Research Recap, August 15: Mini Cars in Japan, US Biofuel Potential, Bangalore’s Mass Transport

Mini cars (kei car) have reached record high popularity in Japan as more than half of the country's households own a mini car. Photo by Joel.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Mini Cars in Japan

More than half of Japan’s households own a mini car (kei car), indicates new figures from the Japan Mini Vehicle Association. The annual survey that dates back to 1986 recorded a record high this year with mini car ownership in 50.6 percent of households. Rural areas claimed both the highest and lowest household mini car ownership rates. The study cites this as evidence suggesting the versatility of mini cars as vehicles not exclusive to city driving. The surveyed area with the absolute highest proportion of mini cars was Tottori Prefecture, where at least one mini car is found in 98 out of 100 households.

U.S. Biofuel Potential

U.S. biomass feedstocks provide the potential for biofuels to displace 30 percent or more of the country’s petroleum consumption, reports the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in a new study, “2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry.” The report assesses the U.S.’s ability to produce energy-related biomass feedstocks, provides a county-by-county inventory of potential feedstocks, and outlines price and quantity listings for individual feedstocks. The report serves as an update on a study with similar findings released by the DOE in 2005.

Biofuel Development Funding

Joint funding from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture totaling $12 million in grants was awarded to 10 research projects targeting the development of biofuel and bioenergy crops. The research involves improving the breeding-efficiency, environmental resilience, quality, and yield quantity of various grasses and trees, including switchgrass, poplar, Miscanthus and Brachypodium. Biofuel farming is praised as an especially valuable venture for farmers, as it can typically be conducted on farmland unfit for foodstuff cultivation. This year’s program marks the sixth year of the two departments’ joint funding project.

Bangalore’s Mass Transport

Bangalore, India is in need of a mass rapid transport system (MRTS) and improved infrastructure, according to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. The study asserts that both bus and train services within the city are over-crowded and that extreme traffic congestion is posing a growth bottleneck risk for the city. The Chambers suggest the solution of a mass transport system and speeding up the city’s planned metro rail project. Bangalore is projected to grow from its present population of 8 million to more than 10 million by 2030. With such an influx of residents, it is important to mitigate the already problematic traffic conditions and bolster city facilities. Regarding a potential mass transport system, the Chamber’s Secretary General D. S. Rawat said, “Traffic decongestion by encouraging commuters to shun their vehicles and use public transport is the primary aim of MRTS.”

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