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Please see below for updated dates for the STEPS+ Fall Symposium. Thank you!

As summer comes to a close, we look forward to a new year and a new cohort of grad students, while celebrating the many successes of the past six months. We hope you will take a few moments and scroll through our achievements. Enjoy!

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Environmental Justice Fellowship Commencement Event

October 13, 2022

ITS Board of Advisor's Dinner & Meeting

October 19-20, 2022

The Future Mobility, Automation, and Transit Research Workshop 

November 7-8, 2022

STEPS+ Fall 2022 Symposium

December 7-8, 2022

ITS-Davis welcomes inaugural cohort of Environmental Justice Fellows

EJ Fellows Party - whole group
EJ Fellows Party - Selika

The first cohort of EJ Fellows started earlier this year. This new program engages a group of seasoned leaders within the environmental justice space and immerses them into the academic/research/policy space in order to integrate their valuable community expertise and knowledge into academic research and education. Current areas of interest include: Electric vehicles, indoor air quality and retrofits, transit service, safe streets, truck routing in and near EJ communities, low-cost transportation, energy efficiency and access to new building technologies, construction of climate friendly affordable housing, and water security. Meet our current fellows here.

Spring STEPS+ Symposium

May2022Steps+-Davis Hochschild
May2022 Steps+ Symposium

Over 150 experts from industry, government, academia, and NGOs participated in our STEPS+ Spring Research Symposium at UC Davis on May 12-13. The symposium covered many timely topics, including the role of road transportation in reaching carbon neutrality in California and the US by 2045, transitioning to ZEVs for fleets, multimodal travel trends in the US, modeling demand for EV infrastructure, and ZEV development in China. Other highlights included CEC Chair David Hochschild’s keynote address “Toward a 100% Clean Energy Future” and the student poster session.

30th Anniversary Celebration

Dan-Sandy-Junshan - 30th Anniversary

Over two days in May, ITS-Davis celebrated 30 years of groundbreaking transportation research and education. Friday’s festivities began with an alumni lunch on the UC Davis campus and continued that evening with a sparkling reception in Downtown Sacramento. With a theme of “Leading the Way,” the celebrations featured prominent guest speakers Selika Talbott, Steven Cliff, and Chancellor Gary May. ITS-Davis staff also contributed their own voices to two video tributes–one commemorating the institute’s three-decade history, and the second honoring Director Dan Sperling’s long-tenured leadership. On Saturday, the party moved back to campus, with a picnic featuring ride-and-drives with some exciting new battery electric and hydrogen vehicles. Here’s to thirty more years of “Leading the Way.”


June 2022 Commencement

This June, ITS-Davis celebrated 11 students who graduated from the Transportation Technology and Policy Program as well as ITS-related fields. This year’s cohort included 7 master’s degrees and 4 doctorates. In addition to those who graduated in June, several more students finished their degree requirements in Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 and joined the festivities. We happily celebrate all of their achievements and wish them continued success!

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California's Advanced Clean Cars II: Issues and Implications

Gil Tal, Adam Davis, Dahlia Garas

Pending California regulations California's Advanced Clean Cars II: Issues and Implications will require that zero emission vehicles make up 35% of light-duty vehicle sales in 2026, increasing to 100% in 2035. This paper looks at how the regulation will likely affect a full 30-40% of the US car market because 14 other states (“Section 177 states”) are also expected to adopt it. The paper also looks at how many zero-emission vehicles will be needed in practice and the implications for investments in charging infrastructure.

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An Assessment of How State and Regional Transportation Agencies Advance Equity in Transportation Plans, Processes, and Implementation

Jesus M. Barajas, Asiya Natekal,

Carolyn Abrams

To provide California with recommendations for how to advance transportation equity, this study examines how state DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations are implementing equity-based planning.

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Assessing the Three Es—Environment, Economy, and Equity—in Climate Action Plans

Mark Lozano, Alissa Kendall, Gwen Arnold, John T. Harvey, Ali A. Butt

This examination of climate action plans released by jurisdictions in California showed that expected emissions reduction is considered most during planning and implementation, while external impacts are considered the least. Equity impacts received average levels of consideration, and better equity planning would require systemic change at the jurisdiction, industry, state, and federal levels, because many life cycle equity impacts occur outside of existing jurisdictional borders. Policy Brief

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Empirical charging behavior of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Ahmet Mandev, Patrick Plötz, Frances Sprei, Gil Tal 

This study of 10,488 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicles over 4.3 million total driving days showed that, on average, vehicles were charged once every 24 hours, mostly at night. Important policy implications include the need to prioritize making home charging possible above work-place and public charging, the need to address an increased electric load at night, and incentives that promote a higher share of electric driving in plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

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Energy, Emissions, and Cost Impacts of Charging Price Strategies for Electric Vehicles

Xinwei Li, Alan Jenn

This study found that the time-of-use pricing scheme results in the highest emissions, and the real-time pricing scheme, in the lowest. The results suggest that policymakers should consider price strategies in conjunction with, rather than independent of, carbon pricing.

Estimating Maintenance and Repair Costs for Battery Electric and Fuel Cell Heavy Duty Trucks 

Guihua Wang, Marshall Miller, Lewis Fulton

Compared to the diesel truck, future battery electric trucks will have 29% less maintenance and repair costs and future fuel cell trucks will have 25% less. This study’s maintenance and repair cost values fill in the gap for conducting a complete total cost of ownership analysis in which maintenance costs are an integral component, but often left out, due to the lack of data.

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What Happened and Will Happen with Biofuels? Review and Prospects for Non-Conventional Biofuels in California and the U.S.: Supply, Cost, and Potential GHG Reductions

Julie Witcover

Policies over the last decade that aimed to move low-carbon biofuels squarely into U.S. markets led to increases in conventional biofuels but not to scale increases in lower carbon cellulosic fuels. This study looks at the reasons for this and possible policy and research approaches to better incentivize low carbon biofuel production. Also available: policy brief and journal article

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Evaluating Innovative Rural Mobility Programs

Caroline Rodier, Brian Harold, Yunwang Zhang

Researchers conducted an early evaluation of three recently launched mobility programs in the San Joaquin Valley: an electric carsharing service, a volunteer ridesharing service, and a transit planning app. They found that these new services are improving mobility for lower-income travelers while, in the case of the carsharing program, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Recent blog post, report and policy brief.

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Improving the Effectiveness of Wildlife Overcrossings

Fraser Shilling, David Waetjen, Travis Longcore, Winston Vickers, Sean McDowell, Adetayo Oke, Aaron Bass, Clark Stevens

Modeling and field measurements informed the design of wildlife crossing structures that minimize the light and sound experienced by wildlife as they approach the structures. These designs can increase the likelihood of wildlife using structures to safely cross roadways. Recent blog postreport, and policy brief.

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Can an E-Bike Share System Increase Awareness and Consideration of E-Bikes as a Commute Mode? Results from a Natural Experiment

Susan Handy, Dillon Fitch

Cross-sectional surveys of employees at the University of California, Davis, indicated that the shared e-bike system that operated from June 2018 to March 2020 in the Sacramento region substantially increased awareness of e-bikes, but additional strategies may be needed to convert awareness into consideration of the use of e-bikes for commuting.

Outreach and Engagement

EcoCar EV Challenge

EcoCar UCD Team

Over the next four years, UC Davis students at ITS-Davis and the College of Engineering will design a car as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s EcoCar EV Challenge. The competition challenges students to improve energy efficiency as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in automotive engineering as they convert a Cadillac LYRIQ EV into an automated vehicle with vehicle-to-everything connectivity that will allow it to interact with devices and the environment. 

California Transportation Assessment Report (Pursuant to AB 285), February 18

Susan Handy, Elisa Barbour, Amy Lee, and Emil Rodriguez served as co-authors on a report from the California Strategic Growth Council to the Legislature, offering recommendations to improve the accessibility, equity, and sustainability of the transportation system.

Meetings with Members of Congress and Staff, March 2022

Our researchers and staff met with the offices of nine Members of Congress and congressional committees to provide briefings on ITS-Davis research findings related to rural mobility, induced travel, and transportation options for travelers with disabilities. We met with Representatives Mark Desaulnier’s (D-CA 11th District) staff, John Garamendi (D-CA 3rd District), Mike Thompson (D-CA 5th District), Doris Matsui (D-CA 6th District); the staffs of Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Diane Feinstein (D-CA); also with the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (Minority) and the Senate Environment & Public Works staff.

Roundtable on Transportation Carbon Neutrality, March 24

ITS-Davis and China’s EV100 co-hosted a high-level discussion with U.S. and Chinese government officials, former officials, and advisors. Participants from the US included Former Governor Jerry Brown, Former Undersecretary of Energy David Sandalow, and CARB Chair Liane Randolph.

The Lithium-ion Car Battery Recycling Advisory Group, May 9

Alissa Kendal, Meg Slattery, and Jessica Dunn presented their work and produced the final report for this advisory group that advises the California Legislature.

Meeting with 7 MPs from England, May 25

Sir Christopher Chope, OBE, MP; Stephen Metcalfe, MP; Chris Clarkson, MP; Sharon Hodgson, MP; Matt Western, MP; Chris Matheson, MP; Chris Clarkson, MP

In May researchers from across ITS met with a delegation of UK Members of Parliament who are part of the British-American Parliamentary group. The group came to ITS-Davis to learn more about research on electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and automated vehicles.

International EV Policy Council Meeting, June 16, The Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics 

International EV Policy Council Meeting

The Council, which includes multiple international collaborators of UC Davis’ EV Research Center, discussed the role of plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles in the transition to electric vehicles, demand for electric vehicles, incentive impacts, the origins of EV policy in Norway, and more. 

Special Deep Dive Webinar with the US EPA, June 29

Approximately two dozen personnel from the US EPA participated in this webinar, in which researchers from the Electric Vehicle Research Center presented their findings and insights. Before the event, the EPA attendees selected, from a long list, the research topics that they were most interested in hearing discussed.

Technical Support for Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Programs

Since January, Julie Witcover, Colin Murphy, Jin Wook Ro, and Pedro Liedo have participated in approximately 20 meetings, panel discussions, and webinars on the LCFS, with multiple stakeholders (Oregon Clean Fuels Program, GTI Energy, Great Plains Institute, and the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition). Topics included LCFS-like programs in other states, Canada, and at the federal US level; environmental justice; and aviation fuels.

Multiple other reports from ITS-Davis were cited in the last several months in policy reports and regulations, including IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: Mitigation of Climate Change, CARB Advanced Clean Cars II Regulation, CARB's 2022 Scoping Plan Update on progress toward greenhouse gas reduction targets, and CARB’s Progress Report to the Legislature on Sustainable Communities Implementation.

A list of additional webinar recordings and descriptions is available here.

awards and achievements

Hayden Andersen and Katherine Turner named Centennial Scholars

Hayden Andersen

Hayden Andersen

Katherine Turner

Katherine Turner

Hayden Andersen and Katharine Turner were awarded Second Place and Honorable Mention, respectively, as part of the Eno Center for Transportation Martin Wachs Memorial Centennial Essay Contest. Hayden’s essay explored the question of whether COVID-induced pedestrian streets were good for local businesses, while Katherine’s work delved into how the legacy of disparate transportation infrastructure in the United States influenced the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Huge congratulations to these two winners! 

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Dan Sperling elected to National Academy of Engineers

National Academy of Engineering

Earlier this year, Dan Sperling was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Members are selected for having made outstanding contributions to the field of engineering, including research, practice, or education, as well as to pioneering new and developing fields of technology, or innovative approaches to engineering education. This honor is the latest in a lifetime of achievements for Dan, who is known as a leading international expert on transportation and whose work has helped pioneer new fields of study to create more efficient, low-carbon, and environmentally beneficial transportation systems. Dan will be formally inducted during the NAE’s annual meeting on Oct. 2. Congratulations!

In the Spotlight section header
Junshan Zhang headshot

Junshan Zhang

Director, AV Technology and Policy Center

One of our newest researchers and program directors is the energetic and engaging Junshan (Joshua) Zhang. Following 20 years at Arizona State University, he joined the UC Davis faculty as a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the summer of 2020 and is 

the founding director of the Mobility Science Automation and Inclusion Center (MoSAIC) at ITS-Davis. The newly-formed center aims to address climate change and inequities in transportation by integrating tools and ideas from artificial intelligence, policy, urban design, engineering, and social, behavioral, and mobility science.

Having grown-up with an interest in mathematics, physics, and the expanding presence of computers, Dr. Zhang studied electrical engineering and computer science at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (BS) and Purdue University (PhD). His research has focused on the intersection of computing and communications. Over the past 10 years, he has focused on edge computing and AI, where computation and data storage are brought closer to the sources of data as opposed to cloud computing. This drastically cuts the time and bandwidth needed for data to be detected, processed, and then used for learning and generating a response. Dr Zhang adds: “Automated vehicles offer the greatest challenge and most powerful application of edge AI, because the vehicle has to respond immediately to data coming in.”

As director of the MoSAIC Center, Dr Zhang has begun to assemble a multidisciplinary team, which currently includes 40 researchers from 11 universities around the country and draws from industry and government. He explains the ambitious vision for the center: “We want to build technology and mobility systems on a foundation of two pillars. First, automation science—focused on AI and connected automated vehicles that talk to each other and the driving environment. Second, an understanding of user behavior, to accelerate adoption. These are two pillars to advance sustainable transportation and equity.”

Transportation and Climate Blog Updates
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New Mobility for Sustainable Suburban and Rural Travel

By Yan Xing, Caroline Rodier, Brian Harold, and Mike Sintetos

Microtransit could be the key to creating more sustainable transit systems for suburban and rural communities. Researchers used the SmaRT Ride program to analyze whether residents would shift away from car-centric commuting. The multimodal mircrotransit methods were successful in giving residents access to more sustainable transportation. Read the full article here.

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Ecology 101: Protecting Wildlife from Transportation

By Fraser Shilling and Seth Karten

Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Agoura Hills

Wildlife crossings over busy highways have grown increasingly popular over the last several years but policymakers have yet to allocate proper funding for such projects. Researchers looked at the effectiveness of Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing and what planners should be doing to create more. Read the full article here. 

ITS In the News Header

The Conversation: Revolutionary changes in transportation, from electric vehicles to ride-sharing, could slow global warming – if they’re done right, IPCC says

The April 4, 2022, IPCC report said that recent decreases in the cost of renewable energy and EVs coupled with policy changes have slowed down climate change in the last decade. Alan Jenn writes that stronger actions must be taken to stay at or below the 1.5 degrees Celsius target and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

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ABC News: California leads the way in zero-emission transportation, but there are still challenges to overcome

As California becomes a major leader in the transition to EVs, experts warn that the challenge of material acquisition for battery technology is still a factor. Alissa Kendal tells ABC it is important to consider the entire life cycle of the materials used in batteries and make sure the product and waste are managed properly. Full article here.

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Science Friday: Can Hydrogen-Fuel Cells Drive the Car Market?

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is a worthy competitor in the clean energy transportation industry, with some cars reaching a 300-mile range. Joan Ogden shares expertise with Science Friday on the technology and what should be done to expand access.

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New York Times: So You Want to Buy an Electric Car. Where Are You Going to Charge It?

As EV popularity grows, experts warn that you should prepare to access charging whenever needed. Gil Tal told the NY Times that the majority of those who abandoned EVs were the ones who lacked a reliable place to charge, but charging knowledge can help EV owners prepare.

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Mercury News: How Ford’s electric pickup can power your house for 10 days

An increase in climate-driven blackouts seems to be inevitable going forward, which makes the battery power of the new Ford F-150 Lightning so attractive to consumers. Debapriya Chakraborty points out limitations but says the technology can make a meaningful impact for those dealing with a power crisis.

CNN: California expected to ban new gas car sales by 2035, with Thursday vote

With the California Air Resources Board poised to issue stringent rules to ban the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035 and set interim targets to phase the cars out, Dan Sperling notes that "This is the most important thing that CARB has done in the last 30 years. It's important not just for California, but it's important for the country and the world."

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AP News: ‘We’re back, baby’: New bill boosts US climate credibility

Along with the Inflation Reduction Act, cooperation with other countries to reduce costs will be crucial for expanding EV access. According to Aditya Ramji, it will be important to “provide intellectual property access or lower costs to countries like India and others to leverage electric vehicle technology.”

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ABC News: Automakers look to the South to build electric vehicle batteries

Because of strong tax incentives and attractive investment packages, Southern states are “fighting hard,” according to Gil Tal, to become major spaces for EV manufacturing. Experts agree that this is only the beginning of a new era for the American EV industry.

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Streetsblog Cal: Pilot Programs Aim to Address Gaps in Transportation Access

Eli Alston-Stepnitz, Angela Sanguinetti, and Mollie D’Agostino research reliable and affordable transportation pilot programs launched in Oakland, Bakersfield, and Pittsburgh PA, testing the concept of Universal Basic Mobility (UBM). Pilot programs using UBM are inspiring an increase in accessible transit options in other cities.

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Cheddar News: Senate Compromise Bill Contains 'Gamechanger' EV Subsidies to Combat Emissions

The recent Inflation Reduction Act has a lot of potential to make EVs more affordable than ever. Lew Fulton says the bill could be a “game changer” during a time when EV technology is consistently improving.

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The New York Times: ‘So Stressed Out’: Gas Prices Force Many to Rethink Driving, and Spending

With gas prices at an all-time high, some experts think that if these high prices last a long time then people will change the kind of car they drive. Giovanni Circella says that in the past, high gas prices did not alter driving habits that much, but current prices could be a tipping point for an industry shift.