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Plan: The United States federal government should substantially increase its investment in bus transit infrastructure through an expanded fuel cell electric bus program.
Advantage: Fuel Cell Leadership
James Billmaier has served as CEO and Chairman of Asymetrix, Melodeo, and Diego, Inc. He had also served as Vice President and General Manager of Sun Microsystems Networking Software Division
The internal combustion engine is dying. Its death throes may take 20 years, but make no mistake: the end is coming. And that’s an excellent thing, since as you’ll read in JOLT!, EVs represent a better, faster, and cheaper mode of transportation. Ending our nation’s reliance on foreign oil and helping the planet along is great. But the real reason EVs will come to dominate the personal transportation market—cars, SUVs, vans, and pick-up trucks—over the next couple of decades is that they make financial sense to the consumer. Bottom line: they are cheaper to operate and maintain than gas-powered vehicles. (And as you’ll learn, they’re an absolute blast to drive.) Just as consumers ultimately powered the computer and Internet revolutions, consumers will propel the EV revolution as well. Americans will adopt EVs in overwhelming numbers—in the process driving yet another paradigm shift of massive proportions.¶ Electric vehicles also offer a phenomenal business opportunity. While the Internet represents an annual $1 trillion market worldwide, legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr has projected that EVs and the associated energy market will be six times bigger, accounting for $6 trillion a year worldwide. Speaking before a Senate committee in 2009, Doerr told members that energy technology “is the mother of all markets, perhaps the biggest economic opportunity of the twenty-first century.”¶ The great unknown, however, is whether or not the U.S. will be prepared to profit from the EV revolution. The coming “electriconomy”— an economy based on an electrified personal transportation system—will result in both massive upheaval and massive opportunity. China, in particular, has acknowledged the inevitability and the potential of the EV revolution and is in fast-forward mode to implement the new technology. But the electriconomy is as essential to America’s national security as is energy independence, and Chinese ownership of the EV realm would leave the U.S. in a dangerous position. Possessing the technologies that power our economy is crucial to America’s strength and well-being.¶ There is no longer any question of whether or not we will adopt an electric-based transportation system. We will. And the transition will come much more quickly than most “experts” predict. All major auto-makers have some type of plug-in vehicle coming out in the very near future, with the first cars due out at the end of 2010. The U.S. can’t afford to be left behind. But we’re going to need to move fast to become the undisputed market leader.
The U.S. is about to be left behind in fuel cell technology because of a lack of federal investment in bus transit
Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association Building a Commercially Viable National Fuel Cell Electric Bus Program http://cafcp.org/sites/files/Building%20a%20Commercially%20Viable%20National%20Fuel%20Cell%20Transit%20Bus%20Program.FINAL_.v10.03-25-11.pdf
International Competition – International programs vying to take the lead in clean mass transit are rapidly¶ expanding, illustrating the worldwide progress being made toward commercialization of fuel cell¶ technology. In Whistler, B.C., Canada, 20 FCEBs began operating at the winter Olympics in early 2010 and¶ continue to provide local community service. After a two‐year FCEB demonstration program with 30 buses¶ in ten European cities, a second phase program sponsored by the European Union – featuring more¶ advanced vehicle and station designs – is about to launch in London (eight buses), Hamburg (ten buses),¶ Oslo (five to six buses), Italy (five buses), Belgium (five buses), and Sweden (five buses). Japan, China, and¶ Korea have all developed advanced FCEB [Fuel Cell Electric Bus] programs, with the intent of introducing commercially viable fuel¶ cell technology within their respective public transport sectors. Without strong federal support, the United¶ States could be left behind in providing clean, efficient mass transit.¶ Program Objectives – Building a Business Case¶ An expanded national FCEB deployment program will lead to technology enhancements for vehicles and¶ fueling infrastructure, better well‐to‐wheel performance, and significant reductions in purchase price¶ and life cycle costs. A complete transformation of the transit industry is at hand, and this program¶ promises to propel the commercialization of fuel cell technology at an accelerated rate, which is a¶ critical and necessary complement to other alternative fuel technologies.¶ Industry leaders representing bus OEMs, fuel cell manufacturers, hybrid‐drive companies,¶ battery/energy storage firms, and hydrogen fuel providers have developed a set of realistic performance¶ and cost targets to justify an infusion of deployment capital by the federal government to help drive¶ costs down by ramping up demand. Return on investment will be reflected in enhanced product reliability and durability and in price reductions based on targeted production quantities for vehicles and¶ fuel station suppliers. The technology is at a critical stage, requiring a relatively modest investment to¶ jump‐start large‐scale production that will make fuel cells commercially affordable. The integrated¶ technology inherent in fuel cell designs lends itself to significant economies of scale through highly¶ efficient manufacturing processes. Mass, size, and cost of fuel cells continue to decrease as power,¶ reliability, and durability improve – a critically important inverse relationship that is difficult to realize¶ with other heavy‐duty propulsion technologies.