Most drivers could go electric within 10 years


Illustration of a car with an electrical plug.ANN ARBOR—Electric and hybrid electric vehicles are in the fast lane to wider adoption, according to a new study by University of Michigan researchers.

The researchers analyzed the present status of electric vehicles in the U.S., their life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and progress toward lifting barriers to broader acceptance. The study is a literature and technical review that synthesizes and analyzes recent findings from many sources.

"We feel that within the next decade, electric vehicles are positioned to be more suitable for most drivers to use on a daily basis," said Brandon Schoettle, project manager at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "That's due to recent improvements such as longer driving ranges, faster recharging times and lower vehicle prices."

The report discussed recent advances for both types of plug-in electric vehicles: battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Hybrid vehicles rely on both electricity and gasoline. Battery electric vehicles run solely on electricity.

Schoettle and colleague Michael Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI, found that sales of plug-in electric vehicles in the U.S. have increased by more than 700 percent since 2011. Still, electricity fills just 0.1 percent of the nation's transportation-related energy needs. Ninety-two percent comes from petroleum.

The researchers examined the average "well-to-wheels" greenhouse gas emissions for several vehicle types. Based on today's power sources for electricity generation, they found that battery electric vehicles emit an average of 214 grams of carbon dioxide per mile; two varieties of plug-in hybrids average 253 to 279; and current gasoline-powered vehicles, between 356 and 409.

"The results of our analysis indicate that using a typical battery electric vehicle emits approximately half the greenhouse gases as a typical internal combustion engine vehicle," Schoettle said. "Even though some plug-in hybrid electric vehicles get very few miles on electric power alone, they are still cleaner than a comparable vehicle with a conventional engine. Miles on electricity are much cleaner than miles on gasoline, so a little mileage on batteries still makes a difference."

Other key findings include:

"Electric vehicles can offer a more sustainable transportation future," Schoettle said. "Today, 86 percent of electricity in the U.S. comes from nonrenewable sources and 65 percent from greenhouse gas-emitting fuels, so the clean nature of electric and hybrid electric vehicles can be improved considerably by increasing the use of renewable fuels to generate the nation's electricity. Solar-powered charging stations could also be a practical solution."


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