What are the impacts of the transportation sector?
In 2017, the US transportation sector surpassed the country’s power sector to become the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, representing about 29% of total emissions according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The largest source of these emissions (59%) is from passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks running on internal combustion engines that burn either gasoline or diesel fuel for propulsion. As such, this web page will focus on the issues surrounding vehicular traffic and why the City of Cape Canaveral supports a transition to cleaner methods of transport, especially on a local level.
About 142.86 billion gallons or 3.40 billion barrels of finished motor gasoline were consumed in the US in 2018 according to the US Energy Information Association (equivalent to 391.40 million gallons a day). When combined with diesel (distillate) fuel consumption as well, this represents 1,559 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. In excess, carbon dioxide emissions can cause significant environmental damage, serving as one of the primary contributors to human-induced climate change. It is estimated that for every one ton of carbon dioxide emitted, $220 worth of damage is done in the form of an externality cost to the environment and in turn, taxpayers. This damage takes many forms and can include sea level rise, enhanced severe weather, and species loss.
Concerns about the health and well-being of vehicle users and bystanders is also growing in relation to air pollution caused by internal combustion-based automobiles, buses, and trucks. According to a 2016 study conducted by the World Bank and the Health Effects Institute, between 91,000 and 100,000 deaths related to air pollution occur each year in the US. About 26% of air pollution related deaths can be attributed to automobiles. According to a study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation, of the 385,000 global premature deaths related to air pollution in 2015, diesel vehicle emissions accounted for 47% due to the high amounts of particulate matter they produce.
At current rates, air pollution could cause 6 to 9 million premature deaths annually by 2060. This could cost 1% of the global GDP-or $2.6 trillion-due to increased sick days, medical bills and decreased agricultural output. People most affected are those with preexisting health conditions, the elderly and children.
The extraction, refinement, transportation and use of gasoline and diesel fuels from oil comes with inherent risk to both life and property and can even impinge on national security. Due to isolated extraction locations and a monopolized distribution system, shocks to the oil market are common and have far reaching societal impacts. US oil prices frequently rise and fall in response to instances of foreign aggression, industrial accidents, economic downturns and weather-related incidents such as hurricanes impacting production in the Gulf of Mexico. Prices can vary widely over the course of sometimes just days. Being affixed to a centralized source of fuel is not resilient, nor is it fiscally responsible. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic severely crippled the global oil market due to a lack of travel and a slowdown in industries. This economic shock is likely to accelerate a shift to alternative, cleaner fuel sources in the coming years as the pandemic’s fallout becomes more apparent on traditional energy markets.
With a renewed focus on health and wellbeing, numerous national “green”pandemic economic recovery plans prioritizing alternative fuels for the transportation sector, and a diversification to cleaner technologies by oil companies in an effort to regroup losses, the future of transportation is likely to not be that of the internal combustion engine but rather of something else entirely. So, the question is, what is coming next?
What is considered clean transportation?
Clean transportation utilizes technology to replace or reduce the direct use of petroleum-based gasoline and diesel fuel. Clean transportation technologies can include many alternative propulsion options, some with higher emissions portfolios than others. These options include: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell, ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, and propane-powered vehicles. Other lower tech examples of clean local travel include simply biking or walking to your destination.
For a more detailed breakdown of what each alternative fuel option is and how it works, click each listed fuel’s hyperlink above to find out more from the US Department of Energy.
Why is clean transportation important?
Utilizing cleaner methods of transportation is important for three reasons.
One. Cleaner alternative fuel vehicles have the ability to be more resilient than traditional gasoline or diesel powered variants. While some alternatives are still tied to fossil fuel production - such as natural gas and propane powered vehicles - others have ability to be completely independent from centralized power systems. One of the best examples is all-electric vehicles. Should oil markets be disrupted or the power grid go down, gasoline and diesel powered vehicles could be left stranded economically and infrastructurally. Since gasoline and diesel fuel can only be produced at specific facilities with an enormous amount of acquisition and production equipment required, they are inherently less resilient. All-electric vehicles on the other hand can have their electricity produced via decentralized renewable methods such as solar and wind that are co-located with charging infrastructure.
A real world hypothetical scenario that showcases this resilience is as follows: A hurricane strikes the City of Cape Canaveral. Power is lost on the barrier island for several days, if not longer. Gas stations across the municipality can no longer supply gasoline or diesel fuel. However, much of the City’s fleet is all-electric. Onsite solar panels - in combination with battery storage units - supply electricity to charging stations that continuously power fleet vehicles, allowing for a quicker cleanup and recovery period.
Two. Many forms of alternative fuels produce far less tailpipe emissions than traditional petroleum-based internal combustion engines. Even fossil fuel derived alternative sources such as liquified or compressed natural gas have far less tailpipe emissions.
On average, battery electric vehicles recharged from the grid in Florida are cleaner than driving in an internal combustion vehicle rated as high as having 66 mpg as of 2020. The national average is 88 mpg, meaning a battery electric vehicle driven in the US has less emissions than an internal combustion engine vehicle with 80 miles per gallon. It is estimated that 94% of people in the US now live where driving an electric vehicle produces less emissions than using a 50 mpg gasoline car (see full nationwide map).
Much of a battery electric vehicle's lifecycle emissions come from its manufacturing. However, manufacturing processes are becoming more efficient and cleaner. A 2019 study conducted by the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute states that battery electric battery production emits between 134 and 233 pounds of carbon dioxide, down from 330 to 440 pounds in just 2017. This is mainly due to increased battery efficiency and production facilities increasingly powered by cleaner renewable energy. The study’s researchers believe these emissions will continue to decrease. Even so, battery electric vehicle emissions produced through manufacturing are quickly recovered by the savings that accrue while in use. Many electric vehicle manufacturers also recycle spent battery packs and turn them into things like home battery storage systems for continued use. On average, gas vehicles emit twice as much greenhouse gases than the equivalent all electric car.
Three. Cleaner methods of transportation are either already or quickly becoming less expensive to operate and maintain when compared to direct petroleum-based options. Prices of electricity are much more stable than that of gasoline and diesel, and are much cheaper. A battery electric vehicle that takes power from the grid usually only requires several cents per mile to recharge.
Take for example the City fleet’s all-electric 2017 Ford Focus hatchback, the first all-electric car in the fleet. The 2017 all-electric Ford Focus has a range of 115 miles. The vehicle’s battery pack is 33.5 kilowatt-hours in size. To fully recharge this battery pack from zero, it would cost 0.09 cents per kilowatt-hour based on Cape Canaveral’s electricity rate. In other words, a “full tank” or recharge would cost about $3.00. The 2017 gas only Ford Focus hatchback has a tank size of 12.4 gallons. To refill this tank from zero with the average nationwide gasoline cost of $2.60 (as of November 2020) it would cost $32.24, or roughly 10 times the cost to recharge the all-electric version.
All-electric vehicles also have reduced maintenance costs given that they have less moving parts and no need for oil changes. AAA reports that electric vehicles have lower maintenance and repair costs than gas-powered cars. According to their estimates, the average electric vehicle costs 6.6 cents per mile driven to maintain, compared to gas-powered sedans and SUVs, which cost 8.9 cents and 9.9 cents per mile, respectively.
Moving Beyond Cars
Clean transportation does not have to mean self-powered vehicles. It can also mean low tech solutions such as biking or walking. As traditional as they may be, biking and walking-based transportation infrastructure is quickly growing in popularity among urbanized areas. This has become especially true in a post COVID-19 society where social distancing and outdoor activities are widely practiced.
Given Cape Canaveral’s small size of 1.9 square miles, it is the City’s goal to build out a network of bikeable and walkable infrastructure as said in the City’s Vision Statement. Over the past several years the City has constructed new “Complete Streets” that prioritize both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, new sidewalk additions, wayfinding signage, pedestrian crosswalks, bicycle-based infrastructure such as fix-it stations and holding racks, and the establishment of pedestrian trails.
The City will continue to make improvements and upgrades to its pedestrian infrastructure in order to encourage accessibility and safety for residents of all ages and abilities.
Clean Transportation in the City of Cape Canaveral
Of the alternative fuel options currently available, electrified vehicles - or vehicles that utilize onboard batteries for either complete or partial propulsion - represent the most feasible, resilient, and sustainable option for the City of Cape Canaveral in regards to use by its own vehicle fleet. Why is that?
Electrified vehicles represent the most promising and cost effective form of alternative fuel vehicles compared to other options. The City does not have a need nor the space for infrastructure for propane and natural gas vehicles. The same can be said for ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen powered vehicles. Electrified vehicles and their infrastructure are readily available at fiscally appropriate costs, and their power requirements can be fulfilled via onsite renewable energy generation. This is why the City will continue to pursue transitioning its fleet to hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles. Ultimately, the City intends to have an all-electric zero emissions fleet within the next 15 years.
The City is already well on its way to realizing this goal. To date, the City has one fully electric vehicle (a 2017 Ford Focus hatchback as previously discussed) and four SUV hybrids (2019-2021 Toyota RAV4s). Each is projected to save the City thousands of dollars in fuel costs over their operational life spans compared to their all gas equivalents. Additional electrified vehicles will be added to the fleet where appropriate and feasible as older vehicles are retired. By the end of 2021, the City expects at least 20% of its 30 vehicle fleet to be electrified.
The City currently has seven level-2 electric vehicles universal charging stations (with 13 charging ports) that are available for fleet usage, as well as to residents and visitors. Locations include the Cape Canaveral Library (two ports), at Cape Canaveral City Hall (six ports), Manatee Sanctuary Park (two ports), and Banana River Park (two ports). The last level-2 charging station containing one port is at the Public Works Services Facility. More stations will be added for fleet usage as more vehicles are electrified. City Staff is actively investigating ways to make each current and all future electric vehicle charging station grid-independent to ensure greater resilience should power outages occur.
Florida is the second-largest passenger electric vehicle market in the US and transportation electrification has accelerated throughout the state in the last three years. There were roughly 62,000 electric vehicles on the road in Florida as of June 2020 and the state accounts for more than 4% of electric vehicle sales nationwide. Electric vehicle sales in Florida increased 20% between 2018 and 2019. In 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Essential State Infrastructure Bill into law. This landmark electric vehicle roadmap legislation will help to create a master plan for DC fast-charging (Level 3) infrastructure along Florida’s interstate corridor system, including nearby I-95. The law acknowledges the risks of climate change and identifies electric transportation as a means to combat it. The new law also tasks specific state agencies to identify barriers and opportunities to advance electric vehicle adoption, including legislative and policy recommendations and requires an interim report at the end of 2020 with a final report by July 2021.