By on April 30, 2018

Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

There’s been much made about Ford’s secret/not-so-secret plan to purchase a major chunk of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, including its greatest landmark — the monstrous, long-abandoned Michigan Central Station. Until now, however, the only words we had to go on were whispered by sources who preferred to keep their names out of the media.

Thankfully, Edsel B. Ford II decided to pipe up today. (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2018

Volkswagen’s ongoing penance for its diesel-emission scandal includes a serious investment in to the United States’ EV charging infrastructure. But critics of the plan have previously suggested it might be a way for VW to capitalize on its corporate wrongdoing. The state of California wanted the German company to focus on disadvantaged communities while automakers worried VW might gain an early advantage in a competitive new market, especially if it could handpick the sites or partner with businesses.

It has been almost 10 months since those concerns were voiced and now Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group) has announced it will be partnering with Walmart to install electric charging stations at 100 stores in 34 states across America. That way you can help save the environment while you’re stocking up on plastic cups and single-serve coffee pods that will end up being dumped into the ocean.  (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

We’ve all been annoyed by an “earworm” in our lives — a catchy song that, even if you don’t like it, refuses to vacate your mind. Starship’s egregious, overplayed sell-out hit “We Built This City” falls firmly in this category. Grace Slick should be ashamed.

For residents living off the N357 highway near the Dutch town of Jelsum, however, this constantly repeating tune was the anthem of the Friesland region — but it wasn’t just in their heads. Blame motorists, a well-meaning but short-sighted local government, and patriotism. (Read More…)

By on February 15, 2018

The United States’ 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and 24.4-cent tax on diesel hasn’t changed since 1993. Despite this, the opinion that it should be hiked as a way of funding public works was nowhere near the White House’s official infrastructure strategy. But Donald Trump isn’t averse to the idea. In fact, he proposed a 25-cent increase to senators during a Wednesday meeting as a possible funding solution.

White House officials claim the president says “everything is on the table” in terms of finding a solution for America’s growing infrastructure problems. But how serious the rest of the Trump administration is about raising the fuel tax is debatable.  (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2018

Here at TTAC, we sometimes tap sister publications when a story arouses our interest. This piece, published by Hybrid Cars, details a battle brewing in the rustic state of Maine — one that pits hybrid and electric car owners against a government that says their cars, while good for the environment, aren’t good for road upkeep. As cars become greener and gas tax revenues dwindle, this won’t be the last battle.

A proposed new fee for hybrids and EVs in Maine could be the highest in the country, reducing clean vehicle adoption.

The Maine Department of Transportation wants to add an annual registration fee for hybrids and electric vehicles. $150 for hybrids, and $250 for electric models. The DOT is looking to impose the fee because it says drivers of the more energy efficient vehicles aren’t paying their fair share toward road maintenance.

“The owners of these types of vehicles are paying far less in the gas tax than other vehicle owners and they are using the highway system just like any others,” MDOT Manager of Legislated Services Megan Russo told the Portland Press-Herald. “There has got to be a way to try and capture revenue from those drivers who are using our road system.” (Read More…)

By on February 12, 2018

Donald Trump, public domain

Few things are sexier than a new road. The scent of fresh tar, smooth pavement that’s still warm to the touch — it’s an absolute feast for the senses. After roughly a year of waiting, President Trump finally seems poised to deliver on a bunch of them. The White House has just offered Congress a 53-page report detailing exactly how to rattle loose $1.5 trillion in investments into the country’s ailing infrastructure.

Maybe “poised” is the wrong word to use; how about we just say that he’s been interested in the idea that somebody should build them.

Expect Democrats to complain that the plan totally fails to create a dedicated funding stream to address the infrastructure issue and Republicans to gripe about how the small federal investment, set at $200 billion, is still far too large. It’s a beautiful system we have here.  (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2018

Our roads are a mess. It doesn’t seem to matter where in America (or Canada) one travels, there stands a very good chance that one will find crumbling infrastructure. In fact, the United States ranks eighth in the world in national infrastructure quality, behind Germany and the U.K., but above France and Canada, according to one recent study. Some days, it sure seems worse than that.

Which leads us to today’s question: what’s the worst road in your neck of the woods?

(Read More…)

By on December 18, 2017

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

Volkswagen Group has been a quite the busy bee when it comes to bolstering EV charging infrastructure. In addition to breaking ground on Europe’s new fast-charging network before the end of this year (with help from Daimler, BMW, and Ford), the brand’s Electrify America subsidiary is preparing to fulfill a court order that will force it to live up to its name.

A signification portion of VW’s emissions scandal penance involves investment into eco-centric technologies and the beefing up of the United States’ electric vehicle infrastructure. So, on Monday the company announced plans to install 2,800 EV charging stations in 17 of the largest U.S. cities by June of 2019. (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2017

tesla model x, Image: Tesla Motors

You’ve probably heard all the brouhaha lately about “net neutrality” and its recent demise at the hands of Ajit Pai and the FCC. In my opinion, it’s a more complex issue than the multi-million-dollar avalanche of spam support suggests. (You can read more of that opinion here, if you like.) But it does raise some very interesting questions regarding monopolies, infrastructure investment, disruption, and opportunity costs. Some of those questions might be worth considering in the auto-industry context.

The proponents of Net Neutrality believe that your Internet Service Provider should be treated like a public utility or a public-supported railroad. But there’s a flaw in that argument: in most cases, the infrastructure owned by your ISP was built with private funds for private ends. Should that infrastructure be regulated like a utility even though it didn’t start that way?

Let’s expand this heretical line of thinking to something highly applicable to the car biz: Tesla and its dealership problem.

(Read More…)

By on September 27, 2017

road highway

Last week, I defended the president’s honor and lamented that I probably wouldn’t have a follow-up opportunity for some time. As it turns out, that claim is in no danger of becoming a falsehood. On Tuesday, President Trump told lawmakers he was ditching a key aspect of his planned $1 trillion infrastructure package — namely, who is going to pay for it.

Spoiler alert: its going to be taxpayers.

The White House previously envisioned a strategy where private investors would be lured into rebuilding roadways, bridges, and rail networks with promises of federal backing and a less-daunting approvals process. But now it’s saying partnerships between the private sector and federal government might not work.  (Read More…)

By on September 20, 2017

earthquake damaged car (public domain)

Automakers spent Wednesday surveying factory sites in Central Mexico after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake ravaged the region Tuesday evening. However, after some momentary shutdowns, it’s looking like business as usual for most manufacturers. Despite countless injuries, over 200 fatalities, and widespread damage yet to be fully assessed, the automotive industry emerged from the quake largely unscathed.

Arguably the hardest hit, Volkswagen Group’s Puebla plant temporarily halted assembly so workers could inspect buildings for damage. Finding no significant structural harm, factory employees resumed third-shift production of the Jetta and Golf.

Audi’s crossover plant, also in the state of Puebla, sustained no obvious damage. It’s second shift was halted early on Tuesday as well. The company said third-shift production was canceled so that employees could attend to their loved ones after the quake. (Read More…)

By on September 11, 2017

tesla model 3

Until now, Tesla’s growing network of Supercharger stations was generally aimed at the long-distance crowd. If a (very) premium-priced sedan can’t make the five-hour trip to your sister’s house for Thanksgiving, well, second thoughts might crop up about that purchase.

To accomplish the goal of Tesla proliferation, much of the automaker’s fast-charge network sprouted up in locales convenient for travellers. Places like Holiday Inn Express parking lots, restaurants, visitor centers, and Macadoodles Fine Wine & Spirits in Springfield, Missouri. In the Midwest, hungry travellers can hop off the Interstate and charge up at Meijer while shopping for juice boxes and potato wedges.

However, logic (and infrastructure) states that the majority of Tesla buyers, current and future, live in large cities and don’t leave town all that often. They’re also more likely live in condos with garages free of any plug-in points. Tesla’s latest round of Supercharger construction takes this into account, dropping the fast-charge stations directly where those urbanites inevitably show up once a week. (Read More…)

By on August 27, 2017

taxas flooding

Through Sunday morning, Harvey continued to unleash record levels of rain upon Texas, causing biblical flooding. The situation is so bad that the National Weather Service warned of “additional catastrophic, unprecedented and life threatening flooding” into the next week, and placed flash-flood emergencies for the entirety of Southeast Texas.

Harvey was the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2004 and has already trapped countless individuals, both in their homes and on the road as the rain has turned several major highways into man-made rivers. In some areas, the waterline is high enough to reach streetlights.  (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2017

road works construction sign

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he had signed an executive order to eliminate and streamline Obama-era regulations that might hinder the construction of U.S. roads and bridges. Absent, however, was any legislation regarding previous promises of allocating a trillion dollars revitalize the nation’s infrastructure.

While the press conference was mired by the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, the topic eventually returned to roadworks and the aforementioned funding. “We will end up getting health care, but we’ll get the infrastructure, and actually infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on,” Trump told reporters. “I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.”

Backed by Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump presented the media with a flow chart purporting to show the permitting regulations required to construct a highway in an unnamed state he claimed took 17 years under existing regulations.  (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2017

Radiohead OK Computer

Or maybe you will. Someone did.

As the 20-year anniversary of the release of UK alternative band Radiohead’s monster OK Computer album approaches, an online sleuth has provided pretty compelling evidence as to the locale of the image seen on the album cover.

Radiohead — a band you might have once been really into before worrying it was all a little too pretentious (and back again) — incorporated several automotive references into the album and associated videos. The album cover itself featured a scratchy image of a nondescript highway interchange. Probably a drawing. It’s not like the Blind Faith album cover, so no one thought anything of it.

However, music fans are not known for being allergic to geekiness. The same goes for transportation nerds. One such nerd transportation infrastructure aficionado now says it took him just 10 minutes to figure out the very real U.S. setting for the album cover. (Read More…)

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