Electric Vehicle Adoption for Public Transit: Research from the University of Utah

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Dr. Xiaoyue Cathy Liu of the University of Utah is leading research efforts to help facilitate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In 2021, she completed a project funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), Bi-objective Optimization for Battery Electric Bus Deployment Considering Cost and Environmental Equity, which was aimed at helping transit agencies transition their fleets to battery electric buses while focusing on improving air quality—with an eye toward environmental justice.

"The blocking piece is one of the more unique and helpful elements of this tool. We are making investments based on her recommendations, from the model and the tool, for five more high-powered chargers in our system.... You can optimize to a lot of different factors using her model. It's a really good tool in that you can use in multiple ways to make better business decisions for both your agency and the community."
-Manager of Systems Planning and Project Development, Utah Transit Authority

"This research made me aware of always communicating and addressing equity issues, even in small projects. I'm working on implementing small electric community shuttle systems and this research was very relevant."
-Project Specialist, Florida Department of Transportation

Liu has since been awarded a new NITC technology transfer grant aimed at moving that research into practice. The new project currently underway, Enabling Decision-Making in Battery Electric Bus Deployment through Interactive Visualization, will develop a visualization tool to allow transit operators, planners and decision-makers to explore the interdependency of the battery electric bus (BEB) transit system and energy infrastructure.

Liu is also mentoring graduate students who are working toward integrating new technologies into the transportation system, to improve the safety and efficiency of roads for all users. The two projects below were both presented at the 2022 meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Watch each student present their poster in a short 3-4 minute video:

WATCH ONLINE: Unraveling the Impact of COVID-19 on the Spatio-Temporal Mobility Patterns of Microtransit 

Presented by Yirong Zhou, Ph.D. student in transportation engineering at the University of Utah. Connect with Yirong on LinkedIn, and download a PDF of the poster here.

WATCH ONLINE: Public Electric Vehicle Charging Estimation and Charging Station Allocation Using Urban Informatics 

Presented by Zhiyan Yi, Ph.D. student in transportation engineering at the University of Utah. Connect with Zhiyan on LinkedIn here, and download a PDF of the poster here.

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is one of seven U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. NITC is a program of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University. This PSU-led research partnership also includes the Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Utah. We pursue our theme — improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities — through research, education and technology transfer.

Photo by Oleksandr Filon/iStock

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