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50 by 50: Alliance to halve US transportation energy use by 2050

Source: Alliance to Save Energy / Shutterstock

The Alliance to Save Energy has announced a national commission that will develop ways to halve the energy used by the transportation sector in the US by 2050.

The new Alliance Commission on US Transportation Sector (aka the ’50 by 50 Commission’) will represent vehicle manufacturers, utilities companies, federal agencies, environmental and consumer groups, infrastructure providers and the public transport industry. It will be chaired by Audi of America President, Scott Keogh, and National Grid US President, Dean Seavers. There are 27 confirmed members, coming from national mayoral offices, academic institutes, public policy groups, and mineral associations, to name a few.

The Alliance was founded in 1977 by two US senators and is a non-profit bipartisan organisation that works with businesses, government, environmental groups, and consumers. It aims to increase the efficiency of energy, increase economic growth, and produce a cleaner and more secure environment. President of the Alliance to Save Energy, Kateri Callahan, explained further on the project’s motivations, “It came out of looking at the gap that we believed existed in terms of a national conversation on not just electrification, and not just autonomous vehicles, but how do you take this convergence of all these wonderful things that are happening and make sure no one’s left out of the change, and that it results in important benefits as a nation as whole,”

The work will be overseen by six technical committees, that will cover different vehicles and operations, including light-duty vehicles, non-road vehicles, heavy-duty and freight vehicles, enabling infrastructure, information & communications technology, shared mobility & automation, and outreach & implementation.

Together, these committees will concentrate on electric power research, material handling, ports and airports electrification, long-haul and mass transit, fuel distribution, finances, and community. According to the press release, the Commission will first use an outside peer review to compile reports, which will then feed into recommendations for action plans by the public and private partners.

Scott Keogh also commented: “We’re at a fascinating time in the transportation industry. The way in which vehicles are powered and how they’re driven is evolving. We’re at an inflection point and we have an opportunity, as an industry and a sector, to leverage that transformation for the benefit of society. I’m proud to join this commission and work with key stakeholders across the business community to see that we fully capitalize on the potential that comes with electric, shared and automated vehicle technologies.”

Director of Audi government affairs, Brad Stertz, confirmed that the automaker is planning to support the Commission’s work by increasing its electric vehicle fleet to account for at least 25% of the brand’s cars sold by 2025.  “We really wanted to be aggressive or involved in making sure the infrastructure is correct and the overall ecosystem will be allowed to transition into far more electric,” he added.

Currently, transportation accounts for approximately one third of US emissions, so this is definitely a bold and potentially difficult project. Another issue is that there is no mention of how the commission will be funded and exactly how much this could cost. According to another source, the Energy Foundation has provided a grant of unknown amount.

The news is interesting because it marks a concerted and national effort to reduce energy consumption. Presumably this will not only mean a change in policy but also a reduction in the main energy consumers as well. The driving motivators for ICE use is a growing population and low fuel costs so addressing and reorienting such motivations is likely to be a top priority.

The Commission could well be looking towards the successes made by its European counterpart, which was announced in 2011, and aims to have no ICE vehicles on the road, a 40% reduction in shipping emissions, a 40% increase in low carbon aeroplane fuel usage, and a shift in transportation habits. The Transport 50 Commission hopes that this will lead to a total 60% drop in emissions by 2050.

While we do not have more specific information on plans for transport changes, it seems that the aims will be fairly similar, and we must presume that all types of vehicle users, and the industry as a whole, will be affected.


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