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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

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.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.