Quantifying transportation energy vulnerability and its spatial patterns in the United States

Shanshan Liu, Eleftheria Kontou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transportation provides access to economic opportunities, empowers individuals and adds value to their communities. However, the average household in the United States spends 17 % of their income on transportation expenditures and almost 4 % on fuel costs. In response to both budgetary and social implications of facing burdens to meet transportation energy needs, we propose a new data-driven framework to quantify transportation energy vulnerability. We measure exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to transportation energy burdens and present spatial patterns of transportation energy vulnerability across the United States census tracts. We examine the sensitivity of the vulnerability outcomes to the composite score's functional form and evaluate the impact of electric vehicle adoption on transportation fuel and electricity consumption. Generating the composite vulnerability score as an additive index is robust when estimating the impact of adaptive capacity interventions, but the multiplicative index performs better when exposure and sensitivity metrics are priorities. The market growth of electric vehicles reduces spatial disparities in energy vulnerability but has diminishing returns over time. We present the geography of vulnerability in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York and find that populations in urban areas in Chicago and New York experience less transportation energy vulnerability. On the other hand, city center and rural regions’ populations face a greater transportation energy burden in Los Angeles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103805
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Electric vehicles
  • Fuel costs
  • Transportation energy
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Transportation

Cite this