Thursday, March 16, 2006

Romming on Earth (and Sky)

Here is an interview with Joe Romm that recently appeared on the the popular radio show Earth and Sky

Joseph Romm is author of "The Car and Fuel of the Future," a 2004 report to the National Commission on Energy Policy.

Dr. Romm is an original plug in partner and he participated in the Jan 24th press conference.

Salazar: Dr. Romm, thank you for speaking with me today. What is the car of the future?

Romm: I think we have two major, related problems that are going to drive transportation in the future.

The first is oil. We're increasingly dependent on imported oil from dangerous regions of the world. And I expect that the price of oil and gas will, by and large, keep going up, with some bumps, over the next 10 to 20 years.

And, perhaps more importantly, are the greenhouse gases that we keep pouring into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels like oil. These greenhouse gases are starting to cause rather serious impacts in terms of melting the ice caps and and raising sea levels and making hurricanes more intense and the like.

So I think that, over the next 10 years, it's going to become increasingly clear that we have to dramatically reduce our oil consumption. In the United States, about 2/3 of all oil goes to transportation, in the cars that we drive and the planes that we ride in, virtually all of transportation is dependent on oil and very few other forms of energy are used for transportation.


What I've argued in my book, The Hype about Hydrogen, and in a recent Scientific American article, is that the next stage is hybrid cars that can be plugged into the electric grid.


Once you've got a battery and an electric motor onboard your car, the next obvious thing to do is to put in a larger battery, which can actually be plugged into the electric grid, so that you can replace oil with electricity. And so that's the car of the future.

I think, ideally, that plug-in hybrid, as it is called, would also be designed to run on alternative liquid fuels, particularly biofuels like ethanol, so that you could also replace gasoline with the liquid fuel that you use with ethanol.

And just to be clear, the plug-in hybrid would still have a gasoline engine in it. This would be a car that would run all-electric, twenty or thirty miles, before reverting to being a regular gasoline-electric hybrid.

The point is that most people don't travel very far everyday. You drive to work. You park at work for eight hours, you drive home, you park at home for eight to ten hours. So your car is sitting around most of the time, and it could easily be charged up, so that if you just have enough batteries on board to give yourself a small all-electric range, you might use very little gasoline, and you just use a gasoline engine for the time when you have long trips or don't have the time to do refueling.

So it's kind of the best of all possible worlds in terms of combining electricity, which can be a very clean source of transportation, and it's much cheaper than gasoline, but you keep the benefits of the gasoline engine, which is speed of refueling and long range.

So that is why I think that the plug-in hybrid is the car of the future, as I've called it."


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