Climate Change and Alternative Transit Technology
In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner and more efficient fuel sources need to be combined with an expanded and improved transit service. Currently, scientists and policy makers are investigating the use of several alternative fuels around the nation.
Many cities are using alternative fuel vehicles to meet the air quality standards required by the Clean Air Act. Compressed Natural Gas is currently the fuel of choice for transit agencies seeking to improve the air quality in the city.
CNG, while it reduces the air pollutants that have a negative impact on human health, may not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transit agencies have not investigated fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they are not required by law to do so. Scientists need to find alternative fuels that can reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants.
Transit agencies, from New York to Peoria, IL are experimenting with alternative fuels and technologies. Transit agencies serve as highly visible tests. The public will be more willing to adopt low emissions technology if they see it being used successfully.
Alternatives to petroleum fuels will achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions when they are combined with more efficient technologies (such as hybrid electric engines). Regenerative breaking on buses and rail systems would capture, store, and use energy that is normally lost during breaking. These technologies can save 25% of the energy that is normally lost during breaking. Greater fuel efficiencies, with both diesel and alternative fuels, would result from the use of lightweight materials such as carbon or composite fiber in the body and chassis of vehicles.
For the future, researchers believe that hybrid-electric technology (engines that combine batteries with traditional internal combustion engines) will offer the greatest greenhouse gas savings. Fuel cell technology (which relies on hydrogen fuel) offers still greater potential for GHG savings but at this point, requires more research.