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The Evolution of Sustainable Personal Vehicles

Bryan D Jungers

Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series from Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis

Abstract: Through mechanisms of industrial globalization, modern societies are moving ever closer to capitalist ideals, emphasizing consumer choice and free competitive markets. Despite these ideals, relatively few choices currently exist for the typical personal vehicle consumer with respect to powertrain technology, fuel selection, and vehicle weight/size. This lack of market diversity is often blamed on the auto industry, the energy industry, the ignorant or fickle consumer, and/or the lack of long-term government support and financing of alternative technologies. Though each of these factors has certainly played a part in maintaining the status quo of a perpetually stagnant personal vehicle market, I will argue here that the existing problems associated with personal vehicles will be addressed most effectively by the fundamental reorientation of personal & institutional values. Such evolutionary shifts in perspective should be applied broadly by designers, engineers, business leaders, and government officials. I have explored several fundamental value shifts toward the evolution of sustainable personal vehicles. The personal vehicle serves as an apt metaphor for both the freedoms and follies of modern experience. By way of modeled examples, I define and evaluate the qualities of a sustainable personal vehicle and its infrastructure. Many of these concepts should also be applicable for other segments of the industrialized World. In no particular order, the following list summarizes potential value shifts. 1. Using rules of ecology to govern the cost-benefit trade offs between economic and social needs. 2. Designing new systems with eco-efficient use of resources and in harmony with living systems. 3. Eliminating the need for end-of-tailpipe regulation through eco-effective design & engineering. 4. Measuring system performance as achievement of steady-state sufficiency, not limitless growth. 5. Measuring energy/work efficiency based on total benefits to humans and local environments. 6. Working as individuals within cooperative communities to share knowledge and skills globally. 7. Slowing industry to a pace that enables the discovery of appropriate questions & solutions.

Keywords: UCD-ITS-RR-09-05; Engineering (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009-04-01
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