Embracing efficient and cost-effective change
A new study claims that by 2035 US light duty fleet fuel economy could be tripled to 74 mpg without plug-in or hydrogen technology, at a much cheaper cost than achieving the same goal through plug-in or or hydrogen technologies.
So, have plug-ins become an excuse – dare I say a greenwashing effort – by automakers to delay change as long as possible? Are plug-ins just like yesterday's flex-fuel CAFE credits?
The study A Fuel Efficiency Horizon for US Automobiles doesn't suggest that plug-ins are about greenwashing, that's my suggestion based upon the history of the US auto industry. It's just that in my opinion, selling 50,000 plug-in vehicles per year doesn't justify selling 1 million 17 mpg pickup trucks, just as adding never-used flex fuel technology to gas guzzlers didn't justify CAFE credits that enabled automakers to blatantly violate CAFE requirements , resulting in increased foreign oil dependence.
Unfortunately, good intentions resulted in bad results.
Fortunately, that's not to say that plug-ins or hydrogen won't offer the world a fantastic future. It's just that both technologies are simply not cost-effectively mature, and betting the farm on them as THE solution is very inefficient and cost-ineffective. Sadly, the evidence supporting the fact that plug-ins simply are not cost-effective, and will almost certainly not be cost-effective for decades, is nothing short of overwhelming.
Of course, some Eureka moment in the basement of some college laboratory could instantly change that, but until that happens, shouldn't we be doing everything else that we can as quickly as we can, especially when “projected fuel savings greatly exceed upfront costs”?
Plug-in vehicles are a technology that MUST be pursued; however, if its going to take decades for plug-ins to mature into the dominant mainstream solution, shouldn't we be putting greater focus on what else can be done in the interim? How is achieving today, what automakers want to put off until tomorrow, so bad for America if “savings greatly exceed upfront costs”?
Minimally, isn't it time for an honest, transparent national discussion on energy policy?