gasoline. My grandpa used to drive Datsun pickups, always with over 100k miles. it was a point of pride in the value of the thing for him, and a statement against frivolous luxury. He could have afforded whatever he wanted to drive, and brand new.

I think I inherited his flair for rebellion, underpinned with a genuine compassion and practical sense of value.

That’s where I am going to focus my energy for change. I contacted the conversion company about helping them grow their business. I look forward to reshaping the way Americans use transportation.

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