MIT Study: People Can Meet 87 Percent of Driving Needs With Today’s Electric Cars

Electric cars currently on U.S. roads could handle 87 percent of daily driving needs for the American public, a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study said.

MIT analyzed the energy used for personal trips, including differences by the type of cities drivers live in. Data was taken from travel surveys and GPS data to estimate the amount of energy needed to fuel their vehicles.

“We find that the energy requirements of 87 percent of vehicle-days could be met by an existing, affordable electric vehicle. This percentage is markedly similar across diverse cities, even when per capita gasoline consumption differs significantly,” according to a summary of the study published in the journal Nature Energy.

The study focused on the practicality of plug-in electrified vehicles already owned by consumers, along with what it contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle. It shows the “technical potential” of electric that shows how many households could start living more sustainably now, said Jessika Trancik, who led the MIT study.

The study said that maximized PEV usage would reduce total U.S. gasoline consumption by 60 percent. That would also bring a 30 percent decline in the 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by all American transportation in 2014.

Sustainability will also be supported by PEVs being recharged by “decarbonized” electricity. That refers to electricity generated by using clean sources such as solar and wind over coal or oil.

The benefits gained by charging PEVs with clean energy is tied very much into the driving range of battery cars, the study said. Evaluating needed range is challenging and detailed driving behavior, as used in the MIT study, must be taken in to account.

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On the cost-savings side, American consumers can meet affordability needs and lower their electric bills. More affordable electric cars, such as the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf, can also bring savings if owners recharged their cars just once daily, either during the nighttime at home or daytime at work. That can also alleviate concerns about the lack of public chargers that companies such as Tesla Motors have expressed, the study said.

While PEV sticker prices are usually higher than comparable gas-engine cars, the MIT researchers also concluded that their operating costs would be lower than for conventional cars. That would make the overall lifecycle ownership costs comparable, the study said.

The Detroit Bureau