Skeptics do not deter Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn from sticking to his prediction that electric cars will make up 10 percent of the market by 2020. Speaking Tuesday at an industry breakfast in New York, Ghosn – known as “Mr. 7-11” for the late nights he works –maintained his documented “bullish” stance on the future of these zero-emissions vehicles, with Nissan helping to lead the charge with on-schedule production of the Leaf, the world’s first mass-produced electric car.
As if lending support to Ghosn’s prediction, China intends to have 5 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020. The country already has plans for battery charging stations along six major highways in Shanghai and Zhejiang, providing further proof of the necessity of public-private partnerships to propel green transportation technology.
Seeing immense opportunity in such countries, Nissan didn’t wait around. Ghosn once said, "If you're going to let developing countries have as many cars as they want – and they're going to have as many cars as they want one way or another – there is no absolutely alternative but to go for zero emissions. And the only zero-emissions vehicle available today is electric . . . so we decided to go for it.”
We applaud efforts like these from innovators and visionaries doing their part to drive clean technology forward. While some believe it “bold and crazy,” we believe it is indeed possible to green the entire transportation system, which includes an eventual transition from fossil-fueled power plants to renewable-energy power plants. The realities of climate change leave us no choice but to be smart by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, along with other emissions contributing to harmful air pollution.
Cleaner Transportation, Cleaner Air in Texas
One of the comments Ghosn made during Tuesday’s speech involved the concept of having strong roots, and that “you cannot be global unless you are strong local.” Along those lines, I thought it important to highlight some of our “local” efforts to clean up harmful Texas air emissions through various transportation initiatives:
- EDF is proud to have played an important role last year in helping the Houston region obtain $3.1 million in funding related to diesel emissions reduction. Each year, diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 333,000 tons of soot. This pollution is linked to thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and millions of lost workdays. Some of the funds will repower marine vessels operating in the Houston-Galveston and Corpus Christi areas. Engines on tug boats and harbor crafts will be repowered with new, cleaner engine technology. Other funds will offset the costs of burning cleaner fuel when the ships are close to shore in the Port of Houston.
- At a Drayage Truck Fair last year, EDF joined representatives from the Port and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) offering information about programs available to help truckers obtain low-interest loans toward the purchase of newer, cleaner vehicles. More than 3,000 drayage trucks help move containers to and from the Port of Houston, making trucking one of the largest sources of port pollution. Just this year, 32 trucks have been disbursed and 70 other applications are currently under review. Programs like these can significantly help reduce emissions from older, dirtier diesel truck engines.
- Our efforts to increase awareness about state funds for replacing aging, dirty school bus engines helped lead to more participating schools. Through the end of the 2011 calendar year, 7,086 buses had been retrofit, 650 buses had been replaced, and several other projects (e.g., clean fuels and idle reduction) had been successfully implemented in Texas. We told parents that if their children were riding to school in buses built before 2007, the air they were breathing inside the bus could contain more than five to ten times higher the diesel pollution found outside the bus. We highlighted the fact that money was available to make these older school buses cleaner at no cost to the districts themselves.
- This year EDF released the report, “The Houston Barge System: A Review of Operations and Opportunities,” outlining the combustive as well as evaporative emissions associated with barges operating in the Houston region, while also identifying opportunities for establishing emissions reduction targets. The information from this study will help determine the most effective and efficient pollution control strategies for the maritime freight industry and should be used as a guide to develop policies that improve Texas air quality.
Through these and other ongoing initiatives related to transportation, EDF continues to help improve air quality providing further support for that bold, crazy concept: greening the entire transportation system.