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Electric Vehicles and the Electricity Grid

As electric vehicles become a more prominent force within the transportation sector, there is a substantial shift from gasoline to electricity as a transportation fuel.  The increase in electric vehicle charging can lead to stresses across various pieces of the electricity grid from wholesale power generation and transmission between balancing regions, down to local distribution substations and feeder circuits.  My research attempts to understand the interaction between vehicle charging load and the grid, including the impact on electricity generation capacity, emissions outcome, and localized capacity overloading on the distribution network.  I also examine potential benefits from electric vehicles, such as smart charging to alleviate intermittency from renewable power generation or vehicle-to-grid operation that can emulate grid-scale storage at large volumes of vehicles.

Electrifying Ride-Hailing Companies

Vehicles driving for transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft drive a disproportionately high amount compared to the average driver.  Our research shows that the carbon benefits from electrifying these vehicles can be over three times higher than electrifying other vehicles.  However, many challenges remain in this transition.  The charging infrastructure required to support electrification is substantial, despite the relatively low proportion of electric vehicles on TNC platforms.  Not only is the quantity of chargers important, but the charging speed to reduce driver downtime and availability of home charging are critical issues facing EV drivers.  Additionally, the equity impacts of electrification must also be addressed given the average income of TNC drivers and the relatively high purchase price of electric vehicles today.  Innovative incentives and policy measures will be a necessary component of a successful transition to electric vehicles for TNCs.

Future of Transportation Infrastructure Funding

Transportation funding in the United States is primarily funded through gasoline taxes (both at the federal and state level).  Unfortunately, gas taxes have remained relatively constant over the last few decades despite issues of inflation, improvements in fuel economy, and vehicle electrification—all of which decrease effective revenues from gasoline taxes.  My work involves the investigation of alternative means of raising revenues, including mileage-based fees (also known as road user charges) which charge customers on the basis of miles travelled instead of amount of gasoline consumed—thereby remaining unaffected by changes in fuel efficiency or fuel type.  While a significant amount of academic work has investigated these vehicle pricing issues, my research focuses on real-world implementation and potential opportunities to simultaneously synergize with other vehicle pricing mechanisms such as congestion and emissions pricing.  Issues of equity are also an essential consideration for the success of these programs and my work also considers the impact of different fee types on costs across multiple populations to discern whether individuals of various socioeconomic status are affected differently.

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