When people think of sustainability, recycling, community gardens, carpooling, and driving electric cars are top of mind. It’s easy to get caught up in the narrative that to be sustainable, everything you do must be perfect. You must only use reusable grocery bags, or only drive an electric car, or run your RV entirely off solar power. This “all or nothing” mentality is overwhelming, creating a sense of apprehension that prevents people from even trying to make environmentally minded changes.
There’s a great quote attributed to President Harry Truman that says: “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.” That’s to say, it’s better to take any action than do nothing. Even if the action you’re taking isn’t perfect, at least you’re making forward progress.
How do we encourage those around us to take steps toward a more sustainable future? Consider imperfect action.
Stop Expecting Perfection
Imperfect action is the foundation of sustainability. Yes, we should continue to strive for perfection. Even if we fall short, holding ourselves to high standards ensures we experience forward progress. But while we hold up these lofty ideals, we must keep in mind that the best sustainability driving technologies are the real, practical ones we can implement right now to affect change.
I helped found Volta Power Systems on this ideology. While reducing vehicle and generator emissions is an admirable goal, EV technology is not yet in the right place to support both full-EV drivetrains and the additional power most mobile vehicles need. For most applications, whether it be utility vehicles or RVs, EVs are still too expensive, not supported by adequate infrastructure, or simply haven’t been developed yet. Despite this, we can still leverage the incredible technologies we do have to address the areas most emissions stem from.
Any Action is Better Than No Action
Most, if not all, industries are making efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. Many minds jump to full electrification, but this isn’t suitable for all specialty vehicles. While a Sprinter van delivery truck would benefit from a fully electric system, a utility vehicle that spends about 70% to 90% of its day idling wouldn’t benefit nearly as much.
With most full-EV solutions still being cost-prohibitive, and without a perfect solution at-hand, we must reach for the next best thing: employing the solutions we already have in the areas we have the most leverage.
If we can’t eliminate all vehicle emissions for all vehicle types, we can reduce them. Utility vehicles spend approximately 70% of their runtime idling as they work. We can leave the internal-combustion drivetrain alone and integrate a separate auxiliary system to generate and store power. This separate power source can power booms, power tools, welders, and more all day long without causing range anxiety for workers.
This results in a relatively low-cost green solution that’s accessible right now, today, while science continues working toward more affordable emission-free technologies.
As the world of advanced energy solutions continues to evolve, Volta Power Systems realized anti-idling technologies as an opportunity to make a huge impact without requiring a huge budget. Solutions using automotive-grade lithium-ion provide more energy in less space and less weight, allowing users to eliminate idling from RVs to utility trucks quickly, easily and affordably.
Users have access to power without idling their engine, but also enjoy the security of an internal-combustion engine for transportation that doesn’t limit their vehicle’s driving range. Hybrid technologies like these are not only in the works; they’re already available and in use by consumers, companies, and municipalities alike.
A Real-World Case Study
In Holland, Michigan, the Board of Public Works already uses one such hybridized truck. Not only does the truck’s 13.2kWh power system eliminate an estimated 42,000 lbs of CO₂ every year; it’s also projected to save the utility approximately $14,000 per year in reduced fuel and maintenance costs. All the while, the truck operates silently while working, with enough power to run hydraulic equipment and power tools for as long as workers need it, without a second of engine idling.
Imagine a world where this idle-reduction technology was implemented across industries. No more mail trucks idling to keep the A/C running in the cabin during a hot summer day. No more growling generators spewing fumes at campgrounds while RVers enjoy movies and popcorn inside their campers. Silent utility work happening overnight after a big storm, without disrupting the neighborhood with a roaring engine for hours on end.
Small Changes Can Have Great Impact
Our lofty goals for a sustainable world lead us to create, innovate, rethink, and redefine what will move us closer to the future we want. Expecting a leap to perfection is unrealistic, but we can use stepping stones, however imperfect, to help us eventually get there. We must pave the path toward true, lasting sustainability with imperfect action.
Whether it’s using a few cloth bags during your next grocery run or replacing a generator with an emission-free power source, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future right now. Start taking small, imperfect actions today, and see how they can change the world.