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January 24, 2011

Accelerating electrification of transportation with more government dollars or a super-light electrical vehicle strategy

Electric Drive Transportation Association has an eight page document Driving Forward: An Action Plan for the Electric Drive Era which unsurprisingly calls for direct and indirect government subsidies for faster rollout of electric cars. Currently they are projecting 500,000 electric drive vehicles annually by 2015.

I present my alternative plan for city by city for the affordable adoption of superlight electrical vehicles.



Industry plan of spending more government money
Reduce Market Hurdles to Speed Deployment of Electric Drive Vehicles
 *  Refine Tax Incentives for Electric Drive Vehicles and Related Infrastructure
 *  Advance Public and Private Fleet Penetration and Regional Deployment Efforts
 *  Expand National and Regional Deployment Efforts
 *  Grow Electric Drive in Transit and Commercial Applications 

Educate Consumers, Communities and Stakeholders

Ensure U.S. Leadership in Electric Drive Manufacturing

 *  Promote Federal Support for Electric Drive Transportation-Related Manufacturing
 *  Strengthen and Expand Upstream Supply Chain [spend more government dollars]

Standardize Regulatory Policies for Electric Drive Vehicles and Infrastructure
 *  Promote harmonization of technical standards, environmental valuation and
safety requirements
 *  Coordinate Grid-Connected Transportation with Smart Grid Development
and Deployment [spend more and coordinate spending on electric cars and the smart grid]

Accelerate Technology Breakthroughs
 * Support Coordinated Federal Research, Development and Demonstration of
Electric Drive Technologies  [Spend more government money on R&D]
My plan for super-light electrical vehicle adoption

My proposed scheme can be introduced city by city and does not require a national program.

The plan would be to give away or heavily subsidize folding electric bikes, scooters, and lightweight pod cars that ideally cost less than $1000. This will be more affordable than $6000 subsidies for part of a hybrid. Lightweight (less than 150 pound) electric vehicles will use 20 to one hundred times less metal and batteries than an electric car. Mass deployment would not need to wait for new batteries to be developed and scaled up to supply tens of millions of cars.

China has about 150 million electric bikes and is producing about 30 million electric bikes each year. China is capable of producing 50 million small motors and other components for those electric bikes.

How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?

There are about 250 million cars and trucks in use in the United States and around one billion cars and trucks in the world. There are about 50 to 70 million new cars and trucks being added every year.

Cars weigh about 1-3 tons and are usually carrying 1-2 people. This means that the vehicle weighs about 20 times what the person and the cargo that the person wants to move weighs.

It will probably take 40-80 years for the current oil dependent cars and trucks to be replaced completely replaced with new cars and trucks that did not use any oil. There will be delays developing batteries or ultracapacitors that can fully compete with the internal combustion engine on performance and price. There are delays scaling up the production of new batteries and ultracapacitors. Even aggressive targets for 2020 have about a cumulative 30 million electric or partially electric cars in the entire world. The world will be adding 700 million to one billion new cars and trucks over the decade of 2011-2020. Most of the current nearly one billion cars and trucks will still be on the road. Cars have a lifespan of about 15 years (and this is increasing with higher quality cars). When every new car and truck is electric, you will need another 15-20 years for the old cars and trucks to get off of the road.

What's new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?

The giveaway electric bikes and scooters strategy would be the easiest and fastest path to electrifying transportation. However, it is not realistic to take away existing cars and trucks. This plan allows people to keep their old car and truck and use it for recreation and other purposes. However we apply electronic tolls when they use the old vehicle after we have given them a clean alternative “getting around” vehicle(s). We already have toll roads and electronic devices for paying tolls.

- Ensure everyone has an electronic toll paying device
- city by city pass new tolls for using cars and trucks
- give away electric bikes and scooters or pod cars for everyone
- ideally take one lane of road and use it for two way electric vehicle movement. Electric vehicles that are less than half as wide as regular cars would fit.
- road tolls at a local level are easier to pass than federal transportation bills
- the San Francisco bay area has increased bridge tolls by 5 times with no effective opposition
- the Boston area has tolls every couple of miles.
- smart electronic tolling allows for variable tolling. Tolls can be set only during commuting hours. People could still freely use their car and truck for recreation

We can also supplement this system with larger Zip car systems, where a fleet of efficient cars and trucks are available for rental when large items needs to be moved or other uses are needed that do not fit the mode of the small ultralight electric vehicle. This can be achieved with support conversion of rental car company fleets, taxis and moving vans.

Who cares?

People who are concerned about the economy of the USA and the World.
People who are concerned about the environment.

If this were successful, what difference will it make?

Effectively and rapidly reducing the amount of gasoline powered vehicle miles will reduce the 50% of oil that is used in the USA for cars and trucks. If half of the mileage was switched to small electric vehicles then 25% of the oil used in the USA would be saved. NOTE: The focus is on reducing the miles traveled in older vehicles and not on getting everyone to turn in vehicles that they like. This would reduce oil imports by 5 million barrels per day which would help balance of trade, reduce oil prices and improve the environment.

What are the risks and the payoffs?

There is the risk of more injuries if people are moving without protection or with limited protection at 25 mph or more. The current solution is to legislate speed limits for light electric vehicles.

There should be upgrades and research in lightweight vehicle safety. Airbags on the electric bikes and better protective gear for the riders etc..

There are motorcycle suits with wearable airbags.

Also, if the pods, scooters and e-bikes are not directly mixing with regular vehicles there will be far fewer pod/bike vs car collisions. Taking one dedicated lane for this mode of transportation.

* Use existing infrastructure
* Convert commuting to electric transportation
* Mass transit has penetration levels of 5% and does not get most of the efficiency gains with the low ridership that exists in North America. Only some places in Asia and Europe achieve high efficiency with mass transit.
* improve the environment
* improve the economy and balance of trade.
* develop a new industry
* can be a transition to fully electric cars and trucks or can be used to enable higher density and faster movement in existing cities.

Vision - Robotic pod cars that are half as wide would enable far faster movement with existing roads. The real world speed of movement could be increased. What is actual speed of cars in Los Angeles with real world traffic ? Electric cars and e-bikes (with a protective aerodynamic shell) could safely go far faster especially with robotic driving.

Nearterm - enable safe movement at 35mph and then increase speed with better protective gear or with better robotic driving.

How much will it cost?

Assuming the full giveaway scenario - 200 million folding electric bikes would cost $500 per bike in high volume. $100 billion. Sourcing of the vehicles can be arranged to be mostly domestic in order to create a new industry. People could buy more expensive lightweight electric vehicles and could apply the $500 credit to those vehicles. The $500 per vehicle credit would be 1/6th to 1/14th the $3000-7000 per vehicle credits for hybrid and electric cars.

How long will it take?

It would take 5 years in a relatively crash program and 10 years at a more moderate pace.

What are the midterm and final "exams" to check for success?

As early cities (like Berkeley) adopted the program, the effectiveness and results and level of displaced vehicles miles would have real world data.

The latest car to win the 100mpg X-prize was the edison 2 where it used a mostly


The Edison2 is twice as efficient as a Tesla Roadster and more efficient than the Aptera.

The Edison 2 weighs about 750 pounds and is super aerodynamic (0.15 drag coefficient rating). It is built safe by race car team veterans.

The adoption rate is slow for electric and hybrid cars and they need 20 times as much battery or electrical systems as an electric bike or scooter

In 2009, 110-120 million e-bikes (electric bikes) on China’s. Electric bikes and scooters strategy would be the easiest and fastest path to electrifying transportation. Electric bikes and scooters use 10 to 100 times less material and less batteries. China can make 50 million each year now versus about 500,000 electric cars. It would be relatively straight forward for cities to adopt legislation that would favor electric bikes. All roads or almost all roads/lanes could be designated toll roads and regular cars would need to have EZ passes to operate on roads (perhaps variable tolls with easier restrictions on carpoolers etc...). Electric bikes and scooters would be enabled to have free access on the road and would be especially favored during commuter hours. The e-bikes can go from $150-3000 and could be heavily subsidized or given away free and people can keep their regular cars. The e-bikes could be foldable to easily go onto buses and trains.


Electric bikes or electric pods (lightweight version of a car) can be narrower. So by taking away one regular lane of road you can have two way traffic. The EZPass implementation lets people have the option of choosing to drive a regular car or truck and pay for it but the bike or scooter is favored and because the bikes or scooters can cost less than $1000 it affordable to give it away to everyone. Even more affordable than $6000 subsidy for part of a hybrid.


Electric bikes also compatible with exoskeletons (combined electric bikes and exoskeletons let you move over most any terrain and inside buildings at higher speeds). The Lockheed HULC exoskeleton can carry 200 lbs and can enable a person to move quickly over rough terrain or climb stairs. There is an attachment to hang heavy objects on the exoskeleton so the person is not encumbered. You could hang a folding electric bike and then a more powerful electric bike (72 volts or more) could then drive the person at speeds up to 40-50 mph over roads.

China had 450 million bicycle riders. Many are converting to electric bicycles. 12-18% are converted to electric bicycles. Higher performance electric bicycles can achieve speeds of 36-42 mph ($2000). Electric scooters can achieve 70 mph.


My proposed scheme can be introduced city by city. So Berkeley and other favorable places can start first

If places are not willing to go to something like this but are stuck on still non-existent superbatteries, ultracapacitors and getting those to the volume needed to electrify all cars then they are clearly wanting to wait 40-70 years. The average age of car is 10 years now. So it takes 15-20 years to get a car off the road.

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