Tag Archives: Transportation

Will EV Batteries achieve economies of scale?

So says the Department of Energy. (PDF Warning) This graph shows it all:

After reading the report, it seems the trajectory of this forecast was demand driven.  I have no doubt that economies of scale and innovation manufacturing processes can help bring the cost down but I am skeptical of the cost of lithium inputs.  It is not that abundant as oil, as there is only two regions I can think of (China and Bolivia) that have substantial sums of it.  But this does bode well for Intercon’s idea for reusing batteries for alternative power sources, as this will push prices downward for aftermarket batteries.  See, I said that economies of scale was possible! (or at least the DoE confirms it…)

HT: Engadget

The Capacity for Fuel Economy Already Exists

According to James Hamilton’s post in Econbrowser, research done by U.C. Davis economics professor Christopher Knittel found that given today’s production techniques for cars, fuel efficiency can already be gained at an amount of 50%.   Most of this was a consequence of a rising correlation between a cars horsepower, torque and weight, all of which continued to increase while fuel economy remained around the same levels.  The fact that the capacity already exists to make fuel efficient cars puts the burden on car companies design teams and the consumers who would demand them.  Europe already forces certain fuel economy standards, while the U.S. does not.  The rise of eco-conscious consumers should help a little, but a jump in gas prices past a consistent $4.00 a gallon may help consumers start making decisions towards more fuel efficient cars when they see money begin drying up in their wallets.

Correlation vs. Causality

Take a look at this graph:

Looks like a pretty strong statistical relationship to me. To quote Steve’s Politics Blog (no, not me):

Derek Lowe of Corante’s ‘In the Pipeline’ (a drug-discovery blog) points to this graph in an article by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Stephen Johnson, titled, The Trouble with QSAR (OR How I Stopped Worrying and Embrace Fallacy).

Lowe writes, ‘The most arresting part of the article is the graph found in its abstract. No mention is made of it in the text, but none has to be. It’s a plot of the US highway fatality rate versus the tonnage of fresh lemons imported from Mexico, and I have to say, it’s a pretty darn straight line. I’ve seen a lot shakier plots used to justify some sweeping conclusions, and if those were justified, well, then I’m forced to conclude that Mexican lemons have improved highway safety a great deal. The vitamin C, maybe? The fragrance? Bioflavanoids?

It just proves my saying:

“Sometimes statistical significances are just measured coincidences.”

HT: Chart Porn

Evaluativing transportation’s carbon footprint in the U.S.

The North American Transportation Statistics Database released its new transportation data for 2007 covering the three countries in North America.  After a quick glance, it was interesting to see how much of a percentage total CO2 emissions from all particular transportation modes would be in the U.S.  Below is a chart showing the total amount of CO2 emissions for each transportation mode over the total amount of CO2 emissions for all transportation.*     (Click the chart to maximize it)  82% of all CO2 emissions from transportation is from road travel, making it the mode of transportation that contributes the greatest amount of CO2, with all other sectors combined contributing only 18%.  Air is the second greatest contributor with 10% of CO2 emissions for all transportation modes.

What seems to be an obvious point…everyone knows that the greatest contributor to CO2 for transportation has to be from road travel, correct?  So, for the sheer volume of travel being done on the road, the amount of CO2 will always be a significant amount.

If you were to divide the total amount of CO2 by the total amount of energy consumed by mode of transportation for 2007, you would end up with an interesting result.  Air travel would come out to be roughly 94 thousands of metric tons per petajoule (10 to the 15th joules) of energy.  Likewise, road travel comes out to be around 66, rail comes out to be 69 and water transport comes in at around 35.  When comparing air travel to road travel, you find that given the energy put in, less CO2 is exerted for road travel than rail or air travel.  Water transport seems to exert the least amount of CO2 for every petajoule used.

In a way, this is a crude measure of pollution efficiency.  Unfortunately, we can’t compare apples to apples by using CO2 per mile since the metrics given won’t translate into clean numbers.  So, for now, we can only make assumptions about these numbers.  If they could evenly be subdivided by the number of miles traveled, then we would be able to have an accurate picture of efficiency.  What assumptions can be made from these differences?  I feel that this is beyond my understanding.

*The chart says “% Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Transportation Sector for 2007.”  However, in my post, I kept on indicating C02 only.  In the tables from the primary source, that would also include NO2 and  CH4, however, I only used CO2 as the NO2 and CH4 numbers were negligible and I wished to only focus on CO2.

A better way to tackle climate change?

The Netherlands has proposed to tackle climate change a different way:

The Dutch government said Friday it wants to introduce a “green” road tax by the kilometre from 2012 aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent and halving congestion.”Each vehicle will be equipped with a GPS device that tracks how many kilometres are driven and when and where. This data will be then be sent to a collection agency that will send out the bill,” the transport ministry said in a statement.

Ownership and sales taxes, about a quarter of the cost of a new car, will be scrapped and replaced by the “price per kilometre” system aimed at cutting the Netherlands’ carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent.

Traffic jams will be halved and it helps the environment,” the ministry said.

So, what if the U.S. was to try and use this as  a way to combat climate change? Well in U.S. dollars it will be a proposed cost of around 7 cents per mile.  We drive about 12.5k miles per year so that would yield a total cost of $875 annually per person.  With about 275 million motor vehicles on the road, that would yield an average of $240 billion dollars a year!  That would have a sizable impact on reducing the deficit.  If this were implemented it would have a significant impact on reducing traffic congestion and it would internalize the externality of carbon dioxide, helping to pay back for environmental damage.

Besides the political implications, (regressive taxation, blah blah) the U.S. is a much bigger country than the Netherlands and our vehicle mileage is drastically larger because we have more ground to cover.  Although technically feasible, the huge cost of implementation by putting GPS units in every car even if we exempt trucks, motorcycles and classics may be worth mentioning.   Though $875 dollars a year isn’t that bad, especially if sales taxes on cars were cut, I don’t think Americans particularly like the idea of having to pay more for their driving.  They probably won’t like the idea of big brother tracking how much you drive either.

It would make sense to just tax oil, but American’s won’t have that, especially when already faced with high gasoline prices.  But wouldn’t Americans prefer this than the high energy costs transferred from cap n trade?  I mean, the majority of carbon dioxide comes from our use of oil in transportation, although I am not sure it would be as effective as cutting carbon dioxide as cap and trade would.  And so this makes me wonder, which would be more politically effective, this or cap and trade?

HT: Mankiw

Should the U.S. have high-speed rail like everybody else?

This is a really great article by Mark Reutter about whether or not the U.S. should invest in a high-speed rail system.

Mass transit in the U.S. is green: Myth?

Brad Templeton tries to debunk a long-held belief for mass-transit: that it is greener than other alternatives.  But I would say it isn’t that simple, which is illustrated by his chart that he provides.

Supposedly, San Jose’s Light Rail clocks at an energy usage higher than any other alternative.   But that’s San Jose.  Average light rail clocks in much lower when a car is driven by oneself — which is predominately how most people get to work these days.  Car pooling will be, around average,  the same energy usage as mass-transit.  Car pooling is significantly better when the passenger amount is above 2.

Other than San Jose, is there anything that is really striking from this? It doesn’t look like it debunks the myth (if there was one) and it certainly doesn’t say anything new about different modes of transportation.

I wonder how a transportation economist could effectively model people’s behaviors when evaluating different modes of transportation and what impact it really has.  Scooters are great but they are no match for long distance commutes.