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Environmental and Financial Benefits of Autonomous Electric Taxi-Fleet

Scientists at the Berkeley Lab claim the future of urban transportation lies within a shared, autonomous, all-electric vehicle (or SAEV) taxi-fleet that can serve the transportation need of densely populated cities at a lower cost, and with higher environmental and energy benefits, compared to conventional taxi vehicles [1].

In a study recently published in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology”, scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied the effects of implementing a 7000-vehicle fleet of automated electric taxis in Manhattan, the US’s most densely populated area [2]. This implementation was simulated in a model consisting of data from more than 10 million New York City taxi trips and tested the optimal design of such a fleet by comparing different vehicles, battery sizes and types and structure of the charging network. The study found that a concept of small cars with small batteries (50-90 mile/80-150 km range) and an extensive charging network would be most optimised in terms of cost and efficiency. When implemented, the SAEV taxi-fleet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 73%, and energy consumption by 58% compared to a conventional gas-powered fleet, while simultaneously reduce service cost by almost 70% in certain setups [2]. Important to note is that this network, and its simulated effects, rely on an extensive expansion of the Manhattan EV charging network. Today, there is an estimated 500 chargers for public use on the island, and it is estimated that this capacity would need to be at least tripled to accommodate the SAEV taxi-fleet.

 

Personal comments

The study makes a good case in its examination of the next generation of taxis in Manhattan by modelling and mapping an extensive variety of scenarios and perspectives which provides credibility and interesting insight to the coming evolvement of this transportation segment. Since this type of taxi-fleet will require a substantial infrastructure network and a large fleet to function, there is a possible risk of just one company owning the necessary infrastructure and integrated vehicles, thus creating a monopoly for this kind of transport. Although the numbers on cost and efficiency connected with a SAEV taxi-fleet are impressive, they currently represent an incredibly dense urban area, and it is likely that the environmental and energy benefits will decline while costs rise if a similar implementation would be examined elsewhere.

 

Written by Darijan Jelica, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

 1. 2018-03-28. Fleet of automated electric taxis could deliver environmental and energy benefits

2. 2018-03-28. Cost, Energy and Environmental Impact of Automated Electric Taxi Fleets in Manhattan