Research and Development
Federal investment in research and development (R&D) supports economic growth, drives down costs for key technologies that can be used domestically and exported abroad, and promotes U.S. leadership on clean energy and climate. Investment in R&D for transportation efficiency technologies is driven primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Further R&D for transportation efficiency comes from DOE’s National Labs and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Federal policymakers should increase investment and enact programmatic reforms to ensure DOE and the Department of Transportation (DOT) focus on advancing R&D for:
- Vehicle lightweighting, including improvements to electric drive weight, size, efficiency, and cost;
- Energy-efficient tires and improved aerodynamics;
- Automated vehicles and vehicle-to-grid connectivity;
- Improved combustion; and
- Innovative policy approaches to increase efficient mobility, reduce VMT, and promote transit-oriented development.
Validation and Early Deployment
Tax credits, loan guarantees, and rebates can spur innovation in the development of zero-emission supply-chain and logistics equipment, infrastructure, and public-transit options. Technology-neutral incentives will unlock more private capital to improve transportation networks with fewer emissions.
Federal procurement policies that base purchases on GHG emissions can motivate deployment of more efficient, low-GHG products and equipment. Federal “Buy Clean” standards prioritize products with lower lifecycle emissions and motivate efficiency in supply chains. Prioritizing low-emission products and equipment for public transit can also speed the deployment of early-stage technologies.
Land Use Permitting Reform
Transportation networks shape and are shaped by development and land-use patterns that can either support or hinder a more sustainable and multimodal future. Along with infrastructure and technology, strategies to reduce emissions in transportation must actively encourage development, conservation, and land-use patterns that promote deep decarbonization. Modifying permitting and planning rules to expedite clean mobility and infrastructure can support long-term investment in, and the deployment of, more efficient mobility options.
Rapid, Large Scale Deployment
Thanks in part to efficiency standards, carbon emissions from light-duty vehicles have decreased 23 percent and fuel economy has increased 29 percent since 2004. But these tremendous gains have yet to be realized in other transport modes—including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, rail, marine vessels, and off-road equipment.
Efficiency standards that encourage further innovation will lead to consumer cost savings. They will also spur long-term investments in technology and infrastructure by providing regulatory certainty for expected future vehicle performance improvements. Efficiency standards should also increase options to procure affordable and efficient vehicles.
Significant federal resources are needed to shore up aging roads and bridges, provide resilience against natural disasters, promote efficient mobility, and encourage deep decarbonization in transportation, especially in low-income and historically marginalized communities. Federal infrastructure bills should provide flexibility for states to shift federal funds toward transit projects, promote the efficient movement of goods, empower local metropolitan planning organizations, and link air quality and climate impact directly to transportation project selection and funding.