Potential benefits of increased use of electric-drive vehicles (EVs), as well as challenges that need to be overcome in advancing the technology, were discussed by a panel of experts during a March 17 webinar cosponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The webinar, “Electric Vehicles — What, When, Why, and How,” explored the basics of EVs, potential impacts on the environment and society, impacts on the electric utilities and the energy grid, and the perspective of a state transportation agency on ways to support EVs as part of their transportation system.
Panelists included Dahlia Garas, program manager, and Michael Nicholas, post-graduate researcher, of the Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California-Davis; Esrick McCartha, client manager for PJM Interconnections LLC; and Jeff Doyle, director of public/private partnerships for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The webinar was the 11th in a series of online climate-change seminars cosponsored by AASHTO and FHWA.
Garas provided a general overview of current and future EVs. Today there are three main types of electric-drive vehicles being sold, including hybrid EVs (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and EVs. Typically, PHEVs have a longer driving range in full-electric mode than HEVs, while EVs are powered solely by electricity.
Typically, EVs have the greatest potential for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and providing the greatest fossil-fuel savings, followed by PHEVs and then HEVs, due to the general increase in the usage of fuel. Although there is a general trend in the potential benefits, Garas noted, “the difference between a conventional vehicle and hybrid or plug-in hybrid, or electric, is that the carbon-dioxide and fuel-savings benefits are really, very dependent on the uses of the vehicle, as well as the design.”
Factors such as the technology in the vehicle, the availability of charging infrastructure, the typical use of the vehicle, the terrain where the vehicle is used, and the price of gasoline and electricity can all have significant impact on both carbon reduction and fuel savings.
The entire webinar is archived and available for public streaming access from the AASHTO Transportation and Climate Change Resource Center, here. A PDF presentation corresponding to the webinar is available for download here (PDF file download).