Technologies

The 2020 Transportation Annual Technology Baseline (ATB) provides detailed cost and performance data, estimates, and assumptions for vehicle and fuel technologies in the United States.

The Transportation ATB includes current and projected estimates through 2050 for light-duty vehicle technologies as well as conventional and alternative fuels, and it details the assumptions used to calculate those costs, such as gas and electricity prices, discount rates, and vehicle miles traveled. The 2020 Transportation ATB vehicle data are specifically for midsize passenger cars.

Explore interactive charts of vehicle and fuels data using the technology menu to the left, or explore the 2020 Transportation ATB documentation below:

Description of Data

The Transportation ATB provides data in a series of interactive charts for either a single year or a trajectory out to 2050 showing:

  • Fuel economy, reported in miles per gallon gasoline equivalent and representing how efficiently a vehicle converts fuel during operation
  • Vehicle cost, which represents an estimated cost, including manufacturing costs plus profit, to the consumer purchasing a new vehicle.
  • Levelized cost of driving, an indicator of the cost of operation over the vehicle lifetime on a per-mile basis
  • Emissions, which represent the well-to-wheels emissions (including emissions from fuel production to vehicle operation).

The Transportation ATB presents these metrics for individual powertrains and in comparison with other powertrains. In addition, it provides fuel price and well-to-tank and well-to-wheels emissions data for select on-road vehicle fuels, including gasoline and ethanol, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen, jet and marine fuels.

The charts for levelized cost of driving and emissions draw from a subset of fuels documented in the Transportation ATB. The full set of data can be downloaded and explored. In addition, each individual powertrain can be explored.

Key assumptions and references are presented, and their details should guide interpretation, particularly when comparing technologies.

Scenarios

Vehicle Scenarios

Vehicle scenarios in the Transportation ATB incorporate assumptions on both the level of technology advancement achieved in each powertrain (e.g., lightweighting, engine efficiency) and the projected costs for the assumed technologies through 2050. Assumptions for assigning values in the Advanced and Mid trajectories reflect lab analyst judgement. Given the rapid pace of technology improvement and market advancement the assumptions here may not reflect the most recent trends. Data will be updated on an annual basis to reflect updated cost and performance trajectories as they become available.

Advanced Trajectory

In the Advanced trajectory, technology advances occur with breakthroughs, increased public and private R&D investment, and other market conditions that lead to significantly improved cost and performance levels but do not necessarily reach the full technical potential. Vehicle technologies advance substantially and achieve high performance, low cost, or both. Attaining this level of cost improvement is assumed to be very uncertain.

Mid Trajectory

In the Mid trajectory, technology cost and performance improve at moderate levels, with continued industry growth and R&D investment (both public and private). Vehicles include moderate technology advancements (in between the currently manufactured technology and the Advanced trajectory) to achieve higher performance, lower costs, or both, and attaining this level of cost improvement is assumed to be moderately uncertain.

Constant Trajectory

In the Constant trajectory, technology cost and performance from the base year are shown through 2050, without further advancement in R&D or markets. This cost level is extended through 2050 for reference only; it does not imply that frozen costs and performance are anticipated.

Technology advances include changes that may reduce costs or may increase costs while improving performance, which implies that costs do not always decline between less-advanced and more-advanced scenarios. However, while technology advancements that improve performance may increase vehicle cost, they may also result in a lower levelized cost of driving due to potential fuel savings.

Fuel Scenarios

Current Market

In the Current Market scenario, fuel price and emissions data are shown for fuels that are commercially available, with exact source, timing, averaging, and other details described in the references. Fuel metrics are primarily based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fuel price may differ from retail prices because of market volatility and local market conditions. See specific notes and references on the fuels pages for specific dates and averaging methods.

Current Modeled, Current Volume

In this scenario, fuel metrics are based on techno-economic modeling of the current technology at current market production volume as specified in the notes and references on the fuels pages.

Current Modeled, High Volume

In this scenario, fuel metrics are based on techno-economic modeling of the current technology at high market production volume. Timing of this scenario depends on when high production volume is achieved.

Future Modeled, Low Volume

In this scenario, fuel metrics are based on a future technological state modeled at low market production volume, as might be the case for a pioneer plant.

Future Modeled, High Volume

In this scenario, fuel metrics are based on a future technological state, based on engineering-economic modeling at high market production volume, often called "nth plant." Timing of this scenario depends on when high production volume is achieved.

Selected Fuel Pathways

Select subsets of fuels are shown on the vehicle charts for the Transportation ATB, and include the Baseline, Lowest Cost, and Lowest CO2e Emissions fuel pathways:

Baseline Fuel

Baseline fuels are meant to best represent current fuels available for each powertrain today. Due to the variability of current hydrogen prices, current modeled costs are used as the Baseline fuel instead of current market costs for hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles.

Lowest Cost Fuel

Lowest CO2e Emissions Fuel

The Lowest Cost and Lowest Co2e Emissions fuels correspond to the fuel pathways with lowest cost and lowest CO2e emissions, respectively, that are included in the ATB for each powertrain.

The fuel pathways used for each powertrain for each fuel subset are shown in the table below. While the charts on the Transportation ATB only include these select fuels, the full set of fuels can be downloaded and explored.

Selected Fuel Pathways by Powertrain

Powertrain

Baseline Fuel Pathway

Lowest Cost Fuel Pathway

Lowest CO2e Emissions Fuel Pathway

Gasoline internal combustion engine vehicle, hybrid electric vehicle, charge-sustaining plug-in hybrid electric vehicle

Conventional gasoline (E10) with starch ethanol

Conventional gasoline (E10) with starch ethanol

Reformulated E15 gasoline with cellulosic thermochemical ethanol

Diesel internal combustion engine vehicle

Conventional low-sulfur diesel

Conventional low-sulfur diesel (2050 low price)

Biofuel (diesel)

Compressed natural gas internal combustion engine vehicle

Natural gas

Natural gas

Natural gas

BEV, charge-depleting plug-in hybrid electric vehicle

Plug-in electric vehicle charging electricity,national grid mix

Plug-in electric vehicle charging electricity, future low RE penetration grid mix

Plug-in electric vehicle charging electricity, future high RE penetration grid mix

Fuel cell electric vehicle

Steam methane reforming (Current Modeled, Current Volume)

Steam methane reforming (Future Modeled, High Volume)

Low-temperature electrolysis (Future Modeled, High Volume)

Levelized Cost of Driving and Emissions

Calculations of the levelized cost of driving (LCOD) and emissions combine information about both the vehicle and the fuel. The charts that show emissions (g/mi) and LCOD ($/mi) trajectories are paired with fuel data for well-to-wheels emissions (grams per million British thermal units) and cost (dollars per million British thermal units) to show the fuel data that are used in the per-mile vehicle-level calculations. Single-point estimates of fuel costs and emissions rather than a full time-series trajectory are provided for each fuel pathway. The fuel data charts show how the selected fuel pathways compare to other fuel pathways within the Transportation ATB data set.

Comparisons of drivetrains should focus on the vehicle-level time-series trajectories, which include vehicle performance and convey its improvement over time. Comparisons of drivetrains should not focus on the fuel data, because drivetrains differ in their fuel efficiency. The LCOD and emissions charts clearly distinguish effects of fuels from those of vehicle technologies, because fuels remain constant while vehicle technologies change over time. The following chart, which provides an example of the charts shown in the Transportation ATB, shows how this information is combined.


Developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.