Electric cars may not be a long-term solution for sustainable transportation, said experts during a panel on the history of alternative transportation and vehicles during Campus Sustainability Day. Panelists voiced doubts about the practicality of electric cars, casting doubt on whether the battery powered vehicles will fulfill California’s long-term needs for affordable nonpolluting transportation.
“I think there has been a great deal of progress in the right direction in terms of vehicle engineering,” said Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum. “However, batteries remain the chief problem. You just can’t store enough electricity to get people to the comfort level they need to in order for the cars to be widely used.”
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Alan Armer Theater in Manzanita Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 20 during the annual event sponsored by Cal State Northridge’s Institute for Sustainability. This year’s theme is focused on transportation. The event included presentations on bicycling and the history of alternative transportation and fuels. Following the panel discussions, the award-winning documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” was screened.
Cementing the campus’ national reputation for utilizing “green” technology and sustainable practices, Helen Cox, director of CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability announced that the university will offer a minor in sustainability starting in fall 2011. Students can obtain details about this program at www.csun.edu/sustainability.
Patricia McLaughlin, a principal at MIG Inc., a Berkeley-based planning, communications and design firm that has been organizing public meetings to discuss the proposed I-710 (Long Beach) Major Corridor Study, is an advocate of electric transportation.
“Progress in electric transportation has been rapid and spurred creative energy for funding new innovations,” McLaughlin said. “However, as with all emerging technologies, there needs to be a critical mass to have the infrastructure and demand in place to make these technologies viable.”
Some campus commuters have eliminated driving cars altogether by riding bicycles. Most bikes seen around the campus still fall under the “pedal-power” variety. But Robbie Villanueva of EZ Green Electric Bicycles displayed one of the newest technologies available in biking called the “e-bike.”
An e-bike is a bicycle with an electric motor and battery that makes bicycle transportation easier and more enjoyable for riders by helping them power up hills, commute with less sweat and run errands without a car. While the maximum speed and power limits vary by state, e-bikes must have operable pedals.
“Ideally, the city would like to see bikes become a cultural part of Los Angeles, just like cars,” said Jordann Turner, a panelist and project manager for the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. “We’ve come a long way considering that by 1977 there were only five miles of built bikeways in the entire city and today there are 339 miles.”
Turner said the city is working on a plan that includes the San Fernando Valley, to make bicycling safer and local roads more bike-friendly. More information is available at www.labikeplan.org.