Oil Solutions At Work

We can cut projected U.S. oil use in half. These experts and entrepreneurs are making it happen—read their stories below!

Vehicle Efficiency

Electric Vehicles

Biofuels

Smart Growth


Vehicle EfficiencyEfficient vehicles use less oil and emit less pollution. Learn more.


Edward Lovelace: Hybrid-electric truck conversions

An electrical and mechanical engineer, Edward Lovelace has helped develop clean transportation solutions throughout his career. His Ph.D. work was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and included research in a consortium with all of the major U.S. automakers. He is now the Chief Technology Officer at XL Hybrids, a company that converts gasoline-powered trucks into hybrid-electric trucks—cutting the trucks’ fuel use by 20 percent.

The benefits of switching to hybrid-electric trucks are well-documented: lower fueling costs, extended range (because the truck goes farther on each tank of gas), engine downsizing, increased brake life, and reduced air pollution. In fact, the amount that fleets pay for the conversion is paid back in less than 3 years through the money they save on fueling alone.

A key focus of Edward’s work is to develop new versions of the XL Hybrid Electric Drive System for additional types of trucks—currently, he is working on a powertrain that will work for larger, urban shuttle busses and delivery trucks.

 

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Linda Gaines: Less idling, less oil

Linda Gaines, a Systems Analyst in the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Lab, studies vehicle idling. We’re all familiar with idling—sitting at traffic lights, waiting in a running car to pick someone up, watching trucks idle while their drivers make deliveries.

Cumulatively, the impact of vehicle idling is huge. In the U.S. alone, idling uses more than 6 billion gallons of fuel each year.

In one study, Linda’s research team addressed a common dilemma faced by fast-food customers—do you use less fuel to drive-thru, or to park, go inside the restaurant, and then restart the car? The answer: idling for longer than 10 seconds consumes more fuel and produces more global warming pollution than stopping and restarting, so you’re better off going inside the restaurant.

Linda’s team turns their findings into practical tools to help drivers reduce their idling, and even created an online IdleBox toolkit in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program.

Given the amount of oil wasted by idling vehicles each year, Linda’s work is making important progress towards improving vehicle fuel efficiency—a key piece of the UCS Half the Oil plan.

Check out an interview with Linda here.

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Roger Southall: Fuel savings in big trucks

Roger Southall is the CEO of AireDock, an innovative, Florida-based company that’s helping reduce oil use in big-rig trucks.

Currently, most truck drivers keep their engines idling when they pull into truck stops to sleep. This provides heating, cooling, and electricity—and consumes as much as 1,400 gallons of diesel each year.

To reduce the fuel use, emissions, and engine wear and tear associated with extended idling, Roger’s company offers drivers a new option when they arrive at rest stops—they can turn off their engines and hook up to an AireDock station. Powered by electricity, these stations provide drivers with internet, temperature-controlled fresh air for their cabin, and power for on-board appliances, all controlled through a simple panel that fits on the truck window.

Because Airedock stations eliminate extended idling, they also reduce oil use, emissions, and fueling costs for heavy-duty vehicle owners and operators. In Roger's eyes, the technology is a true win-win, both from an environmental and economic perspective.

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Electric VehiclesElectric vehicles use less oil and emit less pollution than conventional vehicles. Learn more.


 

Dwayne Taylor: EV charging stations

Dwayne Taylor is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 and works as a Journeyman electrician for Sullivan Solar Power, a leading Southern California company that installs solar systems and EV charging stations for commercial and residential customers. With over 14 years of experience in the electrical industry, Dwayne has seen the market for EV charging stations explode as more people drive on electricity.

Dwayne became an expert in installing this oil-saving technology after taking a class on EV charging stations, and he sees fellow electricians expanding their skills with similar classes. But to Dwayne, charging stations aren’t just electrical devices; they’re tools for cutting our nation’s oil use in half in twenty years.

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Jesse Ramirez: Building electric trucks

Jesse Ramirez is a Manager of Assembly for ZeroTruck Corp of Santa Ana, CA, which produces all-electric medium duty trucks.

Jesse, a native Californian, previously worked as an auto technician restoring vehicles, then in new car sales, and then as an auto finance manager—but when the opportunity arose to work for ZeroTruck, Jesse didn’t hesitate to get his hands on the assembly plans. Most recently, Jesse has been the Lead Technician assembling all mechanical systems on a custom ZeroTruck stake bed for Google’s campus, which was delivered this summer.

Jesse is passionate about building quality trucks that motivate fleet buyers to “kick gas” and switch their fleets to electric trucks. Jesse’s passion is driven by the fact that petroleum is not a sustainable energy source for the world’s needs, and that now that EVs are available on the market and cost less to fuel than gasoline vehicles, it only makes sense go electric.

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John Clements: Zero-emission school buses

John Clements, a recently retired Director of Transportation for Kings Canyon Unified School District in California’s San Joaquin Valley, is changing the way kids get to school.

After working with diesel-powered school buses for nearly 40 years, John is now one of the first to drive a zero-emission, battery-electric school bus as a substitute bus driver. Created by Motiv Power Systems, John’s electric school bus is able to transport students safely, on time, and with zero oil use.

Diesel-powered school buses frequently idle for long periods each day, wasting fuel and emissions. A battery-powered electric bus, on the other hand, can wait for students without creating needless emissions, is cheaper to fuel and requires little maintenance—saving school districts money that can be better spent on students.

Learn more about the benefits of driving on electricity here, and be sure to follow John’s progress as he works to reduce our oil use one trip at a time.

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Mario Landau Holdsworth: EV charging for apartments

Mario Landau Holdsworth is the founder and CEO of EverCharge, a company that enables electric vehicle owners to charge their vehicles in multiunit dwellings like condominiums and apartment buildings.

For the many Americans who live in multiunit dwellings, lack of access to vehicle charging is a major barrier to owning an EV. It’s fairly simple to plug in a vehicle if you own your home and have an outlet—but if you live in an apartment building or condo complex, persuading a building manager to install chargers or upgrade electrical systems is a daunting task.

That’s where EverCharge steps in. Mario and his colleagues work with building management to determine how many EVs can be safely plugged in, and then install their clever charging stations. Drivers can plug a vehicle into an EverCharge station at any time: the system uses algorithms to efficiently cycle which vehicles are charging at any given moment.

By making it easier to charge electric vehicles in multiunit dwellings, EverCharge is helping overcome a key hurdle to owning EVs–an important solution to our oil use, and part of the UCS plan to reduce projected oil use.

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Nigel Zeid: Championing EVs

Nigel Zeid is the LEAF specialist at a Nissan dealership in Boulder, Colorado. While all Nissan showrooms have salespeople who specialize in the all-electric LEAF, Nigel’s dealership is the top LEAF seller in its region of 13 states.

As a salesman, Nigel is well-versed in the technical capabilities of the LEAF, its environmental benefits, and, of course, why it’s fun to drive, low-maintenance, and cheaper to fuel than a gasoline car.

After learning the benefits of driving on electricity, Nigel began sharing his EV expertise outside the showroom. Today you can find Nigel teaching lessons in schools on how EVs work, and organizing promotional events at local companies.

EVs are a critical component in reducing U.S. oil use—and salespeople like Nigel play a key role in EV education and advocacy.

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Steven Lough: Early EV adoption

Steven Lough has history with cars. His family bought a dealership in 1947, and Steven first brought an electric vehicle– a converted Renault 5–into his showroom in 1980.

After selling his first shipment of EVs and driving one himself, Steven was hooked.

As President of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA) for 33 years, Steven saw his organization grow from a few backyard car tinkerers and EV enthusiasts to the second largest Electric Auto Association chapter in the United States.

Steven expects more members to join his and other chapters across the country. Why? It's simple, says Steven: EVs are just fun to drive.

Learn more about how electric vehicle sales are increasing across the country and why driving on electricity makes a difference as part of a Half the Oil future.

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Vincent Rawls: Advanced transmissions for hybrids and EVs

Vincent Rawls, a hybrid systems engineer at GM, is responsible for developing the software that controls the transmission for hybrid and electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt. His team creates and tests transmission software that helps vehicles perform more smoothly and efficiently.

For example, his software can automatically shut down the engine when stopped at a red light, or in a traffic jam. This “stop-start” technology is also becoming more prevalent in today’s gasoline-powered vehicles, helping to their reduce fuel use and emissions.

Vincent has already seen the cost of hybrid and electric vehicle technology come down over the last several years, and thinks auto manufacturers will make these advanced vehicles increasingly accessible to consumers. Learn more about advanced vehicles—and their many benefits—by clicking here.

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BiofuelsCleaner, non-food based biofuels offer enormous potential for reducing U.S. oil use. Learn more.


 

Anne Blair: Restaurant waste to biofuel

Anne works as program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non-profit organization that promotes responsible energy choices.

One of Anne’s roles is helping manage a state-of-the-art biodiesel fueling station at her office in Atlanta, GA. Run in partnership with Clean Energy Biofuels, the station uses 100% solar power to convert waste oil from local restaurants into biodiesel.

This type of biodiesel produces far less toxic and global warming emissions compared to conventional diesel fuel, and is sourced, produced, and sold locally.

Biodiesel made from waste streams like used restaurant oils is one part of UCS's plan to reduce projected U.S. oil use in half in 20 years. Better biofuels (like cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel made from non-food or waste sources) have the potential to cut our oil use by 1.7 million barrels per day by 2035.

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Heather Mayes: Clean fuels from non-food biomass

Heather Mayes, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University, sees non-food based biofuels as a promising pathway for reducing our oil use. Heather studies the molecular reactions that can convert non-food biomass – like agricultural residues or energy crops – into renewable energy and chemicals.

Understanding these chemical pathways will lead to more efficient processes, which will increase the amount of clean biofuels that can be produced, while decreasing the cost of production. Increasing these yields is important for helping the cellulosic biofuel companies that are beginning to produce these low-carbon fuels at commercial scale. It’s already happening, with commercial-scale plants opening in Florida, Iowa, and elsewhere across the country.

Researchers like Heather are an important part of the mix of professionals – from executives and financiers, to farmers and scientists, and everything in between – working to ensure cellulosic biofuels continue to reduce our oil use and fuel a better future.

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Marie-Odile Fortier: From waste water to fuel

Marie-Odile Fortier, an environmental engineer at the University of Kansas, is part of a team of researchers who are developing an innovative pathway to create biofuels made from algae grown in municipal wastewater.

Though companies are already using algae to produce biofuels, these algae are typically grown in water supplemented with commercial fertilizers—and the fertilizers require a lot of energy to produce. By growing algae using the nutrients in wastewater instead, Marie-Odile and her team are working to eliminate the need for fertilizers in biofuel production, and to clean up wastewater at the same time.

Marie-Odile’s responsibilities on the team include operating the wastewater ponds where the algae grows (aka “algal bioreactors”) and answering the big picture question: “How could we scale up the production of this type of fuel in sustainable way?”

To learn more about how biofuels from non-food materials are part of our plan to cut U.S. oil use in half, click here.

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Mason Rippey: Waste-based biodiesel

Mason Rippey, a plant manager at SeQuential Pacific Biodiesel, is changing the way we fuel our cars and trucks. Each year his company gathers used cooking oil from 7,000 restaurants and businesses in the Pacific Northwest and converts it into over 6 million gallons of biodiesel.

Cars and trucks across Oregon and Washington then fill up with this sustainable biodiesel, cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent compared to conventional diesel. Fuels produced from pure waste streams like used cooking oil also keep fats, oils, and greases out of our sewer systems.

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Rich Pyter: Better biofuels

As a Senior Agronomist for Aloterra Energy, a Texas and Ohio-based producer of sustainable consumer and energy products, Rich is responsible for ensuring the health of Aloterra’s 18,000 existing acres of Miscanthus.

Sometimes found in ornamental gardens, Miscanthus is a non-food energy crop used to make biofuels. On a lifecycle basis, biofuels made out of Miscanthus can achieve an incredible 80-90% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.

Rich sees the technology that converts perennial crops like Miscanthus into low-carbon fuels as a science that could “change the world,” and is understandably excited at the prospects of utilizing non-food based biofuels as one solution to oil use.

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Viji Sitther: Fuel from saltwater bacteria

Viji Sitther, a plant molecular biologist at Morgan State University in Maryland, is working to change the way we fuel our cars and trucks. Scientists like Viji are developing the technology to produce biofuels from photosynthetic cyanobacteria, which use sunlight to produce energy.

Viji and her research partners are working on how to make a certain type of cyanobacteria more salt tolerant, so that it can grow in water that has high salt content.

Why does that matter? Because Earth’s freshwater is limited, using saltwater to grow cyanobacteria will produce biofuels that are an even more sustainable energy choice.

Viji and her students plan to continue investigating how applied science can develop low carbon, efficient, and effective solutions to our oil use. To learn more about how non-food based biofuels are part of the UCS plan to cut projected U.S. oil use in half in 20 years, click here.

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Smart GrowthSmart growth policies and practices encourage livable communities and reduce oil use. Learn more.


Julie Bond: Smarter commutes

As project manager at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), Julie Bond is changing the way Americans get to and from work—and increasing the safety and efficiency of our transportation habits.

One of Julie’s projects is coordinating the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” program, a public-private partnership at the University of South Florida. The program recognizes companies that provide employees with oil-saving transportation options (like carpooling, bicycling, or public transportation).

Reducing the number of commuter vehicles improves air quality and helps reduce traffic and oil use. Encouraging commuters to walk, bicycle, or share their vehicles is part of Julie’s everyday life—and a big help to Half the Oil, the UCS plan to cut projected U.S. oil use in half.

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Patrick Kennedy: Better designed communities

Patrick Kennedy is the owner of Panoramic Interests, a Berkeley-based firm that specializes in building innovative, mixed-use buildings, with an emphasis on sustainability and reduced oil use.

As an ultra-light backpacker, Patrick is constantly thinking about how to make things smaller, lighter, and easier, and has incorporated similar concepts into building design. The apartment complexes that Patrick builds include bike racks and easy access to public transit or shared car services instead of on-site parking, enabling residents to live comfortably without owning a car.

By leaving parking out of the equation, Patrick can also devote more space to communal meeting “hubs” designed to foster chance meetings between kindred spirits living in the same community.

Patrick sees similar “smart-growth” communities growing not just in the San Francisco region, but in cities across the country—a great sign for Half the Oil, the UCS plan to reduce U.S. oil use.

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Stephen Mattingly: Smarter traffic lights

Dr. Stephen Mattingly, an associate professor of civil engineering at University of Texas Arlington, has a deep background in transportation research, analysis, and modeling.

Stephen’s background includes work in Anaheim, California, where he helped examine “adaptive traffic signal control,” a technology that adjusts the timing of traffic lights to accommodate real-time traffic conditions. More green lights mean less stopping, less fuel use, lower emissions, and improved travel times.

Fortunately, Stephen’s work is set to expand, as his team just received a federal grant to create a Transportation Research Center focused on “livable communities,” or communities that embody smart-growth principles.

Innovations like these help communities become more efficient and are one example of a “smart-growth” solution to U.S. oil use.

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