Research highlight

Today's electric vehicles could handle most US driving days

Nature Energy

August 16, 2016

Nearly 90% of personal vehicle trips on a single day across the United States could be made by a current-generation electric vehicle on a single charge of its battery, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Energy. This was found to be the case across diverse US cities where per capita gasoline consumption differs significantly, such as New York and Houston.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) could help dramatically reduce the 34% of US greenhouse gas emissions generated from the transportation sector. However, concern over the limited number of miles a BEV can travel before recharging, so-called range anxiety, is one of the most significant barriers to large-scale adoption.

Jessika Trancik and colleagues evaluate the energy requirements of millions of personal vehicle trips across the United States to determine whether existing, relatively inexpensive BEVs are able to meet the demand of US driving habits. Using the 2013 Nissan Leaf as their model vehicle, the authors find that BEVs can meet the energy requirements of 87% of vehicle-days (typical journeys undertaken within a day). They also look at the country's 12 most populous metropolitan areas and find that, despite large differences in travel energy consumption, public transit ridership and car dependency, the adoption potential in these cities ranges from 84% to 93%. Replacing traditional vehicles with BEVs for these trips would reduce gasoline consumption by 60%. Still, the authors note that a substantial portion of vehicle-days that involve longer travel distances and higher speeds - common during major holidays - could not be replaced by BEVs, even as batteries improve and charging infrastructure expands.

doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2016.112

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