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Transportation Nation

Electric Car Advocates Hope for a Quiet Revolution on Central Florida Streets

Monday, October 01, 2012

Electric cars lined up near Lake Eola, downtown Orlando (Photo by Matthew Peddie)

Electric vehicle charging stations are springing up all over Florida -- and a lot of them are concentrated around Orlando, which has more than 150 stations within a 70-mile radius. But uptake in central Florida has been ... slow.

The Orlando Utilities Commission, which has installed 78 charging stations around the city, estimates there are about 700 electric vehicles currently on the road in Orlando. That's a tiny percentage of the 915,960 cars and pickup trucks registered in Orange County, which encompasses most of the Orlando metropolitan area.

But alternative fuel advocates are hopeful the vehicles will eventually catch on in the Sunshine State. Florida's electric vehicle infrastructure is growing quickly, and the U.S. Department of Energy lists 319 public charging stations across the state, provided with funding from federal stimulus money.

Map of EV charging stations (Image: US Department of Energy)

Orlando resident Mark Thomasen has been an advocate for electric vehicles in the city since 2008.  He worked for a company that installed many of the charging stations and now writes an EV blog. He says it's been a challenge to build up acceptance of electric vehicles in the area. "There's not as much of a green movement in central Florida, and in Florida versus say Washington, or Oregon or Colorado."

Motorists might also balk at the upfront price.  Chevrolet's plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid Volt sedan has a list price of $39,145, while Nissan's all-electric Leaf, has a base price of $35,000.  Even with the $7,500 federal tax rebate, the cars are comparatively expensive.

But Thomasen is confident EVs will catch on in Florida. He says they don't face some of  the challenges of hydrogen, such as how to generate and store the gas, as well as the need to dvelop a high capacity, durable and inexpensive fuel cell. And he says even if drivers aren't worried about the environmental cost of gasoline, EVs should appeal to people who don't want to rely on foreign oil.

Mark Thomasen (photo by Matthew Peddie)

"Over here, what matters to people is energy independence," he says. "People don't realize how much fuel we use and how little we have within our border. So by moving to an electric car and getting off of that, we go to a different fuel source."

And Thomasen says electric vehicles at least have the infrastructure to support them, unlike hydrogen fuel cars.

Seven years ago there was a big push to build a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in California and in Florida. In 2005,  Florida Governor Jeb Bush broke ground on the state's first hydrogen fueling station in Orlando.  “Florida is spurring investment in the development and use of pollution-free hydrogen technology,” said Gov. Bush.  The new station was to be part of a "hydrogen hub" in central Florida, and the first of a series of stations fueling a fleet of clean energy vehicles.

Gov. Bush breaks ground on Florida's 'Hydrogen Highway' (photo courtesty of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

After Jeb Bush left office, Florida's new governor Charlie Crist grabbed the renewable fuel baton. He cut the ribbon on the station in May 2007, and touted it as a way to wean the nation off foreign oil. A fleet of minibuses operated by the Orange County convention center was adapted to run on hydrogen supplied by the station. Progress Energy, one of the partners in the project, opened a second refueling station near Oviedo as part of a nationwide demonstration project on fuel cell vehicles, led by the US Department of Energy. Eventually though, Florida's hydrogen highway evaporated. After two years and 3,200 fill-ups, the two hydrogen refueling stations shut down and the pilot program finished.

California's hydrogen efforts met similar results: the state now has a handful of  hydrogen fueling stations, but nowhere near the number former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger envisioned back in 2004.

James Fenton, who directs the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research facility at the University of Central Florida, says hydrogen still has a place in the future of alternative fuels in Florida. But he says it's more likely to be used in fuel cells in electric vehicles rather than powering internal combustion engines. "Eventually we'll get to the point when all the battery-powered electric cars will have fuel cell range extenders," says Fenton. "You'll have electric cars with batteries for short trips because the electron out of the wall is dirt cheap, then you'll electrolyze water somewhere else, fill your car with hydrogen and extend the range."

And while electric vehicles aren't yet a common sight on central Florida roads, Fenton says he's upbeat about their future because mile for mile, electricity out of the wall is cheaper than gasoline. But he says there are still some obstacles to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

"We don't have a hydrogen infrastructure," says Fenton. "That's the kicker."

Electric Charging Station, Orlando City Hall (photo by Matthew Peddie)

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

It's Morning in Hamtramck (Or: Let's Put the Nightmare Of The Volt Battery Fire Hearing Behind Us)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On the heels of a blistering Congressional hearing yesterday, where officials from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration were accused of sacrificing public safety to protect the government's investment in General Motors (sample tweet from committee chair, Republican Darrell Issa: @GOPOversight's Mike Kelly "takes the gloves off" to deliver accountability for #ChevyVolt subsidies you paid for), GM's new Volt ad is more in line with President Obama's take on the auto bailout in the State of the Union: “We bet on American workers.  We bet on American ingenuity.  And tonight, the American auto industry is back.”

The ad is the latest in a spate of 'Detroit pride'- themed commercials (think 'Eminem's "this is the Motor City. This is what we do"' Chrysler commercial from last year's Superbowl). In this one, a Chevrolet Volt assembly line winds through the streets of Hamtramck, Michigan -- described by Chevy as "a city within a city in the heart of Detroit."

“This isn’t just the car we wanted to build,” a narrator intones. “This is the car America had to build.” Watch below!

(Hat tip to The Hill)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: House To Take Up 5-Year Transpo Bill, Port Authority Audit Expected to Slam Former Head, Obama's Old Car Available eBay

Thursday, January 26, 2012

 Top stories on TN: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn’t think there’s much chance Congress will pass a surface transportation spending bill this year -- but he's standing firm on the Obama administration's goal to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail by 2036. New York's MTA loses its only board member who's married to a Beatle. A Supreme Court ruling on GPS could affect a NYC taxi suit. And: Central Park gets its first crosstown shared bike/pedestrian path.

 

New York's subway (photo by Kate Hinds)

The new federal highway bill that will be taken up by the House of Representatives next week will be a five-year, $260 billion proposal. (The Hill)

Egyptian authorities are barring several U.S. citizens — including Ray LaHood’s son — from leaving the country after Egyptian government forces raided the offices of Washington-backed groups monitoring recent parliamentary elections there. (Politico)

A preliminary audit of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey's spending, initiated by Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, is expected to criticize the agency's prior leader Chris Ward -- but offer few suggestions on how it could save money. (Crain's New York Business)

House Republicans accused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday of trying to keep secret a battery fire in a Chevy Volt out of fear of damaging the value of the government’s investment in the car’s manufacturer, General Motors, and jeopardizing President Obama’s re-election prospects. (New York Times)

Calgary has taken steps toward launching a public bike share program as soon as mid-2014, but even the city official who oversees cycling improvements won't promise there will be enough on-street bike lanes in time. (Calgary Herald)

Look out, Midwest: Austin, Texas, wants its share of the auto industry. (Changing Gears)

Editorial: at long last, Michigan lawmakers are finally confronting that state's crumbling roads. (Detroit Free Press)

Why California Governor Jerry Brown is standing firm on high-speed rail. (Christian Science Monitor)

After spending $160 million on a failed radio system for police to communicate in New York's  subways, the city is buying transit cops two-way radios that will finally allow them to communicate with police above ground. (New York Post, New York Daily News)

What transit agencies can learn from Twitter."The most interesting thing we found is that transit riders do not give any positive sentiment at a particular time. They only give negative sentiment," said a researcher. "If there’s no negative sentiment at any given time, that means that things are running smoothly." (Atlantic Cities)

 

A 2005 Chrysler 300C that Obama reportedly traded in while he was a senator is on eBay for $1 million. (Politico) (And: six days left to bid! Come for the car, stay for the photoshopping.)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: House Blasts Feds Over Chevy Volt Battery Fire Investigation, PATH Ridership Booming

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top stories on TN: The president gave two nods to transportation in his State of the Union address -- to the auto industry and cutting red tape. San Francisco and Medellin won the ITDP's Sustainable Transport Award. New York State released a report saying there were no environmental barriers to replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. A Maryland county is exploring bike share. Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood -- which has only one bus line -- will get two more buses added to that route later this year. And the Bronx will join Staten Island in having real-time locating information for all its buses.

A natural gas hydraulic fracturing site near Platteville, Colorado (photo courtesy of Senator Mark Udall's Flickr stream)

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to give more weight to factors including affordable-housing policy in deciding which local mass-transit initiatives will get federal money. (Bloomberg)

Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- has produced so much gas that the price is at a ten-year low. (NPR)

Maryland's Montgomery County wants to use bus rapid transit, not rail, for its Corridor Cities Transitway project. (Washington Examiner)

California's high-speed rail project relies on risky financial assumptions and has just a fraction of the money needed to pay for it, the state auditor said in a new report. (AP via San Francisco Chronicle)

Adolfo Carrion Jr. -- former Bronx Borough President and HUD executive -- will launch a consulting firm that will advise "private sector businesses that are building roads and bridges and pipes and wires and buildings." And: "I'm going to work with players in the affordable housing production universe and I'm going to advise governments about smart growth here and around the country." (New York Daily News)

Airlines are turning increasingly to renting planes -- and the trend is likely to keep growing. (The Economist)

The head of the MTA’s largest union — currently locked in bitter contract negotiations with the transit agency — refused yesterday to rule out the possibility of a crippling subway strike. (New York Post)

Elected officials in Toronto are pushing a new transit plan that could have a new busway operational in less than three years -- and shovels in the ground for new light rail lines by 2014. (Toronto Star)

Disabled parking placard abuse is rampant in downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

House Transportation Chair John Mica intends to release text of the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs” proposal perhaps as soon as Friday. (Transportation Issues Daily)

A House committee is holding a hearing this morning on whether NHTSA delayed warning consumers about possible fire risks with the Volt because of the federal government's financial investment in General Motors. (New York Times)

Residents and officials in Tenafly (NJ) blasted a plan to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail through the community, saying it would bring pollution, accidents and noisy train horns. (The Record)

Customs officials intend to shut down their inspection station at Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal. (New York Times)

More commuters rode PATH trains across the Hudson River in 2011 than in any other year since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over the rail system in 1962. (Wall Street Journal)

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TN MOVING STORIES: GM Reinforces Volt Battery, Queens Convention Center Builder Wants Swift Subway Link, Buenos Aires Doubles Subway Fares

Friday, January 06, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive (Link)
Now He Can Say It: Walder Calls NY’s Infrastructure “Terrible” (Link)
Filling in the Blanks Of New York’s Infrastructure Plan (Link)

Buenos Aires subway (photo by posterboy2007 via Flickr)

GM is reinforcing the Volt battery with extra steel. (Detroit Free Press)

The company behind a proposal to build a new convention center in Queens said it will work with New York's MTA to fund uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and the proposed convention center. (Wall Street Journal)

Buenos Aires is doubling subway fares after Argentina handed control of the system to the city--and decreased subsidies. (Bloomberg News via San Francisco Chronicle)

The feds have given final approval for a $1.7 billion transit line along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. (AP via Sacramento Bee)

Freakonomics quorum: can Amtrak ever be profitable? Discuss. (Link)

RadioBoston kicks around solutions to prevent Boston's transit service from being slashed. Two words: congestion pricing. Other ideas: quasi-privatization, automatizing trains, and implementing zone fares. Read the comments section for even more. (WBUR)

NY Senator Charles Schumer wants the commuter tax credit back. (Staten Island Advance)

Yet another rescuer tries to save Seattle's historic Kalakala ferry. But: "It may have looked cool, but it was hard to maneuver and kept running into things." (NPR)

Ron Paul video from 2009: "By subsidizing highways and destroying mass transit, we ended up with this monstrosity."(Streetsblog)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: House to Hold Hearing on Volt Fires; Christie "Concerned" About Port Authority Toll Explanation

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Port Authority: no transportation funds are going to WTC reconstruction. (Link)
The redistricting proposal put out by Florida's House spells trouble for Mica. (Link)
The number of New Yorkers commuting by bike has doubled in the last four years. (Link)
Houston drivers + winter = danger. (Link)
The number of electric vehicles able to power buildings and feed the power grid will grow to more than 5 million in 2017. (Link)

London taxi (photo by kenjonbro via Flickr)

A U.S. House subcommittee will hold a hearing into reports of GM's Chevrolet Volt catching fire (Bloomberg); meanwhile, Ray LaHood insists the vehicles are safe and that information hadn't been withheld from the public. (Detroit Free Press)

Governor Christie is "concerned" about the Port Authority's changing explanation for the toll hike, calls former head Chris Ward "an awful manager...who didn't tell the truth."  (The Star-Ledger)

Salary information for all Port Authority employees is now on the agency's website.

Talks continue on an FAA bill. (Politico)

Suspension cables on the 80-year-old George Washington Bridge are being replaced. (New York Times)

New York Daily News op-ed: Governor Cuomo, sign the livery bill already.

Learning to drive a taxi in London changes your brain. (Atlantic Cities)

Does my EV's butt look big in this docking backpack? (GizMag)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: North Dakota's Oil Boom Strains Towns, GM Offers To Buy Back Volts

Friday, December 02, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Houston receives first-ever federal funds for light rail (link)

Democrats want stricter "made in America" rules for infrastructure projects. (Link)

John Mica could lose his seat under a redistricting proposal. (Link)

North Dakota (photo by John McChesney for NPR)

House leadership has put the brakes on a long-term transportation spending plan. (Washington Post)

The oil boom in North Dakota is straining small towns. (NPR)

DC Metro prepares to hike fares to close a budget gap. (Washington Post)

GM said it would buy back Volts from owners worried about battery fires. (New York Times)

The BART board voted to turn off cell phone service only in "the most extraordinary circumstances." (San Francisco Chronicle)

A New Jersey state assemblyman wants an investigation into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's toll-hike discrepancy. (The Star-Ledger)

Thousands turned out for a New York City hearing on hydrofracking. (WNYC/Empire)

Friday video pick: watch as a video projection installation on the side of the Manhattan Bridge turns the structure into something resembling a portal to another dimension -- or a scene from the Matrix. (h/t Laughing Squid)

Projection on the Bridge - Immersive Surfaces - As Above, So Below from Light Harvest Studio - Ryan Uzi on Vimeo.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: American Airlines Files for Bankruptcy, Pittsburgh's Transit System Faces a 35% Cut, DC's Metro Considers a "Tourist Zone"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Building the Second Avenue Subway: the sandhog tradition stays in the family. (Link)

Choose your own rail adventure -- via computer games. (Link)

Audio tour: the worst road in California's wine country. (Link)

(photo by caribb via flickr)

American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection. (Bloomberg, New York Times, Marketplace)

DC's Metro is considering a 'tourist zone' to make buying fare cards easier for non-residents. (Greater Greater Washington)

Pittsburgh's public transit system may be facing a 35% service cut if elected leaders don't resolve a state transportation budget shortfall. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Following two separate battery fires, GM is reassuring Volt owners that the car is safe. (Detroit Free Press)

Troy's new mayor wants to send back $8.5 million in federal aid to build a transit center. (Detroit Free Press)

The Wall Street Journal doesn't like Governor Cuomo's plan to use pension funds to repair infrastructure. "As an "investment opportunity," the Tappan Zee isn't Google." (Wall Street Journal)

But: the governor now says he won't use pension funds as an investment vehicle to fund the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Wall Street Journal)

Researchers found a link between Houston's buses and tuberculosis. (Atlantic Cities)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed: a unified transit system will lift the Metro Atlanta region. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

One former resident's account: I lived in Los Angeles for eight years without a car -- and you can, too. (The Source)

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Transportation Nation

Former GM Exec: Automakers Should Focus Less on Stock Price...and Yes, I Flipped Over An Opel

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Photo: (cc) by Flickr user Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden)

Bob Lutz, a former GM executive who championed the Volt, was interviewed this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show about his new book,  Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. In the book, he argues the auto industry needs to focus more on quality and customer service and less on stock price. Below are some highlights from today's Brian Lehrer Show interview.

Regarding the auto industry meltdown: "Management with more of a focus on the customer and excellence would have prevented it."

On US automakers versus Japanese automakers:  "The playing field now is absolutely level."

Does he envision an America with all electric cars? "I don't, because range is always going to be a factor."

Did you flip over an Opel during a J turn? "Yes I did...there was an argument with the engineers who claimed the car couldn't be flipped because we'd had some reports of the cars flipping over in the United States. I went out and performed the test and promptly put it on its roof."

You can listen to the interview below.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: China Halts HSR Line, Atlanta's Suburbs May Finally Be Ready to Accept Mass Transit, and Happy Bike To Work Day

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bike to Work Day, 2010 (photo by greenperalta/Flickr)

Today is Bike to Work Day.

Atlanta's suburbs may finally be ready to embrace mass transit. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

China halted work on a high-speed rail line due to environmental concerns.  (Wall Street Journal)

The Guardian has an enormous amount of data about Britain's train stations. (The Guardian)

GM will increase Volt production, and plans to close a plant for a month to prepare. (AutoBlog)

Hear TN's Andrea Bernstein talk about how gasoline prices are affecting driving behavior on The Takeaway (and don't forget to participate in our survey on how gas prices affect YOU.)

Toronto's mayor is set to unveil his bike lane plan. (The Star)

New York City approved an increase in fines for cab drivers who break a wide range of rules — from being caught using a cell phone while driving to refusing to accept a credit card. (WNYC)

Food trucks -- so popular on the coasts -- are hitting legal roadblocks in the Midwest. (Changing Gears)

The DDOT won't be available to fill potholes after Saturday's 'Rapture.' (Fox News)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- The Yankees paved paradise and put up a parking lot -- with public money (link)

-- it's not gas prices you have to worry about in Montana, it's snow...even in May (link)

-- NYC's dollar van program, meant to replace cut bus lines, is a total bust (link)

-- SF wants to make its taxis more efficient (link)

-- public transportation: it's good for you (link)

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Transportation Nation

Chevy: Early Data, Volt Drivers Go More Than 1,000 Miles Per Fill-Up

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steve Wojtanek in the driveway next to his Chevrolet Volt in Boca Raton, Florida. Wojtanek says he averages 122 miles per gallon, and visits the gas station about once a month. (Photo: Chevrolet News)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Chevy announced today that the company's tracking of early Volt owners shows they consistently go more than 1,000 miles between gas fill-ups.

Chevy also released testimonials of drivers who were especially fuel efficient in their driving habits. “On April 11, I had to buy gas for the first time since filling up on Jan. 9,said Volt owner Gary Davis of Greenville, S.C. “In my Volt I’ve driven 4,600 miles on 8.4 gallons of gas. That’s an impressive 547 mpg that I am achieving with my Volt.”

With more typical driving conditions the Volt has still performed impressively on fuel and energy efficiency. Motor Trend tested the vehicle and got 127.6 miles per gallon. Those numbers don't factor in the cost of electricity for charging the battery, something the owner does have to pay for along with gas. Car and Driver computed a 74 miles per gallon equivalence when factoring in the electricity usage during its test of the Volt.

The Volt has a battery with a range of 20-50 miles, after that, a gas powered engine-generator kicks in allowing for longer trips. The typical urban car trip is less than 40 miles. Chevy tells Transportation Nation, they have sold 1,527 Volts through March 2011.

Chevy is releasing these testimonials come as fuel-efficient cars are in the spotlight at the NY Auto Show this week—where the Volt was named the World Green Car today—and following reports of a pair of electric cars catching fire while charging in Connecticut. Right now though, it appears the Volt involved was likely the victim, not the culprit of the two car blaze.

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TN Moving Stories: Transpo Contractors Investigated Over Minority Hires, DC Metro Shakeup Coming, and Monetizing Old Car Batteries

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arrive early and bring your patience: It's the biggest travel day of the year!

And it's snowing in the cities of Transportation Nation partners Minnesota Public Radio (Minneapolis) and Yellowstone Public Radio (Billings.) Could start snowing soon at WDET (Detroit).

In other news...

Did two of New York's largest construction companies finesse minority hiring requirements in order to win contracts? Federal authorities are investigating Schiavone and the U.S. unit of Swedish construction company Skanska AB. Skanska is working on a number of transit projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation, the 2nd Avenue Subway, and the PATH terminal at the World Trade Center site. (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News)

DC Metro shakeup in the works? The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the incoming D.C. mayor directed their top transportation officials to come up with a detailed plan for carrying out broad changes in how Metro is run. (Washington Post)

After your Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt dies, what will happen to its lithium-ion battery?  Automakers are trying to find ways to monetize old batteries. (Wired)

Riders at NYC's Union Square subway station might wonder: does this train go to Hogwarts? (New York Daily News).

The number of bicyclists in Portland continues to rise--8% increase over 2009. 190% increase (yes, 190%) since 2000. (KPTV)

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TN Moving Stories: Fear of Public Transit, GM Goes Public, and Behold the First 3D-Printed Hybrid Car

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Is fear of crime one of the factors keeping people from riding public transportation? A new study says yes--particularly for women. (Next American City)

The Infrastructurist says: the survival of American high-speed rail hinges upon today's vote.

Grist talks to PolicyLink's Angela Glover Blackwell about why she says transportation is a civil rights issue--and what her worries are for today's election. "It is probably safe to assume that if the Congress becomes more Republican that having the support for infrastructure investment in public transportation will become a divisive issue."

Tow your charger: one Indiana company plans to market a "range extender"--a trailer that you tow behind your electric car that contains a generator to keep your car charged (Wired). Which you might need: GM's Volt has ten million lines of software code. "A car in the 1980s was roughly 5 percent electronics. The Chevy Volt is 40 percent. GM likens the product development for the Volt to a rocket program." (Smart Planet)

Speaking of GM: it goes public today. "In the next 24 hours or so GM is expected to file final papers for an Initial Public Offering. That sale of shares to private investors would change Uncle Sam from a majority owner into a minority owner." (Marketplace).

Behold: the first 3-D printed hybrid car. (Fast Company)

The head of the Allied Pilots Association opposes body scanner screening for pilots, says that the "practice of airport security screening of airline pilots has spun out of control and does nothing to improve national security." (Dallas Morning News.)  Meanwhile, international cooperation over aviation security is gaining attention. (Wall Street Journal)

Seattle's Metro Transit is watching La Niña and preparing for a snowier-than-usual winter--and hoping to not repeat what happened in 2008, when bad weather caused Metro to cut service in half.  (Seattle Times)


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TN Moving Stories: GM Gives Volt a Boost, HUD Funds Development Along Transit Corridors, and Christie Says Sen. Lautenberg Should Find Money to Pay For ARC

Friday, October 15, 2010

HUD awards $100 million in sustainability grants (Streetsblog).  Among the winners: the Twin Cities area, which received $5 million to plan for development along transit corridors. (Star Tribune)

GM says consumer demand for the Volt is so high, it will boost production (Detroit Free Press)

MTA still working out the kinks in the whole electronic countdown clock process (New York Daily News). Meanwhile, a mistake in the Second Avenue Subway work cuts the gas off for more than 100 families (New York Times). But there is some good news: love is now allowed on the subway.

The Southtown Star looks back at the career of Metra's first female engineer, who's now ready to retire.

Are driverless taxis in Berlin's future? (Marketplace)

And, from the Star-Ledger: a video of Governor Christie's response to Senator Lautenberg's press conference yesterday: "Senator Lautenberg should find the money to pay for it."

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If The Volt Is Electric, Why Does It Have A Gasoline Engine?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

President Barack Obama drives a new Chevy Volt during his tour of the General Motors Auto Plant in Hamtramck, Mich., July 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  When is an electric car truly electric?  That’s what some auto industry watchers are asking, after seeing new information released by General Motors.

The Detroit automaker says the gasoline engine on the new Chevy Volt can sometimes help power the wheels.

The Volt has been championed as General Motors' effort to make a viable all-electric car that consumers will demand in large quantities.

The car can travel between 25 and 50 miles on an electric charge.  After that, the gasoline engine recharges the Volt’s battery pack for longer distances.

But GM’s revelation that there’s a connection between the gasoline engine and the powertrain makes the car seem more like a plug-in hybrid vehicle to some auto enthusiasts.

GM says it hadn’t previously shared all of the details on the Volt, because it was protecting proprietary information while awaiting patent approvals.

Production of the Volt is scheduled to begin next month.

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