Alternative transportation refers to transportation by means of vehicles that run on a fuel other than conventional petroleum fuels like gasoline and diesel. Alternative vehicles in use or development include the widely used biodiesel vehicle and the more conceptual plug-in electric hybrid vehicle (PHEV), solar car, battery-electric car, air-engine car (uses compressed air to drive the piston), hydrogen car (uses a fuel cell or combust hydrogen), and ammonia, ethanol, or biofuel powered vehicles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_propulsion ). Other than the biodiesel vehicle as a replacement for traditional diesel engines, these vehicles are often impractical due to near-complete lack of special fueling infrastructure (hydrogen car) or insufficient speed and power production (solar car). Other alternative vehicles remain more or less theoretical (Podcars). Work on alternative power systems for vehicles is a high priority for car manufacturers and governments. Meanwhile, to help reduce GHG emissions and reliance on imported fuels, fuel efficiency is the key. Gas-electric hybrid vehicles, for example, while not strictly “alternative” because they rely on gasoline, supplement with battery power to achieve fuel efficiencies of 47 mpg or more (Toyota Prius; www.edmunds.com ).
Cars and trucks that run on fossil fuels account for 16 percent of US carbon emissions (http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13685976). Replacement of conventional vehicles with low- or zero-emission vehicles would have the potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions locally and globally. Recent legislation will facilitate the switch to alternative vehicles. For example, California AB 1007 requires the California Energy Commission (CEC) develop strategies that will increase the use of alternative transportation fuels through 2022, while AB 118 authorizes the CEC to provide Californians approximately $120 million annually in incentives to increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels and innovative technologies (http://www.energy.ca.gov/altfuels/index.html ). There are currently 10 biodiesel fueling stations in the North Coast (two in Humboldt County, four each in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties). There are currently no ethanol or hydrogen filling stations in the North Coast (www.cleancarmaps.com). Trinity County has plug-in electric hybrid vehicle (PHEV) facilities in development. Sonoma County currently has two PHEV stations in use and plans to install up to 200 stations by 2012 to accomodate the 1,000 electric-powered Nissan cars planned for delivery in 2010 (http://www.sonoma-county.org/news/pdf/ev_chargingstations.pdf). See “Biofuel.”