Visionaries tout a future in which cars are electric, self-driving, and shared. All three of these things are starting to happen today, but will they come together to produce a future where congestion and pollution are things of the past?
While American politicians were voting on eliminating tax credits for buyers of electric vehicles, auto executives from around the world were gathering to make ambitious plans to sell more electric cars in China.
A group of 10 major transnational corporations has launched a new global initiative to slash vehicle emissions by increasing the number of electric vehicles in their corporate fleets. Known as EV100, the initiative commits companies to integrate EVs in their owned or leased fleets and install charging stations for customers and employees.
The British discount airline EasyJet recently announced a partnership with American company Wright Electric to develop an all-electric commercial airplane that they said could be flying within 10 years. The goal of the partnership is to develop aircraft with a maximum range of 335 miles, which is long enough for many of the European routes that EasyJet flies from its hub in England.
Air travel is pretty carbon intensive. For those of us who take plane trips, it represents a substantial part of our individual carbon footprints. It isn’t that plane travel is inefficient fuel-wise on a miles-per-gallon-per-passenger basis compared with driving, for example. It is just that we go so much farther on planes. Currently, aviation accounts for only a few percent of overall carbon emissions, but that is changing for two reasons.
Electric cars are big news these days and so are self-driving cars. But now there is about to be an electric, self-navigating cargo ship. The soon-to-be-finished ship is called the Yara Birkeland, and is being built under a partnership between two Norwegian companies.
Electric cars represent only a tiny fraction of the overall auto market. The numbers are growing, most certainly, but they are still quite small in most places. The recent start of production of the Tesla Model 3 has attracted quite a bit of attention to electric cars, but in many countries, there is much more to the story than just media buzz about a new car.
Electric cars have been around for a long, long time. The first ones appeared in the mid-19th century. Around the turn of the 20th century, they were popular for taxi cabs in places like New York City. But within about 10 years, they mostly disappeared. In the 1990s, electric cars had a brief revival with vehicles like the General Motors EV1. But again electric cars mostly vanished.
On the heels of the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, France has rolled out ambitious plans to reduce its carbon footprint even further.
With the arrival of the Chevy Bolt and the long waiting list for the forthcoming Tesla 3, there is starting to be some momentum for electric cars in the United States. But we are still well behind Europe in terms of the significant growth of so-called e-mobility.
Electric cars are generally seen as the way to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the disastrous effects of personal transportation on the environment. They still constitute only a tiny fraction of the cars on the road, but their popularity and availability is growing.
Pretty much every discussion of electric cars, plug-in hybrids and ordinary hybrids starts and ends up with the question of whether they are worth the money. If the reason for buying such a vehicle is strictly economic, then this is the right question to ask. But the naysayers who say such a purchase is foolish may be barking up the wrong tree.