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Evolution of the household vehicle fleet: Anticipating fleet composition, PHEV adoption and GHG emissions in Austin, Texas


  • Musti, Sashank
  • Kockelman, Kara M.


In today's world of volatile fuel prices and climate concerns, there is little study on the relationship between vehicle ownership patterns and attitudes toward vehicle cost (including fuel prices and feebates) and vehicle technologies. This work provides new data on ownership decisions and owner preferences under various scenarios, coupled with calibrated models to microsimulate Austin's personal-fleet evolution. Opinion survey results suggest that most Austinites (63%, population-corrected share) support a feebate policy to favor more fuel efficient vehicles. Top purchase criteria are price, type/class, and fuel economy. Most (56%) respondents also indicated that they would consider purchasing a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) if it were to cost $6000 more than its conventional, gasoline-powered counterpart. And many respond strongly to signals on the external (health and climate) costs of a vehicle's emissions, more strongly than they respond to information on fuel cost savings. Twenty five-year simulations of Austin's household vehicle fleet suggest that, under all scenarios modeled, Austin's vehicle usage levels (measured in total vehicle miles traveled or VMT) are predicted to increase overall, along with average vehicle ownership levels (both per household and per capita). Under a feebate, HEVs, PHEVs and Smart Cars are estimated to represent 25% of the fleet's VMT by simulation year 25; this scenario is predicted to raise total regional VMT slightly (just 2.32%, by simulation year 25), relative to the trend scenario, while reducing CO2 emissions only slightly (by 5.62%, relative to trend). Doubling the trend-case gas price to $5/gallon is simulated to reduce the year-25 vehicle use levels by 24% and CO2 emissions by 30% (relative to trend). Two- and three-vehicle households are simulated to be the highest adopters of HEVs and PHEVs across all scenarios. The combined share of vans, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and cross-over utility vehicles (CUVs) is lowest under the feebate scenario, at 35% (versus 47% in Austin's current household fleet). Feebate-policy receipts are forecasted to exceed rebates in each simulation year. In the longer term, gas price dynamics, tax incentives, feebates and purchase prices along with new technologies, government-industry partnerships, and more accurate information on range and recharging times (which increase customer confidence in EV technologies) should have added effects on energy dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggested Citation

  • Musti, Sashank & Kockelman, Kara M., 2011. "Evolution of the household vehicle fleet: Anticipating fleet composition, PHEV adoption and GHG emissions in Austin, Texas," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 707-720, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:45:y:2011:i:8:p:707-720

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    References listed on IDEAS

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