Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Sloane Speaks About Sustainable Transportation

Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility of reporting on our speakers for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following press release was prepared by Nicole Williams, SUNY CESF student.

Dr. Christine Sloane, Director of FreedomCAR and Technology Strategy at General Motors, Inc., gave a lecture entitled Sustainable Transportation: Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Cars.  The April 6th lecture was part of ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions lecture series for the spring of 2004. Sponsors of this lecture include ESF, the Office of Student Affairs and Educational Services, the ESF Women’s Caucus, and the Graduate Student Association.

 Dr. Sloane focused her lecture, not on the problems with hydrogen fuel, but instead on the solutions that GM has come up with “on the road to hydrogen” transportation.  Sloane pointed out that the transportation energy sector is the only sector “stuck on one fuel: petroleum.”  She believes that in order to control the outputs of the transportation sector, we must first find an alternate input instead of petroleum.

Hydrogen transportation has many advantages, according to Dr. Sloane.  A shift to hydrogen fuel will improve national security by decreasing US dependence on foreign petroleum.  Air quality will be greatly improved with hydrogen fuel because greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.  Hydrogen fueled transportation will also increase the powertrain efficiency of our vehicles.   

Sloane believes that the key to decreasing vehicle emissions is to find a technology, such as hydrogen fuel, that will not increase emissions as the vehicles become outdated.  Approximately 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles come from about 15% of the cars.

The major challenges that lie in the way of sustainable hydrogen transportation are hydrogen production and storage, cost, and fuel availability.  GM is exploring ways to compress enough hydrogen to run the cars for an extended length of time.  A more extensive hydrogen-fueling infrastructure also needs to be put in place.  Today, there are hydrogen fueling stations and experimental vehicles in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington DC, to name a few.

Dr. Christine Sloane is GM’s former Director of Environmental Policy and Programs.  She is responsible for global climate issues and mobile emission issues involving advanced technology vehicles (hybrid-electric, fuel-cell, and advanced compression-ignition systems).  From 1994 to 2000, Dr. Sloane served as Chief Technologist for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) where she guided the development of and implemented energy conversion and materials technology for use in GM’s hybrid-electric demonstration vehicle, the Precept.  Her earlier research interests include aerosol chemistry and physics, air quality and visibility, manufacturing and vehicle emissions, and environmental policy.  Dr. Sloane received her PhD from MIT in chemical physics.