Benefits of High-Speed Rail

America’s Love Affair — with Its Cars

It’s a well known fact that Americans love their cars.  However, with continued fluctuation in gasoline prices and increasingly congested highways, many Americans are becoming more receptive to giving up their cars – or at least trading the daily commute to and from work – for a trip where someone else does the driving. One possible solution that addresses both high gas prices and clogged roadways is high-speed rail.

Highway Traffic

America’s love affair with the automobile routinely results in clogged highway traffic, making the term “rush hour” an ironic misnomer. Photo credit: Audrey F. Henderson, all rights reserved.

In Europe and Asia, where high-speed rail is well established, countries and individual riders alike have enjoyed far ranging benefits as a result  – economic, social, environmental and in added convenience. High-speed rail has also begun to gain traction in the United States. The Obama administration has been especially enthusiastic about high-speed rail, allocating millions of dollars to its expansion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Driving the Ford Focus Electric

As much as progressives and ecologically inclined individuals promote public transit, car sharing and other planet-friendly alternatives to individually operated vehicles, the fact remains that America loves its cars.  To be fair, there are instances when nearly all individuals need or want access to a car, van or truck.  In rural areas and regions where public transit is scarce or nonexistent, being without one’s own vehicle literally means being stranded.

It’s no wonder, then, that one of the most heavily visited exhibits at the 2012 Chicago Green Festival was the all-electric Ford Focus, one of several models on display by Ford.  Visually modeled after the popular and well-reviewed gasoline powered Ford Focus, the all-electric model is Ford’s answer to the Nissan Leaf and, to a lesser extent, the dual gasoline and electric-powered Chevrolet Volt.   According to the representatives at the Green Festival, there are only 36 Focus Electric models on the road at present, mostly utilized as company cars for Internet giants Google and Yahoo.   However, the manufacturing plant in Wayne, Michigan is equipped to produce the Focus along with other Ford models, and can increase or decrease production as demand warrants.

The all-electric model is priced at a hefty $39,999. However, buyers are eligible to receive federal income tax credits that can decrease the out-of-pocket costs;  additional financial incentives may also be available at the state level.    In addition, owners of all-electric cars are  spared the pain at the pump of fluctuating (and usually increasing) gasoline prices.   Home charging stations for overnight charging of the Focus Electric are available at Best Buy, with installation by the Geek Squad.   Public charging stations are also becoming increasingly available, especially in urban areas.

Ford Focus Electric

The all-electric Ford Focus was one of the most popular exhibits at the 2012 Chicago Green Festival, held May 5 and 6 at Navy Pier. Photo Credit — Audrey F. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Like the Toyota Leaf, the Focus Electric derives its power from a lithium-ion battery.   The Focus Electric has a regenerative braking system that recaptures up to 90 percent of the energy normally lost through conventional friction braking. It also has a liquid-powered heating and cooling system to regulate battery temperature against exterior conditions, which can be a real advantage with the temperature extremes that occur in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »