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Efficient Vehicle Technologies

Tackling the challenges of climate change and localized air pollution will require both improved vehicle fuel efficiency and  rethinking how our vehicles are powered. Federal standards have spurred technological advancements, such as direct injection and variable valve timing, in gasoline-powered vehicles, but the biggest advancements happening today involve electrification. With a goal for electric vehicles to make up half of all new passenger vehicle sales in the United States by 2030, policies that support the deployment of electric vehicles at the federal, state, and local levels will be critical to achieving broader greenhouse gas reductions from the transportation sector.

ACEEE assesses the potential for new vehicle efficiency technologies to meet environmental and economic goals. We help develop and analyze policies that bring promising technologies into the marketplace and help them thrive there.

Vehicle Electrification

Because they generate no tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles (EVs) are vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, meeting aggressive climate goals, and reducing localized air pollution. When charged with clean electricity, EVs are almost entirely emissions free.

EV sales have climbed steadily since 2010. As of August 2020, there were more than 1.5 million EVs on the road in the United States (EEI 2020). However, they still account for only approximately 2% of the American vehicle market. To address climate change and reduce pollution, the United States has set a goal of 50% of new vehicle sales being electric by 2030, and cities and states are adopting their own ambitious goals to increase local EV deployment.

Getting electric vehicles on the road is only part of the solution. We also need robust networks of charging stations for shared vehicles, public transport, and heavy-duty trucks as well as personal vehicles. ACEEE supports the deployment of EVs in a way that maximizes potential greenhouse gas reductions, grid reliability and health benefits, and access to economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income customers and communities in state, city, and utility programs, as well as rate design, planning, and siting.

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Autonomous and Connected Vehicles

We no longer live in a world where drivers have to control every aspect of their vehicle’s locomotion. Most on-road vehicles have safety features, such as electronic stability control, or convenience features, such as adaptive cruise control, that are already using autonomous technology. Such autonomous vehicle features continue to grow in both capability and ubiquity. Many manufacturers offer automation features that allow most aspects of single-lane freeway navigation to be computer controlled, under supervision, on multiple models, including entry-level ones. Some tractor-trailer manufacturers also offer the option for such trucks to communicate with each other in platoons, improving safety and fuel economy, through connected vehicle technology.

The effect of automated and connected vehicle technology on fuel efficiency is already significant and will only grow. Unfortunately, while research has shown that automated vehicles may greatly improve vehicle efficiency, they are not guaranteed to decrease emissions without carefully designed policies in place.

ACEEE advances automated and connected vehicle efficiency by investigating regulatory options that can capture the effects of these technologies on fuel economy and emissions while also reviewing the complementary policies that will be needed to ensure automated vehicles are deployed to achieve net-energy and GHG benefits.

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