ACT Expo 2014 Day 1: Bob Lutz Tells Us To Ride Motorcycles

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Bob Lutz at ACT Expo

ACT Expo 2014, aka the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo and Natural Gas Vehicles Conference, promised to be slightly less exciting than the motorcycle races I usually cover. But I wanted to be sure not to miss any important nuggets of information about fleet vehicles. The Expo hall takes up the entire conference floor, so look forward to plenty of photographs of the latest technologies present. The event leans heavily toward natural gas-powered heavy duty vehicles, so I’ve already heard many speakers talk about the benefits of fracking. What’s cool about this conference is that it’s all about trying to get off petroleum, particularly for trucks, which use about 25 billion gallons of gasoline a year in the US. Although fracking certainly could stand to be more regulated, it has made natural gas cheap enough to compete with coal and petroleum, opening up the possibilities for cleaner power.

Toward the end of his talk, after my video cut off, Bob Lutz implored anyone under 40 to hang on to their motorcycle if they like controlling their own vehicles. He expressed gratitude that he won’t be alive when nearly all surface transit is automated, and that anyone under age 40 has that to look forward to. He said it couldn’t be done to motorcycles, so they’ll be the last vestige of autonomy for humans in the future, aka The Singularity. Well, ok, there will also be bicycles, rollerblades, etc. but this is engine-powered transport we’re talking about, not leg-powered.

Lutz also talked about the future of battery technology, pointing out that next-gen, lithium-sulfur batteries have 5x as much energy density as lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-air, he continued, has 10x, but can’t be recharged. He said that’s within the realm of possibility, though. He also extolled the virtues of the electric motor, and gave us a wonderfully animated demonstration of how impossible it would be to invent the gasoline motor overnight, to bring it to the same level of development it’s at now, after over 100 years of tuning.

This also being the Natural Gas Vehicles conference, he began by telling us about a time when the focus of his speech was on the scarcity of natural gas. And then he sat in on a morning panel full of oil folks talking about this new “fracking” technology that was enabling them to extract much more gas than ever before. He said he’d never re-written a speech so quickly in his life. Here’s most of his talk:

Lutz said Volvo’s video showing Platooning was spot-on, and that their video of the trucks using electrified roadways reminded him of the Scalectrix slot cars he’d played with as a child. It does look pretty cool, although the cost of building that infrastructure is probably not in the realm of possibility for most cities.

Volvo Platooning:

Volvo Slot Trucks:

A nifty teaser from the documentary the National Biodiesel Board put together:

Image Credit: Susanna Schick / CleanTechnica

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