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New study: Energy impact of electric, autonomous taxis


Date: 8/11/2021

Contact: William Gray, Communications Director

** New Study: Estimating the energy impact of electric, autonomous taxis (

Also: The inequities of electric vehicles by Dr. Ashley Nunes in the Financial Times (

In a new peer-reviewed study (  that just released about autonomous electric vehicles and their impact on emissions, we show that electric robotaxis will dramatically increase energy consumption and emissions. Broadly, we document that electric robotaxis have to be 50 percent cleaner than electric cars today to reduce emissions, and that ride pooling has to increase from 20 percent today to near 75 percent to avoid net increases in emissions.


Electric, autonomous vehicles promise to address technical consumption inefficiencies associated with gasoline use and reduce emissions.

Using publicly available data from a select market, we examine the magnitude of the envisioned benefits and the determinants of the financial payoff of investing in a tripartite innovation in motor vehicle transportation: vehicle electrification, vehicle automation, and vehicle sharing.

In contrast to previous work, we document that:

1) The technology's envisioned cost effectiveness may be impeded by previously unconsidered parameters,

2) the inability to achieve cost parity with the status quo does not necessarily preclude net increases in energy consumption and emissions,

3) these increases are driven primarily by induced demand and mode switches away from pooled personal vehicles, and

4) the aforementioned externalities may be mitigated by leveraging a specific set of technological, behavioral and logistical pathways.

We quantify – for the first time – the thresholds required for each of these pathways to be effective and demonstrate that pathway stringency is largely influenced by heterogeneity in trip timing behavior. 

The study can be found here: (

Additionally, the study's lead author, Dr. Ashley Nunes ( , recently released a new opinion piece in the Financial Times (  about the inequities of electric vehicles and President Biden's executive order calling for half of all auto sales in the U.S. to be electric by 2030. Dr. Nunes notes:

1) Auto ownership isn’t cheap. Insurance, maintenance and fuel costs make up a household’s second-largest expense, after lodging according to a working paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation. This burden is particularly significant for low-income families.

2) What’s equitable about the rich person charging their car at home while the poor person stands in the rain?

3) And how long should America’s poor spend at public charging stations? While topping off a gas tank takes a few minutes, fully charging an EV can take hours. Fast chargers are often offered as a fix. But even those take longer than gasoline refills. That’s time America’s poor simply don’t have.

4) Low-income parents already endure longer than average commutes, something which hinders their children’s ability to enter better schools, participate in extracurricular activities and achieve maximum lifetime earning potential.

Read the full piece here: (

Dr. Nunes is available for comment or questions about these and other issues related to electric vehicles, transportation broadly and the intersection between these issues and climate.

About R Street

R Street is a non-profit public policy research organization that supports free markets; limited, effective government; and responsible environmental stewardship. It has headquarters in Washington, D.C. and five regional offices across the country. Learn more at ( .