Electric Vehicles

It seems to me…

I like the overall concept of electric vehicles but at least for now, think they primarily are appropriate for government or local utility companies rather than providing general family transportation needs. Once available, improvements will come rapidly but they mostly will fill this niche for now. But in a couple of years, hopefully…

My only fear is that with the development emphasis the Chinese are putting into battery technology improvements, they could dominate the market. So many pundits (e.g., read Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat) warned us over the last five to ten years how quickly technology could negatively affect us if we did not encourage develop in these areas. Instead, during the Bush era, science and technology were distrusted, educational standards relaxed, and research scaled back. President Obama is a lawyer and I’m not convinced he fully appreciates the short window of opportunity remaining open to us.

I definitely qualify as a fiscal conservative, especially when it comes to budget and transportation issues and believe our transportation infrastructure should be funded entirely by system users (and I do not think toll roads are the answer to this problem). That said, I have questions as to how our transportation infrastructure will be funded in the future.

Up to now, funding supposedly has come primarily from gas taxes and license fees. In fact, road and highway construction always has been received, at least partly, general fund support. This subsidy therefore clearly favored private auto usage over other competing forms of mass and high speed transportation. Practically all local communities have favored private auto usage and required other forms of transportation to be totally self-funding. This defacto subsidizing of private auto transportation was detrimental to expansion of alternate transportation methods.

Current development will substantially alter this source of funding resulting in additional funding pressures on all levels of government. How future funding issues will be resolved is not apparent at this time but could quickly become a major issue.

Now that the first generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles are available, we can anticipate introduction of additional and increasingly efficient vehicles leading eventually to conversion to all-electric (hydrogen, fuel cell…) vehicles. As this conversion gains momentum, it probably will progress more rapidly than anticipated. Limited driving ranges initially restrict all-electric usage to the local vicinity. This, however, will be sufficient to reduce gasoline sales demand. Despite protests, fuel prices will increase as local gas stations are forced to close and refineries scale back production. This will escalate the vehicle conversion rate.

Unfortunately, the effect on the least wealth unable to afford the purchase of new vehicles will be much greater than on those with greater financial resources. Truckers, delivery vehicles, and others dependent upon fuel might also require special subsidies until the conversion has been completed. Fuel availability will increasingly become rare.

How we will continue to fund our transportation infrastructure will become increasingly problematic. All levels of government will be tempted to increase vehicle-purchase taxes to replace lost fuel tax revenue. Unfortunately, this only will delay the conversion process.

That’s what I think, what about you?


About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
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