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The feds would prefer electric vehicles over hydrogen for future cars in a new "decarbonisation" scheme


Four government agencies—the Departments of Energy and Transportation, as well as HUD and the Environmental Protection Agency—said last fall that they would work together to create more clean, accessible transportation across the country by 2050. This week, they released a national US blueprint for detoxification. Carbon from Transport, with details on how this happened.

Redesigned cities and communities and improved public transportation are part of the plan, but the biggest emissions reductions will come from cleaning up the vehicle fleet.

The agencies see three major alternatives to fossil fuels in our future — electricity, hydrogen, and sustainable biofuels — but they have very different use cases.

Last fall, the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing, Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would work together to create a "clean, safe, accessible, equitable, and carbon-neutral transportation system for all." This week, the agencies released their promised outline that includes some details about those bones.

Called the US National Document to Decarbonize Transportation, it's the first document of its kind that envisions three familiar technology solutions for network travel by 2050: batteries, hydrogen, and sustainable liquid fuels. The way the planner makes predictions using these three methods is the most intriguing, if not entirely surprising, to drivers. The technology that has the "greatest long-term opportunity" to decarbonize light vehicles, for example, is battery power. For heavy trucks with long distances, hydrogen comes out on top. And sustainable liquid fuels are likely to be best for boats and aircraft.

Perhaps most interestingly, the agencies see no place for hydrogen in the light vehicle fleet. While hydrogen is seen as a limited opportunity to make heavy, short-distance trucks and off-road vehicles more environmentally friendly, the plan's outlines don't support that much optimism for passenger cars. Even though the scheme lists the creation of a clean hydrogen infrastructure as one of the research priorities for the country, it won't help clean up our daily drivers, it seems.

Changing cities?

The 88-page national blueprint deals with more than types of energy, including rethinking how communities are positioned so that "work, shopping, schools, entertainment, and essential services are strategically located close to where people live." Communities like this will reduce the amount of time people spend commuting, among other benefits. Making public transportation and trains more reliable and affordable is also in the plan, but the biggest improvements to carbon reduction will come in cleaning up transportation options themselves.”

With this second major step in a decades-old decarbonization plan complete, the four agencies also provided an outline of those milestones that are planned for the coming decades as the United States transitions to a net zero economy. Between now and 2030, research and investments are needed to support the publication. In the 2030s, clean transportation solutions will be expanding, and in the 2040s, we will be "complete the transition." This is the plan anyway.

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