Doug Wilson

If there’s one priority we can all agree to in this country, it’s getting us free from the use of gasoline in our automobiles. But how do we get there? What do real experts say is going to happen?

I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Scott Samuelsen, the head of the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine. Scott is doing work with the leading car companies in the world who are developing alternatives we can use. He knows the direction these car makers are moving and the investments they are making in alternative energies. UCI is also located in Orange County, which is the hub of automobile designs for the future.

I asked Scott to keep the explanations simple and to assume I don’t know much… in a way, you can think of this interview as transportation fuels for dummies. I’ll start with the basics and go through the transportation transformation that is going to take place in America over the next twenty years.

The alternative technology most prevalent today is the hybrid vehicle. A good example is the Toyota Prius. It has an electric battery that supplements a normal gas fired engine. The battery is charged by the breaking of the car as well as by the engine. It is not charged by plugging the battery into anything. It is called a hybrid vehicle.

The next step in this evolution is the PHEV - the plug in hybrid electric vehicle – where batteries on board can be recharged by electricity at home or at work. Here is where electrical transmission into our home and work places becomes very important. Without adequate electricity, we will not be able to recharge the PHEV. Late at night and early in the morning, electrical grid capacity is available for recharging…to a point. Improving the electric grid over the next 20 years to both handle millions of vehicles and minimize emissions from power plants are critical to our future. Yes, many people will recharge their vehicles at night when the rates are low, but we need to anticipate growing demand and find ways to meet it. The way we can do this is through wind, solar, and nuclear power.

The average person drives less than 35 miles per day. The average all electric range for a PHEV is projected to be between 40 and 60 miles, depending on the weight of the vehicle and battery technology. This means that for many cars, they would never require gasoline. However, the car will still come with the ability to automatically convert to the gas fed engines if the driver needs extra distance.

Doug Wilson

Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.

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