The United Kingdom’s first all-electric bus route started running in Milton Keynes in January and will be closely monitored over a five-year period to test the effectiveness of an electric system against diesel.
The eight electric buses run 17 hours a day and seven days each week to cover approximately 56,000 miles a year. Paul Adcock, Area Managing Director of public transport company Arriva, says: “Electric buses have huge potential, and we’re exploring how they can help us take better care of the environment without compromising passenger service.”
In order to maintain the same service schedule as diesel buses, the buses charge overnight and receive charges throughout the day from wire coils buried beneath the road. Through a process called inductive charging, parking a bus over a charging plate for 10 minutes replenishes two-thirds of the energy needed to run its 15-mile route.
“Electric buses’ physical and economic potential has historically been sidelined because no one could see around the range problem associated with the batteries,” says John Miles, director of the Milton Keynes electric bus program. According to global engineering firm Arup, Miles has a plan to combat this issue: “Wireless charging can bring electric buses in from the cold, and potentially put them neck-and-neck with their diesel counterparts. If we can demonstrate true parity with diesel buses during this trial, we’ll have reached a tipping point for low-carbon transport – we’ll have proved it can be cost-effective as well as green.”
The buses are projected to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 270 tons each year. The amount of CO2 savings could increase to about 680 tons annually as the U.K. moves toward greener energy and the electric bus system continues.
Counselor John Bint, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways, explains to BBC News: “This electric bus trial is the result of over a year's careful planning, so getting bus drivers behind the wheel is a wonderful milestone to reach. Seeing all eight buses on the route will be a very proud moment for everyone who's been involved.”
In response to public demand, it's time to make a MAX-ified pickup truck.
Maybe 'demand' is overstating the case; it's not like folks are telling me, “Put all the money in this bag and nobody gets hurt, and while you're at it, make a high mileage pickup.” It's more like, “Sure, MAX is cool, but...” followed by a description of their particular needs, followed by “...and gets a hundred miles per gallon.”
I used to explain why their particular needs were incompatible with 100 mpg, and why small and light and streamlined are essential ingredients if you want three-digit mileage on a beer budget, just like I used to explain why a walk-in closet and two bathrooms are incompatible with a 100-square-foot tiny house*. My father used to describe these folks as, “He wants to be an astronomer, but he doesn't want to work nights.”
Finding a Reasonable Mileage Target
But I've mellowed out somewhat. Unlike the 100-square-foot thing**, that 100-mpg thing is an arbitrary line in the sand, so now when people describe their vehicular needs, I ask, “What's a reasonable mileage target for that?” and we get to talking.
These needs commonly include space for an occasional third person, and occasional building supplies, and an occasional half ton of produce to the Farmer's Market, and an occasional ATV or riding mower, and (here in the Pacific Northwest at least) a way to keep the cargo dry—all of which can be achieved by a small pickup truck with bench seats and a removable canopy.
And for our mileage target? According to FuelEconomy.gov, the best mileage small pickup you can buy today is the Toyota Tacoma 2WD, with 21/25/23 mpg for city/highway/combined. I suspect we can double that, using the same principles we used with MAX—we can't go as far as the MAX car regarding weight, drag, and powerplant (not if we still want a practical pickup, which we do), but we can make significant improvements in all those areas, and I think 42/50/46 mpg is within reach.
Furthermore, I think we can do it on a beer budget — domestic beer, no less — $7,500 for the whole project, which is ¾ of what it took to make MAX. It should take a lot less time, too, and the bulk of the time and money savings comes from starting with the job half-done — starting with an existing vehicle instead of starting with a pile of steel tubing.
MOTHER's Pickup Experiment
So we've purchased a 1994 Toyota HiLux, with mumbledymumble miles on the odometer, and if you look carefully at the body, you'll note various paint shades from factory red to oxidation pink, depending on the history of the various body parts. I suspect this truck has had a difficult life, but it drives straight, and it stops with minimal drama when I push the brake pedal, and the shifter shifts with alacrity, so I think it's a decent base for this project.
Now what it needs is a good name. Until someone suggests a better one, we'll call it MPX for Mother's Pickup Experiment.
*I live in what used to be known as a cute little cabin, and is now known as a “tiny house”. It's about a hundred square feet inside but it's bigger on the outside because it has hewn log walls—see, I told you it was cute!
**In my neck of the woods, if you go over 100 square feet you need a building permit. My cabin is on wheels, so it's a trailer, not a building. BTW, log cabin construction is a poor choice for mileage, but I doubt I'll be driving it much.
Photo by Jack McCornack
Check out the 100-mpg Car page for all MOTHER's MAX stories, and KineticVehicles.com to make your own MAX.
Are you able to walk, bike or use public transportation to get to your workplace? If so, grab your sneakers and start now because bicycling and walking to work have been proven to have long-term health benefits.
A study by Imperial College London and University College compared workers’ methods of commuting with the state of their heath, using data from a survey of 20,000 people across the U.K. The researchers found that bicycling, walking and using public transportation were all associated with a lower risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and being overweight.
Anthony Laverty from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London reports, "This study highlights that building physical activity into the daily routine by walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work is good for personal health."
Physical exercise can be incorporated into daily routines with little extra effort when people bike or walk to work. Plus, being outdoors and exploring the city has been associated with relieving the stress of a hectic workday.
In the U.K. study, 19 percent of working age adults who commuted via private transport — such as cars, motorbikes or taxis — were obese, compared to 15 percent of those who walking and 13 percent of those biking to work.
Tips for Walking and Biking to Work
Stanford University Parking and Transportation Services offers the following tips for making the commute easier and safer for people who choose to walk or bike to work.
- Map out a biking or walking plan that is clear and accessible. Time the plan and try it out on the weekend to see if the route fits well for you.
- Learn the rules of the road. Ride on the appropriate side of the street, wait at stop signs and obey traffic signals for a safe trip.
- Wear appropriate attire. If you’re biking to work, make sure to wear a helmet, have your bike registered and put reflectors on for night riding. If you’re walking to work, wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Remember to grab your rain boots on rainy days!
- Count the calories you burn. Refer to Calories Burned Per Minute for Walking and Calories Burned Per Minute for Biking charts to track your progress. You’ll be more motivated to continue walking or biking to work when you see the positive differences it makes.
Photo by Fotolia/imageegami
As spring chugs along, Amtrak will soon be celebrating the seventh annual National Train Day on May 10, 2014. Started as a way to spread information about trains and the role that they still play in America’s transportation system, National Train Day is expected to be celebrated in 210 locations throughout 43 states as well as the District of Columbia. Los Angeles’s historic Union station will begin its celebration earlier, on May 3, as part of the historic passenger terminal’s 75th anniversary.
Being 16 percent more efficient than planes and 34 percent more efficient than cars, Amtrak trains are an ecologically friendly travel alternative. Not only do Amtrak trains use less energy per passenger than cars and airplanes, Amtrak now “plugs in” their locomotives at layover facilities in order to minimize diesel emissions during the train’s idling time. In addition to these measures, Amtrak also offers ways for individual passengers to offset their carbon footprint through a partnership with CarbonFund.org by way of donation.
Started after the Rail Passenger Service act in May of 1971, Amtrak’s still carries 31.5 million passengers a year and if trends continue, by 2040 ridership could reach 43.5 million. Cheaper and faster than shuttle planes, a third of Amtrak’s ridership comes from east-coast commuters traveling between New York, Boston and D.C.
If you’re interested in participating in National Train Day, head over to Amtrak's official site to search the interactive map for events near you. You can even start your own event if there’s nothing in your area.
During the first week in March, students in California’s Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) were picked up in a new yellow school bus with a distinctly green detail: its engine. The first of its kind in the nation, KCUSD’s new wheels will not only to cut down on the effects of fossil fuel emissions to the environment, but will also improve student health by keeping the immediate air around the bus cleaner.
The new bus, aka the Trans Tech SST-e, contains an all electric powertrain, developed by Motiv power systems and is expected to save the school $10,000 in fuel costs, by itself. In a PR Newswire news release Jim Castelaz, founder and CEO of Motiv expressed his hopes for this major step in green transportation: “We are absolutely thrilled to see this school bus transporting students without exposing them to diesel exhaust. I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to go to school clean, zero-emission school buses like this one will be the industry standard.”
Currently, KCUSD has ordered a total of four electric buses and has received funding from the California air resources board as well as the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project. These buses are just one more step in the school becoming more environmentally friendly. “KCUSD has taken major strides to reduce diesel particulate emissions by as much as 85 percent” said Jason Flores, the school’s director of transportation.
According to Ecowatch, the bus holds either 25 students or 18 with the addition of a wheelchair lift and comes with telemetry systems for fleet management. The bus can also be 50 percent charged in less than an hour.
Photo by Motiv Power Systems
Perhaps this will be the year you'll stop thinking about bike commuting and will ride your bicycle to work during National Bike Month in May. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, this month-long event encourages velo-commuting across the United States through local activities scheduled during Bike to Work Week from May 12 to 16, and Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 16, 2014.
Bike commuting has taken off in this country, with many thousands of people reporting that they pedal to work at least occasionally, if not frequently. The population of U.S. bike commuters grew by more than 47 percent from 2000 to 2011, and the number of trips made by bicycle more than doubled during the same time period, according to the National Household Travel Survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration. Biking to work is perceived as practical and efficient by people who live within a few miles of their workplace — which is about half of us.
The rise in bike commuting is helping to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in North American cities, as well as saving riders money on transportation costs. And bicyclists typically enjoy better physical and mental health than drivers. As Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, explains, “Biking to work is an efficient and fun way to get the exercise you need, without having to find extra time to work out.”
Held every year since 1956, the Bike to Work celebration focuses on attracting and encouraging new riders to the activity. More riders on the streets helps to increase motorists' awareness of bicyclists. And cycling with others reduces the anxiety felt by new riders, who become more willing to bike to work on their own. The League's research shows that many people who participate in Bike to Work Day for the first time begin biking to work regularly thereafter.
Communities across the country sponsor Bike to Work events tailored to meet the needs and interests of their local bike commuters. You can find everything from cycling classes to commuter convoys listed in the League's Bike to Work database. Find ideas for planning activities in your own community by consulting these League publications: Getting Started: National Bike Month Guide (pdf) and Plan a Bike Month Event.
The MOTHER EARTH NEWS bicycle rack — next to the EV plug-in station — is already being used by our staff commuters in anticipation of Bike to Work Week. Won't you join us in commemorating National Bike Month by pedaling to your own workplace in May?
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.
This is a modified version of a guest post written by Zach O’Connor, Communications and Publications Coordinator for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), for Adventure Cycling Association’s Building the U.S. Bicycle Route System blog. I thought it worth sharing, with the author’s permission, on the Green Transportation blog. In it Zach explains how his coworker’s multi-modal bicycle commute from the suburbs to the heart of Washington, D.C., makes use of the District’s newly improved bicycle facilities.
Most of us commute to work in our own way, whether it’s by bike, car, walking, mass transit, or a combination of two or more of these. My commute is boring compared to those of some of my co-workers at AASHTO; I walk to my nearest Metro station, transfer downtown, and walk to the office. I pass by two Capital Bikeshare (DC’s awesome bike share system) stations on my way to work. I could use this method; however, I tend to be a bit of a transit nerd and enjoy taking Metro. AASHTO Communications Director Lloyd Brown’s commute is far more adventurous.
Lloyd commutes to work from his home in Bethesda, a Maryland suburb. At least twice a week he’ll commute by bike all the way to AASHTO’s headquarters in DC. The District has recently become known for investing in bicycle infrastructure, but how do the suburbs score? It all depends where you live.
Lloyd will leave his home and take Old Georgetown Road to either the Metro or, on the days he bicycles all the way to the office, to the Capital Crescent Bike Trail. This first leg on Old Georgetown Road is where he feels he’s taking his life into his hands, as he rides 3.5 miles on this four-lane highway full of potholes and traffic. It can be risky for a cyclist during any time of the day. Once he reaches downtown Bethesda, Lloyd is able to hop on the Capital Crescent Trail, a rail-to-trail project that is a backbone of transportation for pedestrians and bicycle commuters. The trail, which serves more than a million bikers and walkers a year, ends in Georgetown, where Lloyd will utilize the city’s bike lanes for the rest of his commute.
Although DC’s bike lane network is extensive, Lloyd has noticed some problems with both cyclists and motorists. “Cars don’t make it easy for bikes, but bikes don’t make it any easier for cars,” he says. On occasion he’ll see both drivers and bicyclists ignoring signals, while car drivers often ignore bikes on the road. The DC government banned U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue, where there is a two-way dedicated bike lane in the middle of the street. There have been blog articles, videos, and photos posted of cars breaking the law, and thankfully their actions come with the consequences of a hefty fine. But there is equal blame to go around. On the bike trail into DC, Lloyd often wishes cyclists would show one another some common courtesy, such as alerting other riders when turning or passing another rider.
This isn’t a car vs. bike scenario, but more commuter vs. commuter. The point is to be courteous, no matter which modes of transportation you utilize. That way we can all reach our destination—the weekend—safely.
Photo by Elvert Barnes