Tossing in my 1/50 of a dollar....
For starters...I am a lifelong "petrolhead". I have several very-large-engined (7.1 liter and above) vehicles. I have drag raced, street raced, etc.etc. I love the sound of gas engines ('specially a properly tuned V8).
That being said....I live 17 miles from my job. In order to be able to commute I drive a car that gets 30mpg, cost 350 smackers, and is (suprisingly) of American vintage. I drive my other cars when the whim strikes, but have realized that I cannot justify using them as primary transportation when better options are available. Also, I am in the process of converting my 1956 beetle to plug-in electric...a very fun project for me as I enjoy the engineering and tinkering. This will replace my on-road commuter. Its also gonna be a "hillbilly hybrid" with a small removeable propane powered generator , should I need the range extended over, say, 80 miles.
Over the years, I have come to notice the problems associated with personal transportation. In America, at least in my neck o' the woods, I have noticed (and studied) that the transportation problems are something of a chicken and egg problem. Originally, towns and cities were rather compact and distinct from the more agrarian areas of the country. As such, commerce movement was limited to within townships (except of course where trains and ships were available). Electric (and steam) delivery vehicles become available, gas-burners not becoming widely available until 1910....even then electric and steam were sold side by side, in dwindling numbers, until the early '30s. The power and relative cheapness of gasoline powerplants in vehicles makes them the more attractive to auto manufacturers. With the prevalance of smaller and more personal vehicles hitting the streets, the streets themselves had to adapt. Thus, the U.S. starts planning an infrastructure around the growing numbers of the vehicles. This changes the landscape (much more literally than figuratively). What happens over the intervening decades is that you now have a society with more spread out centers of population requiring more travel for work, goods and service delivery, and recreation.
The chicken in this scenario is the need (and fashionable want) for more individualized transport. The egg is the infrastructure built to accomodate, which promotes another chicken of individuals needing personal vehicles to travel the increasing distances...yadda yadda yadda.
I would have to agree that mass-transit devlopement should be pursued and in my area it is promoted vigorously, but the non-individualistic aspects associated with it constantly hamstring it.
Fuel cell? If you read books other than those that promote it, then you end up with new infrastructure costs...plus some dubious claims of overall efficiently. Nice idea, all-in-all, and I hope developement will realize those lofty goals. Plus, there is potential for new industry.
Hybrids? I would think a dedicated engine-over-battery setup work be less costly and more scalable in the short and long run. I could be mistaken about this. Plus concerns about battery reconditioning and disposal have not been completely addressed. Not to mention depreciation in value over time. Personally, the batteries are not the largest problem...battery remanufacturing is a potentially a booming industry and batteries can be rebuilt with little (and in some cases, No) effects on the environment. The deprecaition arguement is utter bullshite....value is percieved and supported by those who go along with it. Is the imbued value of a vehicle truly dependent on what society decides is not up-to-date enough...or is the value reflected in the fact that it is actually a functioning mode of transportation, albeit 10 or so years old?
Pure electrics? Infrastructure augmentation, battery development, high finished product price. Plus, in the current phase of battery performance, maintanance and duration will have to be be kept in mind for prospective buyers.
From my standpoint, the electricity prices in my area are a plus towards me retrofitting my VW. I am also able to build this car in my garage, cutting costs to me dramatically. The existing vehicle still has tons of maintanace parts available. The newtech I will need to install is supported by several manufacturers.
Even after this long dissertation, there are those dubious of non-gas vehicle performance. That's fine. Go to evparts.com and check out the vehicles they have retrofitted. Even the super-duper off-roaders will find something of interest as they retrofitted an older model Land Rover which competes in various 100+ mile trail runs...climbing past other gas-fueled contenders and, on many occasions, dragging them out of harms way.
Another argument made is the visceral elements of driving electrics/ hybrids/ alt. fuel vehicles are not equal to their gasser brethren. Have any of you driven an electric vehicle? I know the TANGO is like being shot out of a cannon on acceleration while cornering like a race-prepped ferret. As arguments go, aesthetics are hardly a reason to promote the existing paradigm that is bringing about its own demise over a potential helpful step in the solution that may not sound like or look like a hotrod (but will more often than not spank your factory-built hotrod).
Efficiency gains in ICE (internal combustion engines) are still out there. The prob? Large scale manufacturers are strictly bottom-line. New technologies and methods of construction will not be implemented unless mandated by the gov. or the buying public. Another problem is the bullshite laws and rules implemented. for instance, California attempted to sign into law a mandate to improve base economy standards...even Schwarzengettothechopper touted the idea. Wanna know who stymied it? The federal elements of the EPA actually said that California had no right to put that law into effect for its own state to reduce emissions and raise mileage, separate of the rest of the union. Read that again.
But, if you are really looking (as a petrolhead) for a good reason to support expansion of alt. power vehicles, the solution is fairly straightforward. Alt. power increases....current fossil fuel consumption per capita falls precipitously. Anyone knows what happens next? FUEL PRICES DROP. Eventually the fuel prices drop to the competitive mean with other power schemes (and there will be many....there is no magic bullet) such that petrol will be an option rather than the standard.
Any fiscal conservatives in the house? Really? This is a field that promotes un-freakin-believable industrial potential. Wanna guess who I hear negative comments about alt. power industry from? See above. This is something that doesn't make sense to me.... if it's the almighty buck and the ever-present hand of the market that must be paid attention to above all else then it would seem to me this is a market to be explored, exploited, and advanced just like....say....oil. Just a thought. Any central planners in attendance? Howzabout developing more interurban areas insteads of developing the hinterlands? Less infrastructure costs to maintain AND urban sprawl could be (in theory, anyway) kept in check...thus, those who want to see unspoilt wild and the like would actually be able to see just that and not an unending row of cookie-cutter abominations that were installed because a developer needed to make a buck and didn't feel like paying the extra bucks-per-acre. Guess thats just the nature-loving hippie in me... fight the power ;) .
Are you still reading this? The upshot is that most arguments being put forth on this thread could be helpful if they weren't so myopic. We will be saddled with the current transpo problems as long as folks are still willing to over-simplify the problems and solutions. Several elements will be needed to be put in place to effect a solution. It can be done, it oughta be done. At least, thats they way it seems to me.