Jan 29, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Electric, autonomous vehicles could cut U.S. gasoline demand

A gas station in New York. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

A new Morningstar report says that the rise of autonomous and electric vehicles may steeply cut U.S. gasoline demand in coming decades.

Why it matters: The report adds to analysts' efforts to game out how interlocking changes in mobility will affect fuel demand and, by extension, greenhouse gas emissions.

What they found: They project that the introduction and adoption of autonomous vehicle tech will cut ride-hailing costs a lot, although total vehicle mileage likely rises as consumers use ride-hailing and car-sharing more.

  • That's due to miles driven by AVs with no passengers, along with ride-hailing cannibalizing public transit, walking and bikes.
  • But, but, but: The growth of EVs more than offsets the rise in fuel use from more traveling.

By the numbers, per the report:

  • Gasoline demand could fall by 70% by 2050.
  • Ride-hailing could account for more than 1/5 of light-duty vehicle miles traveled by 2050.
  • A "base case" scenario envisions a massive rise in EV sales, one that vastly outstrips the latest (and pessimistic) Energy Information Administration outlook.
  • EVs could account for 45% of U.S. light-duty sales in 2050, with hybrids and plug-in hybrids taking another 45%.

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