Estimated Bounds and Important Factors for Fuel Use and Consumer Costs of Connected and Automated Vehicles

Fri, 02/10/2017

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released a joint analysis with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office and Argonne National Laboratory which reveals the potential effect of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies including fuel use, efficiency, vehicle miles traveled, and consumer costs.  Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) provide the most intriguing opportunity for enabling users (including individual vehicles and traffic control centers) to better monitor transportation network conditions and make better operating decisions to improve safety and reduce pollution, energy consumption, and travel delays.  The study focused on a range of light-duty CAV technologies in conventional powertrain vehicles-from partial automation with some connectivity to full automation with maximum connectivity, with and without ridesharing-compared to today's base-case scenario.

Zhenhong Lin of ORNL states “This joint study is an important step toward more research on CAV energy impacts. ORNL contributed to consumer cost-benefit analysis of the study and will expand onto market penetration of CAVs. Understanding what consumers will accept CAVs, when, by how many, and how they will use CAVs, is one of the directions to narrow the uncertainty of the impact estimate.”

The multi-lab team also examined CAV ownership and operating costs, including vehicle purchase price, insurance, and the perceived value of travel time, among other costs. Analysis results indicated that, compared to today's base-case scenario, CAV technologies could lead to a 60 percent cost reduction (based on a full automation, multiple-occupant scenario), with perceived travel-time cost changes as the most significant factor for this reduction.  

The wide range between the lower and upper bounds on future vehicle energy use reflects the large uncertainties in ways that CAVs can potentially influence vehicle efficiency and use through changes in vehicle design, driving, and travel behavior. In addition, significant uncertainty exists regarding future CAV technology adoption rates. Use of alternative powertrain technologies such as vehicle electrification will be expected to reduce both the upper and lower bounds on fuel consumption for the examined scenarios. However, the relative impact of different CAV features in advanced powertrains is expected to be different than the corresponding impact in conventional vehicles, so future work will more rigorously explore the combined impacts of advanced powertrain and CAV technologies.

The study – Estimated Bounds and Important Factors for Fuel Use and Consumer of Connected and Automated Vehicles is available here

ORNL co-authors Zhenhong Lin and Changzheng Liu are members of the Sustainable Mobility research area of the Urban Dynamics Institute at ORNL and the National Transportation Research Center.

This work was funded by the Vehicle Technologies Office in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.


By Tamara Rogers.