AVs, EVs, or Rail: Posts to the World Economic Forum

Updated: Jun 30

Part of the great fun in teaching is to continue to work with students on interesting topics after the semester has ended. Thus far, two articles have been published to the World Economic Forum's Agenda Blog. (Any current or former student interested, please reach out! Would love to do more.)

How carmakers' switch to electric vehicles will strain supply of battery minerals (2021)

With Sawyer Hall, of the 2021 class.

Idea in Brief:

  • As electricity generation transitions from fossil fuels to renewables, it will place a burden on the world’s supplies of critical battery minerals.

  • The world’s battery capacity must grow to 40 times larger than it is today, and electric vehicles will require 80% of that future capacity, as well as an increased need for integrated circuits. Competition for both will develop between vehicles and other uses.

  • Trains, trolley busses, and other continuously powered vehicles should play a central role in transportation planning, easing the demand on these critical minerals.

The hidden downsides of autonomous vehicles (2019)

With Sanjeev Santhanam and Bharath Kaimal, of the 2019 class

Idea in Brief:

  • The cumulative energy impacts for Autonomous Vehicles could range from a 90% decrease to a 200% increase in fuel consumption by the year 2050.

  • While autonomy is often touted as a way to cause fewer crashes and smoother traffic flow, it may also lead to increased highway speeds, increased feature content, a greater willingness to commute long distances, and an increased demand for delivery services.

  • The sustainable solution includes vehicle electrification and light rail, and adds a shift in mobility patterns by maximizing the use of shared vehicle trips. This would improve impacts on energy and CO2 emissions, and dramatically reduce the number of vehicles on the world’s roads by 2050.