The historic move by General Motors to sell only zero-emission cars by 2035 will help the U.S. auto industry fight climate change, but infrastructure upgrades are needed to support the transition, says expert Hesham Rakha, who is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Mobility at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

Quoting Rakha

“All-in-all this is a very good decision, but further research is needed to study the network-wide impacts of wide-scale battery electric vehicle rollout,” says Rakha. “The question remains where and how the electricity that enables that zero-emission vehicles comes from. Until we have a zero emissions battery, and all electricity is created using zero emissions, no car manufacturer can sell zero emission vehicles.”

“Having a large fleet of battery electric vehicles will have a significant impact on the electrical grid system and this is critical to a successful implementation and full rollout of battery electric vehicles,” says Rakha. “Having more charging stations in key transportation locations will also be needed.”

Rakha says that new traffic control strategies will also need to be developed. “Electric vehicles operate optimally at lower speeds and in stop-and-go conditions, which means that they thrive on traffic congestion. Consequently, there will be a need to develop traffic control strategies that simultaneously address conflicting energy, efficiency, and safety objectives.”


Background Research

As interest in electric cars increases, Virginia Tech researchers are studying the potential energy and efficiency benefits of these vehicles. A recent report published by the Transportation Research Board studied the potential benefits of an eco look-ahead control, designed to optimize energy consumption, for battery electric vehicles. They found a significant reduction in energy consumption on downhill roads for the electric vehicles compared with internal combustion engine vehicles.  

Another study explored a model for electric vehicles to optimize their travel through traffic intersections (thereby conserving fuel) using Signal Phasing and Timing information from the traffic light, as well as surrounding traffic information received from in-vehicle sensors.


About the Center for Transportation Mobility

The Center for Sustainable Mobility (CSM) conducts research relevant to society’s transportation mobility, energy, environmental, and safety needs. The center translates the results of research into realistic and workable applications, creates and provides tools needed to apply developed knowledge and processes, and educates qualified engineers to meet today’s transportation demands and tomorrow’s transportation challenges.

About Rakha


Hesham Rakha is the director of the Center for Sustainable Mobility at VTTI. His areas of research include traffic flow theory, traveler and driver behavior modeling, dynamic traffic assignment, transportation network control, optimization, use of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques in transportation, intelligent vehicle systems, connected and autonomous vehicles, transportation energy and environmental modeling, and transportation safety modeling. More here.

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