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Maximizing The Environmental Benefits Of Autonomous Vehicles
Aug 14, 2018

The added weight, electricity demand and aerodynamic drag of the sensors and computers used in autonomous vehicles are significant contributors to their lifetime energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.

One key finding is that autonomous vehicles with electric powertrains have lifetime greenhouse gas emissions that are 40 percent lower than vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines. The lower emissions result from the inefficiencies involved in producing electricity from fuel combustion, as well as a sharper fuel-consumption increase when extra mass is added to a vehicle powered by an internal-combustion engine.

Several caveats accompany the study's conclusions about the potential environmental benefits of automated vehicles. First, those conclusions are based on the assumption that the operational efficiencies of CAVs can lead to a 14-percent reduction in fuel consumption over conventional vehicles, based on an analysis of previous work by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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