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.

Unrest in Philadelphia after fatal police shooting of Black man

Demonstrators rally on Tuesday near the location where Walter Wallace was killed by two police officers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania National Guard was mobilized Tuesday during a tense second night of protests in Philadelphia over the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man.

Driving the news: Philadelphia Jim Kenney (D) and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a joint statement Monday that police were launching a "full investigation" to answer questions that arose from video that captured part of the incident with police.

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage" Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse.
  2. Health: Hospitals face a crush — 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Winter threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota cases traced to three Trump campaign events.
  6. World: Putin mandates face masks.