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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Electric cars don't suffer a huge loss in range when equipped with autonomous driving technology, and there's potential to minimize the effects even further, a new peer-reviewed analysis in Nature Energy shows.

Why it matters: It comes as large automakers and startups are placing big bets on autonomous tech and charting different paths on what type of drivetrain to use.

The big picture: Carnegie Mellon University researchers conclude that automation will likely reduce electric vehicles' range by 5%–10% in suburban driving and 10%–15% in city driving.

  • The loss of range stems from added weight, more computing load, and potentially more drag because sensing equipment can make vehicles less aerodynamic.

The intrigue: The paper says the results show that fears of autonomous vehicle equipment sapping the efficacy of electric drivetrains appear unfounded, noting...

"While some commentators have suggested that the power and energy requirements of automation mean that the first automated vehicles will be gas–electric hybrids, our results suggest that this need not be the case if automakers can implement energy-efficient computing and aerodynamic sensor stacks."

The state of play: Deployment of autonomous technology remains in the early stages.

  • As Axios transportation expert Joann Muller reported in August, GM sees all-electric autonomous cars having an advantage over hybrid- and gasoline-powered models.
  • But rival Ford’s first autonomous vehicle will be a hybrid, which it says is the most practical path to start until electric vehicle battery costs come down.

The bottom line: The results suggest there's no inherent tradeoff between the safety and other gains of autonomous vehicles and cutting CO2 through vehicle electrification.

  • “You don’t have to choose between the benefits of automation and the benefits of electrification,” co-author Parth Vaishnav tells me.

Go deeper

Sep 29, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Polaris to make electric snowmobiles and off-road vehicles

In the future, Polaris will offer electric powertrains across its lineup of snowmobiles and off-road vehicles. (Pictured is a current model, which doesn't represent the future product.) Photo credit: Polaris Inc.

Polaris plans to electrify its popular lineup of off-road vehicles and snowmobiles through a new 10-year technology partnership with Zero Motorcycles.

Why it matters: People who want to enjoy the Great Outdoors don't have to worry about polluting the environment or disturbing the wilderness when they're riding on a nearly-silent, zero-emission machine.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."