Expert: Require Autonomous Vehicles To Be Electric

Transportation planners have long seen the arrival of autonomous vehicles as potential dream or potential nightmare, depending largely on two factors:
If they're electric and shared, it's a dream come true, all but eliminating accidents and insurance costs, opening vast stretches of real estate currently squandered on parking lots and traffic lanes, saving a trillion dollars for the economy and a gigaton of carbon emissions. If they're gasoline-powered and individually owned, traffic congestion and carbon emissions reach nightmarish levels as people send their personal cars out on every tedious errand.
The economics seem to favor the dream scenario, but what if the government can eliminate the uncertainty?
"I think one of the least appreciated regulations that has come to California in the last couple of months has been a requirement that ride sharing services use electric vehicles in the future," said Trevor Houser, head of the energy and climate practice at the Rhodium Group. Last month California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Clean Miles Standard and Incentive Program, which imposes greenhouse-gas emission limits on ride sharing networks like Uber and Lyft and pushes them to use zero-emission vehicles.
"And I think expanding that to a mandate that all fully autonomous vehicles be electric could be a highly successful policy," Houser said in an appearance hosted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
For transportation to fully electrify, automakers have to be laser focused on producing and selling electric vehicles, said the former State Department advisor on energy and environmental policy. "As opposed to now, it's like pulling teeth. You have to beat the guy at the VW dealership over the head to show where the E-Golfs are in the back of the store."
But the automobile industry has fully bought into autonomy as its future driver of sales, so "putting that mandate in could be a really powerful market motivator."
Such a regulation places very little burden on consumers, Houser added, because it simply attaches one shiny future object–electric drive–to another shiny future object–autonomy–without creating any cost the consumer has to face.
"It would be aligned with the industry's goals in a helpful way."

Tip Jar: If you found value on this page, please consider tipping the author.