Gas prices and fatalities

My colleague Guangqing Chi, now at Penn State, was interviewed this morning on NPR talking about gasoline price and fatalities. The paper he referred to is here:

I suspect (and hope) Chi’s estimate of 9000 additional fatalities per year in the US due to a $2/gallon drop in the price of fuel is too high, but lowering the price of gas will increase VMT (all else equal), and especially will increase VMT of marginal (less skilled, younger) travelers (those who were priced out of traveling when gas prices were high, and now come back must have less experience than those who have been driving all along).

VMT vs. Death per VMT Source:
VMT vs. Death per VMT (Source)

This is fighting against the general trend of peak travel and increased safety. It will take a bit of time for people to adapt to lower prices again, and it depends very much on how long the lower prices last (a month, a year, a decade). But low prices when the economy is expanding is something we have not seen since the 1990s, when annual fatalities were notably lower.

Gogoro: The Little Electric Scooter That Could? | TechNewsWorld

Katherine Noyes at TechNewsWorld writes Gogoro: The Little Electric Scooter That Could?


In short it is an electric scooter with a fast-swappable battery. They propose to have a network of swapping stations. We saw this attempted with Better Place, which did not turn out well, as well as the early days of EV taxis in New York with the lead acid trust at the turn of the last century..

Location, Location, Location

“Being in Minnesota, currently with a -25F wind chill, I am not sure smart scooters will work everywhere,” said David Levinson, a transportation analyst and professor at the University of Minnesota.

However, “in the markets where they do work, battery swapping is good idea, and six seconds would be very fast,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Gogoro’s big challenge will be deploying its network of swapping stations, “since if they are not near where you are already going, they may not be of much use,” Levinson said.

“In other words, unless GoStations are as ubiquitous as gas stations, swapping will remain inconvenient for many potential users,” he pointed out.

“We will need to see a shipping product before we can really determine whether and how well this works,” added Levinson, “but I wish them good luck and hope they can find a viable deployment path with upfront capital expenses and sell their product.”

Happy 70th Birthday, Highway Statistics

There is one thing bureaucracies do better than any other organization, and that is keeping data series alive. I recently discovered the archives of the Highway Statistics series have been digitized by the Office of Highway Policy Information (OHPI). The first Highway Statistics, put out by the Public Roads Administration and Federal Works Administration in 1945 (pdf). Remember, they did this before computers, even before mainframes, so the staff effort must have been enormous.

Trend in Motor Vehicle Registration and Gasoline Consumption, 1945 Highway Statistics
Trend in Motor Vehicle Registration and Gasoline Consumption, 1945 Highway Statistics

The full archives (pre 1995) can be found here. More recent statistics can be found here.

In 1945 there were fewer than 34 million vehicles registered in the US. Today (2012, the most recent year available) that number is about 253 million. (7.4 times)

In 1945 gasoline consumption was about 22 billion gallons. Today that number is 169 billion. (7.7 times).

Consumption per vehicle is about 667 gallons per vehicle today, compared with 647 in 1945. Of course fuel economy is up, as is miles per vehicle.