Thursday, January 21, 2016

EVs at TRB

For those needing decoding, I mean discussions about Electric Vehicles at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a transportationpalooza held every January when 13,000 transportation professionals from academia, government, and the consulting world congregate in Washington, DC to share the latest research findings and best practices in the field.  (There are more than 3,000 sessions and presentations, and more than 2,750 papers, so any reporting has to be based on a very limited sample.)
Electric vehicles continue to be a hot topic in the field, I think in large measure because they are seen as the best chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector, which accounts for about 30% of total emission in the US.
My (selective) highlights:
·      Despite the ongoing collapse of oil prices, cumulative sales and diversification of EV models continues to grow and will be spurred on by cheaper and more efficient batteries, highlighted by Tesla’s 10-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” for battery production,
·      The US Department of Energy continues to promote the proliferation of EVs through its “EV Everywhere” program, including a concentration on encouraging workplace charging,
·      Although the US has pledged its share in reducing GHG emissions at the COP-21 conference in Paris, it is unclear what that commitment will mean for the transport sector in general and for EVs in particular,
·      One specific EV product at COP-21 was the “Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility” (available here), in which various public and private sector groups set a goal of “at least 20 percent of all road transport vehicles globally to be electrically driven by 2030” and pledged to “advance our work individually as well as collectively wherever possible to increase electro-mobility to levels compatible with a less-than 2-degree pathway,”
·      A very large study of EV use in Copenhagen confirmed what most people would expect: most EV trips are short (half of them less than 5 km) and energy consumption goes up when the weather is very hot or very cold and when the driver operates the vehicle at very fast or very slow speeds,
·      A smaller scale study of EVs in Stockholm suggests that EV owners’ perception of lower marginal cost and environmental friendliness of their vehicles may lead them to drive more – a “rebound” effect – that could actually increase Vehicle Miles Traveled in some places,
·      A policy study of climate change planning in California, Washington, and Oregon (including EVs as a core measure) concluded that (1) sustained executive leadership is necessary to turn plans into actions, (2) finding adequate funding for greenhouse gas reduction programs is a challenge, and (3) environmental groups have played an important role both in pushing for legislation and in sustaining emphasis on implementation, and

·      To catch a glimpse of the future, think about “SAEVs” – shared, autonomous, electric vehicles – a combination of technologies that could lead to robotic, high-tech, super-Ubers called up on your handheld device!

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