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102 Electric Vehicle Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

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With the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) in recent years, more and more students are writing essays on this important topic. If you're struggling to come up with a unique and interesting essay topic about electric vehicles, you're in luck! In this article, we'll provide you with 102 electric vehicle essay topic ideas and examples to help you get started.

  • The history of electric vehicles and their evolution over time.
  • The environmental benefits of electric vehicles compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars.
  • The economic impact of electric vehicles on the automotive industry.
  • The future of electric vehicles and their potential to revolutionize transportation.
  • The challenges of mass adoption of electric vehicles and how they can be overcome.
  • The role of government incentives and policies in promoting electric vehicle adoption.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.
  • The benefits of electric vehicle technology for reducing air pollution in urban areas.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing dependence on foreign oil.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of different types of electric vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles.
  • The potential for electric vehicle technology to be used in other industries, such as public transportation and delivery services.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on the electricity grid and how it can be managed effectively.
  • The cost comparison of owning and operating an electric vehicle versus a gasoline-powered car.
  • The benefits of electric vehicle incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, for consumers.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on the resale value of traditional gasoline-powered cars.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing noise pollution in urban areas.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in emergency response vehicles, such as ambulances and fire trucks.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality in urban areas.
  • The benefits of electric vehicle technology for reducing maintenance costs and extending the lifespan of the vehicle.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on job creation in the automotive industry and related sectors.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in autonomous driving technology.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing the cost of transportation for consumers.
  • The benefits of electric vehicle technology for reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation sector.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in ride-sharing and car-sharing services.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing the cost of transportation for low-income households.
  • The benefits of electric vehicles for improving the resilience of the electricity grid during natural disasters.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in off-grid communities and remote areas.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
  • The benefits of electric vehicles for reducing the health impacts of air pollution on vulnerable populations.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in emergency response vehicles, such as police cars and ambulances.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing the cost of transportation for businesses.
  • The benefits of electric vehicle technology for reducing the carbon footprint of commercial fleets.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in public transportation systems, such as buses and trains.
  • The impact of electric vehicles on reducing the cost of transportation for government agencies.
  • The benefits of electric vehicles for reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation sector.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be used in long-haul trucking and freight transportation.
  • The benefits of electric vehicles for reducing the carbon footprint of commercial fleets.
  • The potential for electric vehicles to be

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83 Electric Vehicle Essay Topics

🏆 best essay topics on electric vehicle, ✍️ electric vehicle essay topics for college, 👍 good electric vehicle research topics & essay examples, 🌶️ hot electric vehicle ideas to write about.

  • Gas Cars vs.Electric Cars Essay: Compare & Contrast
  • The Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles
  • Tesla in China: Assessing the Electric Vehicles Industry
  • The Advancements in Electric Car Technology
  • Electric Cars: Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Electric Vehicles and Their Environmental Impact
  • Electric and Gasoline-Powered Cars
  • Electric Vehicles vs. Traditional Cars As the price of gasoline continues to grow, understanding the benefits of EVs becomes more crucial, even if a person does not seek to reduce their environmental impact.
  • Electric Vehicles and Their Impact on Climate Change Internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) that have dominated the market over the recent decades are now giving way to electric vehicles (EV) experiencing rapid growth.
  • Transportation: Electric Cars Effects At present, electric cars offer their owners a relatively impressive amount of services and advantages for a comparatively low price.
  • Electric vs. Gas (Internal Combustion Engine) Cars The automotive industry is experiencing some of the most drastic revolutions yet since the inception of the first car by Ford.
  • Electric Cars and Trade Paradigm Global businesses and working environments are complex and require an in-depth assessment of issues for proper management.
  • Electric and Gas-Powered Vehicles Compared With the development of technologies and the growing need to take care of the environment, new models of vehicles started to appear.
  • Environmental Analysis of the Ford Motor Company’s Electric Vehicles The paper provides the findings of a SWOT analysis of Ford company to detect its competitive advantage in the market of electric vehicles.
  • Why an Electric Car Is the Best Option Electric cars have been brought to the market to encourage low-emission vehicles, which will have side advantages for society, the environment, and the economy.
  • The Electric Vehicle Industry in the UK This report will discuss the UK’s net-zero, an overview of the electric vehicle industry, macro-environment analysis, key issues, and a 20-year forecast.
  • Electric Cars and Their Future: Informative Speech Choosing electric cars will reduce the level of gas emissions in the air and provide opportunities for recycling and usage of renewable sources of energy instead of gasoline.
  • Electric Vehicles in the UK Automotive Manufacturing Industry The statistics show that the international manufacturers of engines have a higher tendency of locating their car manufacturing plants in the UK than other nations.
  • Electric Cars as Advances Leading to Sustainability Research shows that utilizing electric vehicles is good for the environment because they emit less pollution than cars running on gas or diesel.
  • Tesla Inc. in the Electric Vehicle Market Tesla developed the Roadster, an electric racing car that could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph as fast as the latest Ferrari models.
  • Electric Vehicles: The Roles in Air Pollution The main purpose of electric vehicles is to eliminate the direct contribution to air pollution through emissions.
  • Electric Vehicles: Addressing Air Pollution The environmental damages and air pollution levels are partially the result of the extensive use of vehicles that run on gas. However, electric vehicles can solve this problem.
  • Electric Cars: On the Way to Improve People’s Life This paper hypothesizes that electric cars improve people’s life for good by significantly diminishing harmful emissions and protecting the natural environment people live in.
  • Switching to Electric Cars: Impact This paper argues that the change to electric cars was caused by the general public’s appeal to nuanced technology that is marketed as more innovative and sustainable.
  • Electric Cars Sales: Impact of High Gas Prices This article dwells on increasing demand for electric cars in the market as a response to the gas price increase and uncertainty surrounding gas supply to the US from Russia.
  • Benefits of Electric Vehicles Compared to Gas Vehicles This essay analyzes several benefits of electric vehicles compared to gas vehicles. It has shown a more positive impact on the environment.
  • General Motors Firm’s Electric Vehicle Innovation The transformation of General Motors into an auto concern that will focus on the transition to electric vehicles is an important step for the company and the entire planet.
  • Climate Change and Tesla’s Electric Cars The paper discusses environmental sustainability. Using Tesla company electric vehicles is the best decision for tackling the climate change problem.
  • Electricity Source Determines Benefits of Electrifying China’s Vehicles Article “Electricity Source Determines Benefits of Electrifying China’s Vehicles” states by reducing emissions from power generation, health, environmental benefits may be achieved.
  • Differences between Gasoline and Electric Cars With increased public concern about global warming and environmental protection, electric cars have become a popular trend in the automotive industry.
  • The Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology Hybrid vehicles have two types of engines which are working together. The powering mechanisms that are used by the two engines are gas, and nickel-metal hydride.
  • Nissan Electric Cars Nowadays and in Future This paper describes and analyzes the situation presented in the article “Nissan Sees 2025 as Turning Point for Electric Cars” by Campbell.
  • Hybrid Electric and Gasoline Powered Vehicles The hybrid electric vehicles are gradually gaining preference over the gasoline-powered vehicles following gradual shifts the global economic dynamics.
  • China’s Electric Vehicle Subsidy Scheme: Rationale and Impacts
  • Electric Vehicles and Their Impact on the Environment
  • Modern Electric Vehicle Technology
  • An Overview of Electric Vehicle Technology
  • Electric Vehicle Development: The Past, Present, and Future
  • Design of On-Line Electric Vehicle
  • The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History
  • Conditional-Logit Bayes Estimators for Consumer Valuation of Electric Vehicle Driving Range
  • The Coming Electric Vehicle Transformation
  • Update on Electric Vehicle Costs in the United States
  • What Are the Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Climate, Air Pollution, and Health?
  • Unpacking the Challenges and Opportunities of Electric Vehicles
  • Realizing the Electric Vehicle Revolution
  • Integration of Electric Vehicles in the Electric Power System
  • Advanced Concepts in Electric Vehicle Design
  • Sustainable Options for Electric Vehicle Technologies
  • Electric Vehicles as a New Power Source for Electric Utilities
  • Analysis of Parameters Influencing Electric Vehicle Range
  • Aggregator-Based Interactive Charging Management System for Electric Vehicle Charging
  • Escaping Lock-In: The Case of the Electric Vehicle
  • Electric Vehicle Battery Technologies
  • Perspectives on Norway’s Supercharged Electric Vehicle Policy
  • Rapid-Charge Electric Vehicle Stations
  • Experiencing Range in an Electric Vehicle: Understanding Psychological Barriers
  • Present Status and Future Trends in Electric Vehicle Propulsion Technologies
  • Sustainable Transportation Based on Electric Vehicle Concepts
  • Electric Vehicle Battery Technologies: From Present State to Future Systems
  • Effectiveness of Electric Vehicle Incentives in the United States
  • The Impact of Electric Vehicle Deployment on Load Management Straregies
  • On the Stability of Preferences and Attitudes Before and After Experiencing an Electric Vehicle
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Their Challenges
  • Impacts of COVID-19 on the Electric Vehicle Industry: Evidence From China
  • An Investigation Into the Impact of Electric Vehicle Load on the Electric Utility Distribution System
  • Unified Modeling of Hybrid Electric Vehicle Drivetrains
  • Electric Vehicle Integration Into Modern Power Networks
  • Optimal Decentralized Protocol for Electric Vehicle Charging
  • The Electric Vehicle: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age
  • Effect of Transmission Design on Electric Vehicle Performance
  • Spatial and Temporal Model of Electric Vehicle Charging Demand
  • Optimal Design of Electric Vehicle Battery Recycling Network From the Perspective of Electric Vehicle Manufacturers
  • The Sociology of the Network: The Case of the Electric Vehicle
  • Mathematical Modeling and Simulation of an Electric Vehicle
  • The Effect of Policy Incentives on Electric Vehicle Adoption
  • A Global Comparison and Assessment of Incentive Policy on Electric Vehicle Promotion
  • Increasing the Market Share of Electric Vehicles
  • Comparison of Electric Motors for Electric Vehicle Application
  • A Matlab-Based Modeling and Simulation Package for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Design
  • Wireless Power Transfer for Electric Vehicle Applications
  • Electric Vehicle Machines and Drives: Design, Analysis and Application
  • Modelling Electric Vehicle Usage Intentions: An Empirical Study in Malaysia

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StudyCorgi. (2023, March 20). 83 Electric Vehicle Essay Topics. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/electric-vehicle-essay-topics/

"83 Electric Vehicle Essay Topics." StudyCorgi , 20 Mar. 2023, studycorgi.com/ideas/electric-vehicle-essay-topics/.

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StudyCorgi . "83 Electric Vehicle Essay Topics." March 20, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/electric-vehicle-essay-topics/.

StudyCorgi . 2023. "83 Electric Vehicle Essay Topics." March 20, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/electric-vehicle-essay-topics/.

These essay examples and topics on Electric Vehicle were carefully selected by the StudyCorgi editorial team. They meet our highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, and fact accuracy. Please ensure you properly reference the materials if you’re using them to write your assignment.

This essay topic collection was updated on January 8, 2024 .

Electric Cars - List of Free Essay Examples And Topic Ideas

State-of-the-art technologies have made a great leap forward compared to the past few years. Various tech companies in the United States do their best to enhance their products and invent new ones that can introduce advantages to the modern world. Hybrid vehicles are among those tech inventions that bring less carbon emissions to the atmosphere and more convenience to human life. This matter can become a good topic for argumentative essays about electric cars. You can mention all the positive and negative points of automotive development and its environmental impact.

Once you select a topic on eco-friendly electric vehicles, some investigation should be done. In writing an argumentative essay, you should provide proof, stat data, or other analytics to justify the benefits of cars consuming electricity or their downsides. Some essay examples on electric cards help you understand how to streamline the content throughout your research paper. Remember that an essay has an appropriate structure that consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion. Not to miss this essential moment, craft an outline for your essay and formulate an engaging thesis statement to put into the introductory part. If you still don’t know what topic to choose, take a look at the list of electric vehicles essay topics on our site.

Electric Cars Vs Hybrid Cars

The question is electric cars vs hybrid cars which one is the better car which one should you buy. Okay first off the question is what actually is a hybrid car? ""A hybrid car is a car with electric motor and a gasoline powered motor. It charges the battery while running while compared to just an electric car considering that electric cars can run out because they are out of extension cord range of an outlet."" Stobing,Chris (2016). What to […]

How Electric Cars Affect our Future

Just as there is a present, there is a future and our technology evolves yearly more efficiently. Some have more effects than others, mainly the most important ones such as transportation. Men have always looked for ways to travel more efficiently, even after making vehicles that run on gas; efficiency could also help our environment, as well. For a couple of years engineers have been working on electric cars and the impact to our environment, as well as long term […]

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles have been recognized as being a key technology in helping reduce future emissions and the amount of energy or power used. The term electric vehicle (EV) is commonly used to refer to three main types of electric automobiles, those being the Battery Electric vehicle (BEV), Hybrid-Electric vehicle (HEV) and the Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicle (pHEV). The Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) has a 2-part drive system, a normal, conventional fuel engine and an electric drive. HEVs are a combination […]

We will write an essay sample crafted to your needs.

Hybrid and Electric Cars are Better for the Environment?

Nowadays most people believe that hybrid and electric cars are better for the environment, but sadly you have been misinformed. What runs a hybrid car? That's easy, a rechargeable battery. Some of you may ask how a battery can possibly be worse than burning fossil fuels and polluting our environment. If you did not already know hybrid cars can be charged like a phone, an easy plug into the wall. Electricity would seem to be a much better alternative to […]

Tesla, Inc. – One of the Well-Known Companies that Produces Electric Cars

The company selected is Tesla, Inc., and the reason why I choose this company is that there is a growing concern among people about climate change and environmental protection. “As part of the historic Paris climate accord, 197 nations representing 97 percent of the world's emissions have committed to national plans to cut carbon pollution, including from motor vehicles which account for 17 percent of global CO2 emissions” (Hwang, 89). Tesla, Inc. is one of the famous companies who design, […]

Elon Musk’s Revolutionary Innovations

Elon Reeve Musk, despite his South African roots, is currently one of the most astounding, and important, American Inventor and Innovator of all time. Throughout his life he has founded many companies, and been an extremely successful, and helpful, entrepreneur. From his company Space X to Tesla, he is working to forward human kinds growth, development, and making the world an all-around better place. Elon has gained a great name for himself and massive success, but he is still working […]

History of Electric Cars

Have you ever wondered the electric car history? Around the 1850s, Scottish inventor, Robert Anderson made the first practical electric car. In 1890, U.S. inventor William Morrison had created his first electric vehicle. In 1859, French physicist Gaston made rechargeable battery’s. In 1893, a handful of electric cars were shown in Chicago. Robert Anderson is the inventor of the first electric carriage. Born in Scotland, he launched the first ever prototype of an electric-powered carriage using non-rechargeable batteries. Although the […]

Are Electric Cars Better than Petrol Diesel Cars?

With the advent of technology everything in this world has changed in some or little ways, in the field of automobile human beings has made a tremendous progress which is implausible. With increase in consumption of fossils fuels it has become a global issue to reduce pollution, moreover to reduce the dependency of countries on other countries for fuel sources. So, car companies came up with idea to make cars which run on an alternative power source. They used natural […]

When Will the Average American Buy their First Electric Car?

As advances in technology come forward, old tech is left behind or rendered obsolete. We are on the verge of another leap in terms of transportation technology and that is the widespread use of electric vehicles instead of standard gas powered vehicles. While not relatively new, electric vehicles have become more and more prevalent in society as the need to transition to a fuel efficient economy becomes ever more important in the United States and abroad. The question that still […]

Global Market of Electric Cars and Participation in it Tesla Inc.

The electric car market is a very prosperous and promising one, which will base and reform the auto market in the foreseen future. There are two main types of electric cars: those that are powered by both electricity and petrol (HEVs and PHEVs) and fully electric vehicles (BEVs), however this case study will focus on fully electric vehicles and elaborate its main opportunities and challenges in the global market. (Ergon, 2018) The electric car industry gained popularity in the last […]

Top 5 Electric Cars of 2018

Electric vehicles are one of the latest innovations in the automotive industry. They help in conserving energy resources like oil and natural gas and have a minimal or zero hazardous effect on the environment. One of the most significant benefits of running an electric car on the road is its zero emission of CO2 gas. Since they use an electric motor rather than a combustion engine, electric cars are much easier to maintain than their predecessors. Top 5 electric cars […]

Finance and Operations: Tesla Inc.

Tesla is an American electric automobile manufacturer was founded in 2003 (Reed, 2020). The current CEO is Elon Musk who joined the company in 2004 (Reed,2020). The organization took on the challenge of bringing electric vehicles to the mass market and has been steadily making progress towards that goal. Tesla has struggled financially trying to survive as a startup in the automotive industry, competing in an already saturated market. Only now is the company close to being profitable. The following […]

Honda’s Roadmap to Tomorrow: Electric Cars, AI, and Green Dreams

Picture this: a future where your car isn’t just a car, but a smart, eco-friendly partner in your daily life. That's the kind of future Honda is gearing up for. Known for its innovative spirit in the world of automobiles, Honda isn't just cruising into the future; it’s accelerating full throttle. From electric dreams to self-driving technologies and a greener vision, let's take a peek at what Honda has in store for us down the road. First off, let's talk […]

Electric Cars: Driving Towards a Greener Future

The world’s economy has gotten much better since the new generation of electric cars has been released; electric cars don't produce any direct emissions, which helps improve the air quality in certain areas. Could you imagine getting sick from breathing outside or seeing someone who means a lot to you feeling ill from bad air quality? Well, that was a big problem before electric cars were introduced. Understanding Electric Cars An automobile that is driven solely by electric motors and […]

Electric Cars: Pros and Cons of the Future of Transportation

The wave of the future has arrived. Electric cars are appearing more frequently than ever before. Now the choice is yours, hit the accelerator on them or leave them in the dust. You turn on the TV and see a commercial about a car. With the new rave on electric cars, most likely, this is the type of car being promoted. However, do you know all of the pros and cons of these vehicles? Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings With […]

Why Electric Cars are the Future of Sustainable Transportation

Nissan's Eco-Friendly Initiatives Industry leaders like Nissan have provided an emissions report, and they include every type of environmentally friendly idea that they're going after. Nissan boasts “the zero-emission Nissan LEAF, which emits no CO2 or other exhaust gases during operation, provides smooth, powerful acceleration, stable handling, and an exceptionally quiet ride.” Nissan and similar companies have made research and development a higher priority since the regulations and governmental goals were placed upon the industry. The effects of these regulations […]

Tesla Motors Financial Analysis

Tesla is an automobile and energy company that was founded in 2003. Currently specializes in electric cars, energy storage and through their SolarCity subsidiary (acquired in 2016), residential solar panels. Tesla’s first vehicle was the Roadster (electric sports car), followed by the Model S (Luxury Sedan), and Model X (Luxury SUV) and late 2017 Model 3(low price, mass market vehicle). Tesla is the only vertically integrated energy company, offering end-to-end clean energy products, including generation (Solar panels), storage (Powerwall) and […]

Electric Cars Vs Gas Cars for Today’s Market

Abstract Today’s car market is vastly expanding, and with all the options, it is hard to figure out which car or truck to choose. This report compares the differencing between electric and gasoline-powered cars. Using the cost, market, and practicality of each gasoline and electric motor conclusions can be made on which power source makes more sense to invest in for today’s market. The cost to own and drive an electric car is about one-third the cost to drive a […]

Tesla Motors is a Leader in the Use of the Latest Technologies in Production

Tesla Motors is an energy corporation with a core goal to be the catalyst for renewable energy products in present day consumer marketplace. Tesla, normally known for their Model S, an electric sports car going zero to sixty in 2.5 seconds, sells plenty more than cars. Tesla gives consumers roof tiles that capture solar energy, a 'Powerwall' offering energy for a two-bedroom home for twenty-four hours, which can also charge Tesla's Model 3 car starting at $35,000, Model S at […]

Tesla Semi Truck is a New Product of Tesla Ink

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Issue Cover

Article Contents

1. introduction, 2. paris purposes and the future we made, 3. the problem of unmaking, 4. conclusion: unmaking and is paris possible, conflict of interest statement, bibliography.

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Electric vehicles: the future we made and the problem of unmaking it

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Jamie Morgan, Electric vehicles: the future we made and the problem of unmaking it, Cambridge Journal of Economics , Volume 44, Issue 4, July 2020, Pages 953–977, https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/beaa022

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The uptake of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), subject to bottlenecks, seems to have reached a tipping point in the UK and this mirrors a general trend globally. BEVs are being positioned as one significant strand in the web of policy intended to translate the good intentions of Article 2 of the Conference of the Parties 21 Paris Agreement into reality. Governments and municipalities are anticipating that a widespread shift to BEVs will significantly reduce transport-related carbon emissions and, therefore, augment their nationally determined contributions to emissions reduction within the Paris Agreement. However, matters are more complicated than they may appear. There is a difference between thinking we can just keep relying on human ingenuity to solve problems after they emerge and engaging in fundamental social redesign to prevent the trajectories of harm. BEVs illustrate this. The contribution to emissions reduction per vehicle unit may be less than the public initially perceive since the important issue here is the lifecycle of the BEV and this is in no sense zero-emission. Furthermore, even though one can make the case that BEVs are a superior alternative to the fossil fuel-powered internal combustion engine, the transition to BEVs may actually facilitate exceeding the carbon budget on which the Paris Agreement ultimately rests. Whether in fact it does depends on the nature of the policy that shapes the transition. If the transition is a form of substitution that conforms to rather than shifts against current global scales and trends in private transportation, then it is highly likely that BEVs will be a successful failure. For this not to be the case, then the transition to BEVs must be coordinated with a transformation of the current scales and trends in private transportation. That is, a significant reduction in dependence on and individual ownership of powered vehicles, a radical reimagining of the nature of private conveyance and of public transportation.

According to the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the Tesla Model 3 sold 2,685 units in December 2019, making it the 9th best-selling car in the country in that month (by new registrations; in August, a typically slow month for sales, it had been 3rd with 2,082 units sold; Lea, 2019; SMMT, 2019 ). As of early 2020, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the new Hyundai Electric Kona had a two-year waiting list for delivery and the Kia e-Niro a one-year wait. The uptake of electric vehicles, subject to bottlenecks, seems to have reached a tipping point in the UK and this transcends the popularity of any given model. This possible tipping point mirrors a general trend globally (however, see later for quite what this means). At the regional, national and municipal scale, public health and environmentally informed legislation are encouraging vehicle manufacturers to invest heavily in alternative fuel vehicles and, in particular, BEVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which are jointly categorised within ‘ultra-low emission vehicles’ (ULEVs). 1 According to a report by Deloitte, more than 20 major cities worldwide announced plans in 2017–18 to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2030 or sooner ( Deloitte, 2018 , p. 5). All the major manufacturers have or are launching BEV models, and so vehicles are becoming available across the status and income spectrum that has in the past determined market segmentation. According to the consultancy Frost & Sullivan (2019) , there were 207 models (143 BEVs, 64 PHEVs) available globally in 2018 compared with 165 in 2017.

In 2018, the UK government published its Road to Zero policy commitment and introduced the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 , which empowers future governments to regulate regarding the required infrastructure. Road to Zero announced an ‘expectation’ that between 50% and 70% of new cars and vans will be electric by 2030 and the intention to ‘end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040’, with the ‘ambition’ that by 2050 almost all vehicles on the road will be ‘zero-emission’ at the point of use ( Department for Transport, 2018 ). Progress towards these goals was to be reviewed 2025. 2 However, on 4 February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that in the run-up to Conference of the Parties (COP)26 in Glasgow (now postponed), Britain would bring forward its 2040 goal to 2035. The UK is a member of the Clean Energy Ministerial Campaign (CEM), which launched the EV30@30 initiative in 2017, and its Road to Zero policy commitments broadly align with those of many European countries. 3 Norway has longstanding generous incentives for BEVs ( Holtsmark and Skonhoft, 2014 ) and 31% of all cars sold in 2018 and just under 50% in the first half of 2019 in Norway were BEVs. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Norway is the per capita global leader in electric vehicle uptake ( IEA, 2019A ). 4

BEVs, then, are being positioned as one significant strand in the web of policy intended to translate the good intentions of Article 2 of the COP 21 Paris Agreement into reality (see Morgan, 2016 ; IEA, 2019A , pp. 11–2). Clearly, governments and municipalities are anticipating that a widespread shift to electric vehicles will significantly reduce transport-related carbon emissions and, therefore, augment their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to emissions reduction within the Paris Agreement. And, since the BEV trend is global, the impacts potentially also apply to countries whose relation to Paris is more problematic, including the USA (for Trump and his context, see Gills et al. , 2019 ). However, matters are more complicated than they may appear. Clearly, innovation and technological change are important components in our response to the challenge of climate change. However, there is a difference between thinking we can just keep relying on human ingenuity to solve problems after they emerge and engaging in fundamental social redesign to prevent the trajectories of harm. BEVs illustrate this. In what follows we explore the issues.

The aim of this paper, then, is to argue that it is a mistake to claim, assert or assume that BEVs are necessarily a panacea for the emissions problem. To do so would be an instance of what ecological economists refer to as ‘technocentrism’, as though simply substituting BEVs for existing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles was sufficient. The literature on this is, of course, vast, if one consults specialist journals or recent monographs (e.g. Chapman, 2007 ; Bailey and Wilson, 2009 ; Williamson et al. , 2018 ), but remains relatively under-explored in general political economy circles at a time of ‘Climate Emergency’, and so warrants discussion in introductory and indicative fashion, setting out, however incompletely, the range of issues at stake. To be clear, the very fact that there is a range is itself important. BEVs are technology, technologies have social contexts and social contexts include systemic features and related attitudes and behaviours. Technocentrism distracts from appropriate recognition of this. At its worse, technocentrism fails to address and so works to reproduce a counter-productive ecological modernisation: the technological focus facilitates socio-economic trends, which are part of the broader problem rather than solutions to it. In the case of BEVs, key areas to consider and points to make include:

Transport is now one of, if not, the major source of carbon emissions in the UK and in many other countries. Transport emissions stubbornly resist reduction. The UK, like many other countries, exhibits contradictory trends and policy claims regarding future carbon emissions reductions. As such, it is an error to simply assume prior emissions reduction trends will necessarily continue into the future, and the new net-zero goal highlights the short time line and urgency of the problem.

Whilst BEVs are, from an emissions point of view, a superior technology to ICE vehicles, this is less than an ordinary member of the public might think. ‘Embodied emissions’, ‘energy mix’ and ‘life cycle’ analysis all matter.

There is a difference between ‘superior technology’ and ‘superior choice’, the latter must also take account of the scale of and general trend growth in vehicle ownership and use. It is this that creates a meaningful context for what substitution can be reasonably expected to achieve.

A 1:1 substitution of BEVs for ICE vehicles and general growth in the number of vehicles potentially violates the Precautionary Principle. It creates a problem that did not need to exist, e.g. since there is net growth, it involves ‘emission reductions’ within new emissions sources and this is reckless. Inter alia , a host of fallacies and other risks inherent to the socio-economy of BEVs and resource extraction/dependence also apply.

As such, it makes more sense to resist rather than facilitate techno-political lock-in or path-dependence on private transportation and instead to coordinate any transition to BEVs with a more fundamental social redesign of public transport and transport options.

This systematic statement should be kept in mind whilst reading the following. Cumulatively, the points stated facilitate appropriate consideration of the question: What kind of solution are BEVs to what kind of problem? And we return to this in the conclusion. It is also worth bearing in mind, though it is not core to the explicit argument pursued, that an economy is a complex evolving open system and economics has not only struggled to adequately address this in general, it has particularly done so in terms of ecological issues (for relevant critique, see especially the work of Clive Spash and collected, Fullbrook and Morgan, 2019 ). 5 Since we assume limited prior knowledge on the part of the reader, we begin by briefly setting out the road to the current carbon budget problem.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created in 1992. Article 2 of the Convention states its goal as, the ‘stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’ ( UNFCCC, 1992 , p. 4; Gills and Morgan, 2019 ). Emissions are cumulative because emitted CO 2 can stay in the atmosphere for well over one hundred years (other greenhouse gases [GHGs] tend to be of shorter duration). Our climate future is made now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) collates existent models to produce a forecast range and has typically used atmospheric CO 2 of 450 ppm as a level likely to trigger a 2°C average warming. This has translated into a ‘carbon budget’ restricting total cumulative emissions to the lower end of 3,000+ Gigatonnes of CO 2 (GtCO 2 ). In the last few years, climate scientists have begun to argue that positive feedback loops with adverse warming and other climatological and ecological effects may be underestimated in prior models (see Hansen et al. , 2017 ; Steffen et al. , 2018 ). Such concerns are one reason why Article 2 of the UNFCCC COP 21 Paris Agreement included a goal of at least trying to do better than the 2°C target—restricting warming to 1.5°C. This further restricts the available carbon budget. However, current Paris Agreement country commitments stated as NDCs look set to exceed the 3,000+ target in a matter of a few short years ( UNFCCC, 2015 ; Morgan, 2016 , 2017 ).

Since the industrial revolution began, we have already produced more than 2,000 GtCO 2 . Total annual emissions have increased rather than decreased over the period in which the problem has been recognised. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) publishes periodic ‘emissions gap’ reports. Its recent 10-year summary report notes that emissions grew at an average 1.6% per year from 2008 to 2017 and ‘show no signs of peaking’ ( Christensen and Olhoff, 2019 , p. 3). In 2018, the 9th Report stated that annual emissions in 2017 stood at a record of 53.5 Gigatonnes of CO 2 and equivalents (GtCO 2e ) ( UNEP, 2018 , p. xv). This compares to less than 25 GtCO 2 in 2000 and far exceeds on a global basis the level in the Kyoto Protocol benchmark year of 1990. According to the 9th Emissions Gap Report, 184 parties to the Paris Agreement had so far provided NDCs. If these NDCs are achieved, annual emissions in 2030 are projected to still be 53 GtCO 2e . However, if the current ‘implementation deficit’ continues global annual emissions could increase by about 10% to 59 GtCO 2e . This is because current emissions policy is not sufficient to offset the ‘key drivers’ of ‘economic growth and population growth’ ( Christensen and Olhoff, 2019 , p. 3). By sharp contrast, the IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 ° C report states that annual global emissions must fall by 45% from the 2017 figure by 2030 and become net zero by mid-century in order to achieve the Paris target ( IPCC, 2018 ). According to the subsequent 10th Emissions Gap Report, emissions increased yet again to 55.3 GtCO 2e in 2018 and, as a result of this adverse trend, emissions need to fall by 7.6% per year from 2020 to 2030 to achieve the IPCC goal, and this contrasts with less than 4% had reductions begun in 2010 and 15% if they are delayed until 2025 ( UNEP 2019A ). Current emissions trends mean that we will achieve an additional 500 GtCO 2 quickly and imply an average warming of 3 to 4°C over the rest of the century and into the next. We are thus on track for the ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’ that the COP process is intended to prevent ( UNFCCC, 1992 , p. 4). According to the 10th Emissions Gap Report, 78% of all emissions derive from the G-20 nations, and whilst many countries had recognised the need for net zero, only 5 countries of the G-20 had committed to this and none had yet submitted formal strategies. COP 25, December 2019, meanwhile, resulted in no overall progress other than on measurement and finance (for detailed analysis, see Newell and Taylor, 2020 ). As such, the situation is urgent and becoming more so.

Problems, moreover, have already begun to manifest ( UNEP 2019B , 2019B ; IPCC 2019A , 2019B ). Climate change does not respect borders, some countries may be more adversely affected sooner than others, but there is no reason to assume that cumulative effects will be localised. Moreover, there is no reason to assume that they will be manageable based on our current designs for life. In November 2019, several prominent systems and climate scientists published a survey essay in Nature highlighting nine critical climate tipping points that we are either imminently approaching or may have already exceeded ( Lenton et al. , 2018 ). In that same month, more than 11,250 scientists from 153 countries (the Alliance of World Scientists) signed a letter published in BioScience concurring that we now face a genuine existential ‘Climate Emergency’ and warning of ‘ecocide’ if ‘major transformations’ are not forthcoming ( Ripple et al. , 2019 ). We live in incredibly complex interconnected societies based on long supply chains and just in time delivery–few of us (including nations) are self-sufficient. Global human civilisation is extremely vulnerable and the carbon emission problem is only one of several conjoint problems created by our expansionary industrialised-consumption system. Appropriate and timely policy solutions are, therefore, imperative. Cambridge now has a Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and Oxford a Future of Humanity Institute (see also Servigne and Stevens, 2015 ). This is serious research, not millenarian cultishness. The Covid-19 outbreak only serves to underscore the fragility of our systems. As Michael Marmot, Professor of epidemiology has commented, the outbreak reveals not only how political decisions can make systems more vulnerable, but also how governments can, when sufficiently motivated, take immediate and radical action (Harvey, 2020). To reiterate, however, according to both the IPCC and UNEP, emissions must fall drastically. 6

Policy design and implementation are mainly national (domestic). As such, an initial focus on the UK provides a useful point of departure to contextualise what the transition to BEVs might be expected to achieve.

The UK is a Kyoto and Paris signatory. It is a member of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The UK Climate Change Act 2008 was the world’s first long-term legally binding national framework for targeted statutory reductions in emissions. The Act required the UK to reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (below the 1990 baseline; this has been broadly in line with subsequent EU policy on the subject). 7 The Act put in place a system of five yearly ‘carbon budgets’ to keep the UK on an emissions reduction pathway to 2050. The subsequent carbon budgets have been produced with input from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent body created by the 2008 Act to advise the government. In November 2015, the CCC recommended a target of 57% below 1990 levels by the early 2030s (the fifth carbon budget). 8 Following the Paris Agreement’s new target of 1.5°C and the IPCC and UNEP reports late 2018, the CCC published the report Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming ( CCC, 2019 ). 9 The CCC report recognises that Paris creates additional responsibility for the UK to augment and accelerate its targets within the new bottom-up Paris NDC procedure. The CCC recommended an enhanced UK net-zero GHG emissions target (formally defined in terms of long-term and short-term GHGs) by 2050. This included emissions from aviation and shipping and with no use of strategies that offset or swap real emissions. In June 2019, Theresa May, then UK Prime Minister, committed to adopt the recommendation using secondary legislation (absorbed into the 2008 Act—but without the offset commitment). So, the UK is one of the few G-20 countries to, so far, provide a formal commitment on net zero, though as the UNEP notes, a commitment is not itself necessarily indicative of a realisable strategy. The CCC responded to the government announcement:

This is just the first step. The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole. The government has not yet moved formally to include international aviation and shipping within the target , but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero. We will assist by providing further analysis of how emissions reductions can be delivered in these sectors through domestic and international frameworks. 10

The development of policy is currently in flux during the Covid-19 lockdown and whilst Brexit reaches some kind of resolution. As noted in the Introduction section, however, May’s replacement, Boris Johnson has signalled his government’s commitment to achieving its statutory commitments. However, this has been met with some scepticism, not least because it has not been clear what new powers administrative bodies would have and over and above this many of the Cabinet are from the far right of the Conservative Party, and are on record as climate change sceptics or have a voting record of opposing environmentally focussed investment, taxes, subsidies and prohibitions (including the new Environment Secretary, George Eustice, formerly of UKIP). The policy may and hopefully will change, becoming more concrete, but it is still instructive to assess context and general trends.

The UK has one of the best records in the world on reducing emissions. However, given full context, this is not necessarily a cause for congratulation or confidence. It would be a mistake to think that emissions reduction exhibits a definite rate that can be projected from the past into the future. 11 This applies both nationally and globally. Some sources of relative reduction that are local or national have different significance on a global basis (they are partial transfers) and overall the closer one approaches net zero the more resistant or difficult it is likely to become to achieve reductions. The CCC has already begun to signal that the UK is now failing to meet its existent budgets. This follows periods of successive emissions reductions. According to the CCC, the UK has reduced its GHG emissions by approximately one-third since 1990. ‘Per capita emissions are now close to the global average at 7–8 tCO 2 e/person, having been over 50% above in 2008’ ( CCC, 2019 , p. 46). Other analyses are even more positive. According to Carbon Brief, emissions have fallen in seven consecutive years from 2013 to 2019 and by 40% compared with the 1990 benchmark. Carbon Brief claim that since 2010 the UK has the fastest rate of emissions reduction of any major economy. However, it concurs with the CCC that future likely reductions are less than the UK’s carbon budgets and that the new net-zero commitment requires: amounting to only an additional 10% reduction over the next decade to 2030. 12

Moreover, all analyses agree that the reduction has mainly been achieved by reducing coal output for use in electricity generation (switching to natural gas) and by relative deindustrialisation as the UK economy has continued to grow—manufacturing is a smaller part of a larger service-based economy. 13 And , the data are based on a production focussed accounting system. The accounting system does not include all emissions sources. It does not include those that the UK ‘imports’ based on consumption. UK consumption-based emissions per year are estimated to be about 70% greater than the production measure (for different methods, see DECC, 2015 ). 14 If consumption is included, the main estimates for falling emissions change to around a 10% reduction since 1990. Moreover, much of this has been achieved by relatively invisible historic transitions as the economy has evolved in lock-step with globalisation. That is, reductions have been ones that did not require the population to confront behaviours as they have developed. No onerous interventions have been imposed, as yet . 15 However, it does not follow that this can continue, since future reductions are likely to be more challenging. The UK cannot deindustrialise again (nor can the global economy, as is, simply deindustrialise in aggregate if final consumption remains the primary goal), and the UK has already mainly switched from coal energy production. Emissions from electricity generation may fall but it also matters what the electricity is being used to power. In any case, future emissions reductions, in general, require more effective changes in other sectors, and this necessarily seems to require everyone to question their socio-economic practices. Transport is a key issue.

As a ‘satellite’ of its National Accounts, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes Environmental Accounts and these data are used to measure progress. Much of the data refer to the prior year or earlier. In 2017, UK GHG emissions were reported to be 566 million tonnes CO 2 e (2% less than 2016 and, as already noted about one-third of the 1990 level; ONS, 2019 ). The headline accounts break this down into four categories (for which further subdivisions are produced by various sources) and we can usefully contrast 1990 and recent data ( ONS, 2019 , p. 4):

Top 4 sectors for GHG emissions in the UK1990 MtCO e2017 MtCO e
Electricity supply217100
Manufacturing18086
Household142144
Transport & storage6683
Total for all sectors794566

The Environmental Accounts’ figures indicate some shifting in the relative sources of emissions over the last 30 years. As we have intimated, electricity generation and manufacturing have experienced reduced emissions, though they are far from zero; household and transport, meanwhile, have remained stubbornly high. Moreover, the accounts are also slightly misleading for the uninitiated, since transport refers to the industry and not all transport. Domestic car ownership and use are part of the household sector, and it is the continued dependence on car ownership that provides, along with heating and insulation issues, one of the major sources of the persistently high level of household emissions. The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) provides differently organised statistics and attributes cars to its transport category and uses a subsequent residential category rather than household category. The Department’s statistical release in 2018 thus attributes a higher 140 MtCO 2 e to transport for 2016, whilst the residential category is a correspondingly lower figure of approximately 106 MtCO 2 e. The 140 MtCO 2 e is just slightly less than the equivalent figure for 1990, although transport achieved a peak of about 156 MtCO 2 e in 2005 ( DBEIS, 2018 , pp. 8–9). As of 2016, transport becomes the largest source of emissions based on DBEIS data (exceeding energy supply) whilst households become the largest in the Environmental Accounts. In any case, looking across both sets of accounts, the important point here is that since 1990 transport as a source of emissions has remained stubbornly high. Transport emissions have been rising as an industrial sector in the Environmental Accounts or relatively consistent and recently rising in its total contribution in the DBEIS data. The CCC Net Zero report draws particular attention to this. Drawing on the DBEIS data, it states that ‘Transport is now the largest source of UK GHG emissions (23% of the total) and saw emissions rise from 2013 to 2017’ ( CCC, 2019 , p. 48). More generally, the report states that despite some progress in terms of the UK carbon budgets, ‘policy success and progress in reducing emissions has been far from universal’ ( CCC, 2019 , p. 48). The report recommends ( CCC, 2019 , pp. 23–6, 34):

A fourfold increase by 2050 in low carbon (renewables) electricity

Developing energy storage (to enhance the use of renewables such as wind)

Energy-efficient buildings and a shift from gas central heating and cooking

Halting the accumulation of biodegradable waste in landfills

Developing carbon capture technology

Reducing agricultural emissions (mainly dairy but also fertiliser use)

Encouraging low or no meat diets

Land management to increase carbon retention/absorption

Rapid transition to electric vehicles and public transport

As we noted in the Introduction section, the UK Department for Transport Road To Zero document stated a goal of ending the sale of conventional diesel- and petrol-powered ICE vehicles by 2040. The CCC suggested improving on this:

Electric vehicles. By 2035 at the latest all new cars and vans should be electric (or use a low-carbon alternative such as hydrogen). If possible, an earlier switchover (e.g. 2030) would be desirable, reducing costs for motorists and improving air quality. This could help position the UK to take advantage of shifts in global markets. The Government must continue to support strengthening of the charging infrastructure, including for drivers without access to off-street parking. ( CCC, 2019 , p. 34)

The UK government’s response to these and other similar suggestions has been to bring the target date forward to 2035 and to propose that the prohibition will also apply to hybrids. However, the whole is set to go out to consultation and no detail has so far (early 2020) been forthcoming. In its 11 March 2020 Budget, the government also committed £1 billion to ‘green transport solutions’, including £500 million to support the rollout of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, whilst extending the current grant/subsidy scheme for new electric vehicles (albeit at a reduced rate of £3000 from £3500 per new registration). It has also signalled that it may tighten the timeline for sales prohibition further to 2030. 16 As a policy, much of this is, ostensibly at least, positive, but there is a range of issues that need to be considered regarding what is being achieved. The context of transition matters and this may transcend the specifics of current policy.

3.1 BEV transition: life cycles?

The CCC is confident that a transition to electric vehicles can be a constructive contribution to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century. However, the point is not unequivocal. The previously quoted CCC communique following the UK government’s commitment to implement Net Zero uses the phrase ‘credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole’, and the CCC report places an emphasis on BEVs and a transition to public transport. The relative dependence between these two matters (and see Conclusion). BEVs are potentially (almost) zero emissions in use. But they are not zero emissions in practice. Given this, then the substitution of BEVs for current carbon-powered ICEs is potentially problematic, depending on trends in ownership of and use of powered vehicles (private transportation). These points will become clearer as we proceed.

BEVs are not zero emission in context and based on the life cycle. This is for two basic reasons. First, a BEV is a powered vehicle and so the source of power can be from carbon-based energy supply sources (and this varies with the ‘energy mix’ of electricity production in different countries; IEA, 2019A , p. 8). Second, each new vehicle is a material product. Each vehicle is made of metals, plastics, rubber and so forth. Just the cabling in a car can be 60 kg of metals. All the materials must be mined and processed, or synthesised, the parts must be manufactured, transported and assembled, transported again for sale and then delivered. For example, according to the SMMT in 2016, only 12% of cars sold in the UK were built in the UK and 80% of those built in the UK were exported in that year. Some components (such as a steering column) enter and exit the UK multiple times whilst being built and modified and before final assembly. Vehicle manufacture is a global business in terms of procuring materials and a mainly regional (in the international sense) business in terms of component manufacture for assembly and final sales. Power is used throughout this process and many miles are travelled. Moreover, each vehicle must be maintained and serviced thereafter, which compounds this utilisation of resources. BEVs are a subcategory of vehicles and production locations are currently more concentrated than for vehicles in general (Tesla being the extreme). 17 In any case, producing a BEV is an economic activity and it is not environmentally costless. As Georgescu-Roegen (1971) noted long ago and ecologically minded economists continue to highlight (see Spash, 2017 ; Holt et al. , 2009 ), production cannot evade thermodynamic consequences. In terms of BEVs, the primary focus of analysis in this second sense of manufacturing as a source of contributory emissions has been the carbon emissions resulting from battery production. Based on current technology, batteries are heavy (a significant proportion of the weight of the final vehicle) and energy intensive to produce.

Comparative estimates regarding the relative life cycle emissions of BEVs with equivalent fossil fuel-powered vehicles are not new. 18 Over the last decade, the number of life cycle studies has steadily risen as the interest in and uptake of BEVs have increased. Clearly, there is great scope for variation in findings, since the energy mix for electricity supply varies by country and the assumptions applied to manufacturing can vary between studies. At the same time, the general trend over the last decade has been for the energy mix in many countries to include more renewables and for manufacturing to become more energy efficient. This is partly reflected in metrics based on emissions per $GDP, which in conjunction with relative expansion in service sectors are used to establish ‘relative decoupling’. So, given that both the energy mix of power production and the emissions derived from production can improve, then one might expect a general trend of improved emissions claims for BEVs in recent years and this seems to be the case.

For example, if we go back to 2010, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering found that technology would likely favour PHEVs over BEVs in the near future because the current energy mix and state of battery technology indicated that emissions deriving from charging were typically higher for BEVs than an average ordinary car’s fuel consumption—providing a reason to persist with ICE vehicles or, more responsibly, choose hybrids over pure electric ( Royal Academy of Engineering, 2010 ). Using data up to 2013, but drawing on the previous decade, Holtsmark and Skonhoft (2014) come to similar conclusions based on the most advanced BEV market—Norway. Focussing mainly on energy mix (with acknowledgement that a full life cycle needs to be assessed) they are deeply sceptical that BEVs are a significant net reduction in carbon emissions ( Holtsmark and Skonhoft, 2014 , pp. 161, 164). Neither the Academy nor Holtsmark and Skonhoft are merely sceptical. The overall point of the latter was that more needed to be done to accelerate the use of low or no carbon renewables for power infrastructure (a point the CCC continues to make). This, of course, has happened in many places, including the UK. That is, acceleration of the use of renewables, though it is by no means the case government can take direct credit for this in the UK (and there is also evidence on a global level that a transition to clean energy from fossil fuel forms is much slower than some data sources indicate; see Smil, 2017A , 2017B ). 19 In terms of BEVs, however, recent analyses are considerably more optimistic regarding emissions potential per BEV (e.g. Hoekstra, 2019 ; Regett et al. , 2019 ). Research by Staffell et al. (2019) at Imperial for the power corporation, Drax, provides some interesting insights and contemporary metrics.

Staffell et al. split BEVs into three categories based on conjoint battery and vehicle size: a 30–45 kWh battery car, equivalent to a mid-range or standard car; a heavier, longer-range, 90–100 kWh battery car, equivalent to a luxury or SUV model; and a 30–40 kWh battery light van. They observe that a 40-litre tank of petrol releases 90–100 kgCO 2 when burnt and the ‘embodied’ emissions represented by the manufacture of a standard lithium-ion battery are estimated at 75–125 kgCO 2 per kWh. They infer that every kWh of power embodied in the manufacture of a battery is, therefore, approximately equivalent to using a full tank of petrol. For example, a 30 kWh battery embodies thirty 40-litre petrol tank’s worth of emissions. The BEV’s are also a source of emissions based on the energy mix used to charge the battery for use. The in-use emissions for the BEV are a consequence of the energy consumed per km and this depends on the weight of car and efficiency of the battery. 20 They estimate 33 gCO 2 per km for standard BEVs, 44–54 gCO 2 for luxury and SUVs and 40 gCO 2 for vans. In all cases, this is significantly less than an equivalent fossil-fuel vehicle.

The insight that the estimates and comparisons are leading towards is that the battery embodies an ‘upfront carbon cost’ which can be gradually ‘repaid’ by the saving on emissions represented by driving a BEV compared with driving an equivalent fossil fuel-powered vehicle. That is, the environmental value of opting for BEVs increases over time. Moreover, if the energy mix is gradually becoming less carbon based, this effect is likely to improve further. Based on these considerations, Staffell et al. estimate that it may take 2–4 years to repay the embodied emissions in the battery for a standard BEV and 5 to 6 for the luxury or SUV models. Fundamentally, assuming 15 years to be typical for the on-the-road life expectancy of a vehicle, they find lifetime emissions for each BEV category are lower than equivalent fossil-fuel vehicles.

Still, the implication is that BEVs are not zero emission. Moreover, the degree to which this is so is likely to be significantly greater than a focus on the battery alone indicates. Romare and Dahlöff (2017) , assess the life-cycle of battery production (not use), and in regard of the stages of battery production find that the manufacturing stages account for about 50% of the emissions and the mining and processing stages about the same. They infer that there is significant scope for further emissions reductions as manufacturing processes improve and the Drax study seems to confirm this. However, whilst the battery may be the major component, as we have already noted, vehicle manufacture is a major process in terms of all components and in terms of distance travelled in production and distribution. It is also worth noting that the weight of batteries creates strong incentives to opt for lighter materials for other parts of the vehicle. Most current vehicles are steel based. An aluminium vehicle is lighter, but the production of aluminium is more carbon intensive than steel, so there are also further hidden trade-offs that the positive narrative for BEVs must consider. 21

The general point worth emphasising here is that there is basic uncertainty built into the complex evolving process of transition and change. There is a basic ontology issue here familiar in economic critique: there is no simple way to model the changes with confidence, and in broader context confidence in modelling may itself be a problem here when translated into policy, since it invites complacency. 22 That said, the likely direction of travel is towards further improvements in the energy mix and improvements in battery technology. Both these may be incremental or transformational depending on future technologies (fusion for energy mix and organics and solid-state technologies for batteries perhaps). 23 But one must still consider time frames and ultimate context. 24 The context is a carbon budget and the need for radical reductions in emissions by 2030 and net zero by mid-century. Consider: if just the battery of a car requires four years to be paid back then there is no significant difference in the contribution to emissions from the vehicle into the mid 2020s. For larger vehicles, this becomes the later 2020s, and each year of delay in transition for the individual owner is another year closer to 2030. Since transport is (stubbornly) the major source of emissions in the UK and a major source in the world, this is not irrelevant. BEVs can readily be a successful failure in Paris terms. This brings us to the issue of trends in vehicle ownership and substitutions. This also matters for what we mean by transition.

3.2 Substitutions and transformations: successful failure?

There are many ways to consider the problem of transition. Consider the ‘Precautionary Principle’. This is Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration: ‘In order to protect the environment, the precautionary principle shall be widely applied by the States [UN members] according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation’ (UNCED). Assuming we can simply depend on unrealised technology potentially violates the Principle. Why is this so? If BEVs are a source of net emissions, then each new vehicle continues to contribute to overall emissions. The current number of vehicles to be replaced, therefore, is a serious consideration, as is any growth trend. Here, social redesign rather than merely adopting new technology is surely more in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. BEVs may be sources of lower emissions than fossil fuel-powered vehicles, but it does not follow that we are constrained to choose between just these two options or that it makes sense to do so in aggregate, given the objective of radical and rapid reduction in emissions. If time is short and numbers of vehicles are large and growing then the implication is that substitution of BEVs should (from a precautionary point of view) occur in a context that is oppositional to this growing trend. That is, the goal should be one of reducing private car ownership and use, and increasing the availability, pervasiveness and use of public transport (and alternatives to private vehicle ownership). This is an issue compounded by the finding that there is an upfront carbon cost from BEVs. Some consideration of current vehicle numbers and trends in the UK and globally serve to reinforce the point.

The UK Department for Transport publishes annual statistics for vehicle licensing. According to the 2019 statistical release for 2018 data, there were 38.2 million licensed vehicles in Britain and 39.4 million including Northern Ireland ( Department for Transport, 2019 ). Vehicles are categorised into cars, light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, motorcycles and buses and coaches. Cars comprised 31.5 million of the total (82%) and the total represented a 1.2% increase in the year 2017. There is, furthermore, a long-term year-on-year trend increase in vehicles since World War II and over the last 20 years that growth (the net change as new vehicles are licensed and old vehicles taken off the road) has averaged 630,000 vehicles per year ( Department for Transport, 2019 , p. 7). This is partly accounted for not only by population growth, and business growth, but also by an increase in the number of vehicles per household. According to the statistical release, 2.9 million new vehicles were registered in 2018, and though this was about 5% fewer than 2017 the figure remained broadly consistent with long-term trends in numbers and still represented growth (contributing to the stated 1.2% increase). 25 Of the total new registrations in 2018, 2.3 million were cars and 360,000 were light goods vehicles. Around 2 million has been typical for cars.

The point to take from these metrics is that numbers are large and context matters. Cars represent 31.5 million emission sources and there are 39.4 million vehicles in the UK. Replacing these 1:1 reproduces an emissions problem. Replacing them in conjunction with an ownership growth trend exacerbates the emissions problem that then has to be resolved. If around 2 million new cars are registered per year then the point at which the BEVs amongst these new registrations can be assumed to begin payback for embodied emissions prior to the point at which they become net sources of reduced (and not zero ) emissions is staggered over future years based on the rate of switching. There are then also net new vehicles. Given there are 31.5 million cars to be replaced over time (plus net growth), there is a high likelihood of significant transport emissions up to and beyond 2030. The problem, of course, is implicit in the Department for Transport policy commitment to end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 and ensure all vehicles are zero-emission in use by 2050. Knowingly committing to this ingrained emission problem, given we have already recognised the urgency and challenge of the carbon budget and the ‘stubbornness’ of transport emissions, is not prudent, if alternatives exist . It is producing a problem that need not exist purely because enabling car ownership and use is a line of least resistance in policy terms (it requires the least change in behaviour and thus provokes limited opposition). It is also worth noting that the UK, like most countries, has an ‘integrated’ transport policy. However, the phrasing disguises the relative levels of investment between different modes of transport. Austerity politics may have resulted in declining road quality in the UK but, in general terms, the UK is still committed to heavy investment in and expansion of its road system. 26 This infrastructure investment not only seems ‘economically rational’, but it is also a matter of relative emphasis and ‘lock-in’. The future policy is predicated on the dominance of road use and thus vehicle use.

The crux of the matter here is how we view political expedience. Surely this hinges on the consequences of policy failure. That is, the failure to implement an effective policy given the genuine problem expressed in the goal of 1.5 or 2°C. ‘Alternatives’ may seem unrealistic, but this is a matter of will and policy—of rational social design rather than impossibility. The IPCC and other sources suggest that achieving the Paris goals requires mobilisation of a kind not previously seen outside of wartime. Policy can pivot on this quite quickly, even if perhaps this can seem unlikely in 2020. Climate events may make this necessary and popular pressure and opinion may be transformed. This is currently uncertain. Positions on this may yet move quite quickly.

Lock-in also implies an underlying sociological issue. This is important to consider regarding simply opting for substitution without greater emphasis on reduction. Even if substitution occurs smoothly, it places greater pressure on areas of reduction over which we have less control as societies and involves an orientation that has further potential policy consequences that cannot be readily quantified and which increase the overall uncertainty regarding NDCs. As any modern historian, urban geographer or sociologist will attest, car ownership has been imbricate with the development and design—the configuration—of modern societies, and it has been deeply integrated into identity. Cars are social technologies and philosophers also have much to say about this sociality in general (e.g. Faulkner and Runde, 2013 ; Lawson, 2017 ). Cars are more than merely convenient; they are sources of autonomy and status (e.g. John Urry explored the sociology of ‘automobility’; see, Dennis and Urry, 2009 ). As such, the more that environmental and transport policy validate the car, then the more that the car is normalised through socialisation for the citizen, perhaps leading to citizens being more prepared to countenance locked-in harms (congestion, etc.) prior to change, in turn, making it less likely (sub)urban spaces are redesigned in ways predicated on the absence of (or severe limits to) private transport. The trend in many countries over the car era has been that building roads leads to more car use, which leads to congestion, which leads to more roads (especially in concentrated zones around [sub]urban spaces).

According to the UK Ordnance Survey, Britain has increased its total road surface by 132 square miles over the decade since 2010 (a 9% increase). According to the UK Department for Transport, vehicle traffic increased by 0.8% in 2019 (September to September) to 330.1 billion miles travelled and car travel, as a subset, increased to 258 billion miles (a 1.5% increase). 27 The 11 March 2020 Budget seems to confirm the trend. Whilst it commits around £1 billion to ‘green transport solutions’, this is in the context of a £27 billion announced investment in roads, including upgrading and a proposed 4,000 miles of new road. As the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, noted there is a basic disconnect here, since this seems set to increase the UK’s dependence on private transport, when it makes more sense to begin to curtail that dependence, given how significant the UK’s transport emissions are. 28 So, within the various tensions in policy, there seems to be a tendency to facilitate techno-political lock-in or path-dependence on private transportation. As Mattioli et al. (2020) argue, the multiple strands of policy and practice that maintain car dependence contribute to ‘carbon lock-in’. The systemic consequences matter both for the perpetuation of fossil fuel vehicle use in the short term and, given they are not net zero for emissions, powered vehicles in the longer term. Not only does this matter in the UK, but it also matters globally. All the issues stated are reproduced globally. Moreover, in some ways, they are compounded for countries where widespread car ownership is relatively new.

3.3 The fallacy of composition, problems that need not exist and resource risk

Estimates vary for the global total number of vehicles. According to Wards Intelligence, the global total was 1.32 billion in 2016 ( Petit, 2017 ). Extrapolated estimations imply that the total likely increased to more than 1.5 billion in 2019. In 1976, the figure was 342 million and in 1996, 670 million, so the trend implies an approximate doubling every 20 years, which if it continued would imply a figure approaching 3 billion by end of the 2030s. Clearly, it is problematic to simply extrapolate a linear trend, but it is not unreasonable to assume a general trend of growth. Observed experience is that many ‘developed’ country middle-class households have accommodated more than one car per household. This is classically the case in the USA. In 2017, the USA, with a population of 325.7 million in that year, reported a total of 272.5 million registered vehicles compared with 193 million in 1990 ( Statista, 2019A ). In any case, the world population is still growing, incomes are growing and many countries are far from a position of one car per household. China with a population of 1.3 billion overtook the USA in the total number of registered vehicles around 2016 to 2017, with 300.3 million registered vehicles in March of 2017 (Zheng, 2017). Growth is rapid and the China Traffic Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security reported a total of 325 million registered vehicles, December 2018, an increase of 15.56 million in the year ( China Daily , 2018 ). The People’s Republic is now the world’s largest car market and the number of registered cars increased to 240 million in 2018 ( Statista, 2019B ). India too has rapidly growing car ownership and on a lesser scale this is replicated across the developing world.

For our purposes, two well-known concepts and a further resource dependence risk seem to apply here. First, there is patently a ‘fallacy of composition’ issue. That is, the assumption that many can do what few previously did without changing the conditions or producing different (adverse) consequences than arose when only a few adopted that behaviour or activity. Those consequences are climatological and ecological. It remains the case that we are socialised to desire and appreciate cars and it remains a fact that private transport can be extremely convenient. It can also, given the commentary above, appear hypocritical to be suggesting shifting to a far greater reliance on public transport, since this implicitly involves denying to developing country citizens a facet of modernity enjoyed previously by developed country citizens. But this is a distraction from the underlying collective interest in reduced car ownership and use. It denies the basic premise that a Precautionary Principle applies to all and that societies that are not yet car dependent have the opportunity to avoid a problem, rather than have to manage it via either moving straight to private transport BEVs or a transition from fossil fuel-powered ICEs to BEVs with all that entails in terms of ingrained emissions. Policy may be mainly domestic, but climate change is global and aggregate effects do not respect borders, which brings us to a second concept or risk that may be exacerbated.

Second, a ‘quasi-Jevons’ effect’ may apply. Growth of vehicle use is a problem of resource use and this is a thermodynamic and emissions problem. However, it is, as we have noted, also the case that battery technology and energy mix for BEVs are improving. So, this may involve significant declines in relative cost, which in turn may create a tendency for BEV ownership to accelerate which could exacerbate net growth in numbers of vehicles. Net growth could ironically be to the detriment of emissions savings. Whether this is so, depends, in part, on what kind of overall transport policy countries adopt and whether consumers, corporations and markets are allowed to be the arbiter of which area of transport dominates. It also depends, in part, on what materials are required for future batteries. Current technology implies massive increases in costs based on securing sources of lithium and cobalt as battery demand rises. So even if a Jevons’ effect is avoided, a different issue may apply. Resource procurement is a Precautionary Principle issue since effective BEVs at the kind of numbers necessary to substitute for all vehicles seem to require technological transformation—without it, multiple problems apply whilst emissions remain ingrained.

For example, when the UK CCC announced its 2035 recommendation to accelerate the BEV transition, members of the Security of Supply of Mineral Resources (SSMR) project wrote a research note to the CCC (Webster, 2019). They pointed out that the current total European demand for cobalt is 19,800 tonnes and that producing the batteries to replace 2.3 million cars in the UK (in accordance with contemporary statistics for new registrations) would require 15,600 tonnes. The UK would also need 20,000 tonnes of lithium, which is 45% of the current total European demand. If we replicate this ramping up of demand across Europe and the globe for vehicles, recognising that there are other growing demands for the minerals and metals (including batteries for other purposes) then it seems unlikely that supply can respond, unless dependence on lithium and cobalt (and other constituents) falls sharply as technology changes. Clearly, the problem is also contingent on the uptake of BEVs. Over recent years, there has, in fact, been an oversupply of the main materials for battery production because several of the main mining corporations anticipated that battery demand would take off faster than it actually has. For example, global prices of cobalt, nickel and lithium carbonate have increased significantly over the last decade but have fallen in 2018 to the end of 2019. However, industry analysis indicates that current annual global production is the equivalent of about 10 million standard BEVs based on current technology, and as the previous statistics on global vehicle numbers (see also next section) indicate, this is far less than transition via substitution would seem to require in the next decade. 29

Shortages and price rises, therefore, are if not inevitable, at least likely. Currently, about 60% of the cost of a BEV is the battery and 80% of that 60% (about 50% of the vehicle) is the cost of battery materials. It is, therefore, important to achieve secure supply and stable costs. The further context here is the issue of UK domestic battery capacity. In 2013, the government created the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) with a 10 year £500 million investment commitment matched by industry. The APC’s remit is to address supply chain issues for electric vehicles. Not unexpectedly, the APC quickly identified lack of domestic battery production capacity as a major impediment. In response in 2016 another government initiative, Innovate UK set up the Faraday Battery Challenge to encourage domestic capacity and innovation. The Battery Industrialisation Centre was then set up in Coventry, to attract manufacturers in the supply chain for BEVs to locate there, focussed around a centre of research excellence. However, the APC has no control over the global supply and prices of battery materials, the investment and location decisions of battery manufacturers or the necessary infrastructure for BEVs to be a feasible technology. 30 For example, according to the APC, if domestic BEV demand were 500,00 per year by 2025, then the UK would need three ‘gigafactories’. Battery manufacture is currently dominated by LG Chem and Samsung in South Korea, CATL in China and Panasonic in Japan. None of these have current plans to build a gigafactory in the UK. In any case, there is a further problem here which raises a whole set of environmental and ethical issues explored in ecological circles under the general heading ‘extractivism’ (see, e.g. Dunlap, 2019 ). As time goes by, the UK and the world may become dependent on high price supplies of materials drawn from unstable or hostile regimes (the Democratic Republic of Congo, etc.), which is a risk in many ways (and a likely source of Dutch disease—the ‘resource curse’—for unstable regimes). So, not placing a relative emphasis on substituting BEVs for ICEs and not endorsing the current vehicle growth trend (which is different as a suggestion than rejecting BEVs entirely) avoid multiple problems and risks.

It is also worth noting that simple market decisions can have a further collective adverse consequence based on individual consumer preference and reasoning, which may also affect BEVs in the short term. Many current BEVs have smaller or low efficiency batteries and thus short ranges. These favour urban use for short journeys, but most people own cars with a view also to range further afield. As such, it seems likely that until the technology is all long range (and the charging infrastructure is pervasive) many consumers, if the choice exists and income allows, will own BEVs as an additional vehicle, not a replacement vehicle. 31 This may be a short-term issue, given the regulatory changes focussed from 2030 to 2040 in many countries. But, again, from a Paris point of view, taking the IPCC 1.5°C and UNEP Emissions Gap reports into consideration, this matters. This brings us to a final issue. What is the actual take-up of BEVs (and ULEVs)? How rapid is the transition? In the Introduction section, I suggested that the UK had reached a tipping point and that this mirrored a general trend globally. This, however, needs context.

3.4 How many electric vehicles?

The data emerging in recent years and stated in the Introduction section are a step-change, but as a possible tipping point it begins from a low base and BEVs (the least emitting of the low emission vehicles) are a subset, albeit a rapidly expanding one, of ULEVs. According to the UK Department for Transport statistical release for 2018, there were 200,000 ULEVs registered in total, of which 63,992 ULEVs were newly registered in that year ( Department for Transport, 2019 , p. 4). 93% of the total registrations were cars and the total constitutes a 39% increase on the year 2017 total and a 20% increase in the rate of registration—there were just 9,500 ULEVs at the beginning of 2010 (so, about 20 times greater in a decade). However, the 2018 data mean that ULEVs accounted for just 0.5% of all licensed vehicles and were still only 2.1% of all new registrations in that year. Preliminary data available early 2020 indicate continued growth with almost 38,000 new BEV registrations in 2019, a 144% year-on-year increase. As a recent UK House of Commons Briefing Paper notes, however, the government prefers to emphasise the percentage changes in take-up rather than the percentages of the absolute numbers or the absolute numbers themselves ( Hirst, 2019 ). The International Energy Agency (IEA) places the UK in its leading countries list by ULEV and BEV market share (measured by the percentage of total annual registration): Norway dominates, followed by Iceland, Sweden, the Netherlands and then a significant drop-off to a trailing group including China, the USA, Germany, the UK, Japan, France, Canada and South Korea. However, the market share in this trailing group is less than 5% in every case (see appended Figure 1 ). China, given its size (and because of the urgency of its urban air quality problems and its capacity for authoritarian implementation), dominates the raw numbers in terms of total ULEVs and BEVs. All this notwithstanding, the IEA confirms the general point that up-take is accelerating, but the base is low and so achieving total ULEV or BEV coverage is some way off:

The global electric car fleet exceeded 5.1 million in 2018, up by 2 million since 2017, almost doubling the unprecedented amount of new registrations in 2017. The People’s Republic of China… remained the world’s largest electric car market with nearly 1.1 million electric cars sold in 2018 and, with 2.3 million units, it accounted for almost half of the global electric car stock. Europe followed with 1.2 million electric cars and the United States with 1.1 million on the road by the end of 2018 and market growth of 385000 and 361000 electric cars from the previous year. Norway remained the global leader in terms of electric car market share at 46% of its new electric car sales in 2018, more than double the second-largest market share in Iceland at 17% and six-times higher than the third-highest Sweden at 8%. In 2018, electric buses continued to witness dynamic developments, with more than 460000 vehicles on the world’s road, almost 100000 more than in 2017…In freight transport, electric vehicles (EVs) were mostly deployed as light-commercial vehicles (LCVs), which reached 250000 units in 2018, up 80000 from 2017. Medium truck sales were in the range of 1000–2000 in 2018, mostly concentrated in China. ( IEA, 2019A , p. 9)

Over the next few years, it seems likely we will see rapid changes in these metrics. There is a great deal of discussion in policy analysis regarding bottlenecks and impediments and these, of course, are also important (consumer uncertainty, ‘range anxiety’, availability of sufficient infrastructure for charging and so on). 32 However, as everything argued so far indicates regarding transition and trends, underlying the whole is the conditionality of success and the potential for failure, involving avoidable ingrained emission and risks. There is a basic difference between a superior technology and a superior choice since the latter is a socio-economic matter of context: of rates of change, scales and substitutions. Ultimately, this creates deep concerns in terms of achieving the Paris goals. The IEA explores two forecast scenarios for the uptake of ULEVs. Both involve a projection of annual ULEV sales and total stock to 2030 ( IEA, 2019A ). First a ‘New Policies’ Scenario. This takes the current policy commitments of individual countries and extrapolates. By 2030, the scenario projects global ULEV sales at 23 million in that year and a total stock of 130 million. This is considerably less than 30% of all vehicles now and in 2030. Second, the EV30@30 Scenario. This assumes an accelerated commitment that adopts the @30 goals (notably 30% annual sales share for BEVs by 2030; IEA, 2019A , pp. 29–30). By 2030, the scenario projects global ULEV sales at 43 million in that year and a total stock of 250 million. Again, this is less than 30% of all vehicles now and in 2030.

The figures, of course, are highly conditional, but the point is clear, even the best-case scenario currently being anticipated has ULEVs and BEVs as a minority of all vehicles in 2030—and 2030 is a key year for achieving Paris, according to the October 2018 IPCC 1.5°C report. Moreover, it is notable that the projections assume continuous growth in the number of vehicles (and so continuous growth in ICE vehicles) and the major areas of numerical growth in BEVs continue to be China, so some significant part of the anticipated total will be new ingrained emissions that arguably did not need to exist. 33 Again, this is highly conditional but it at least creates questions regarding what is being ‘saved’ when the IEA claims that the New Policies Scenario results in 2.5 million barrels a day less demand for oil in 2030 and the EV30@30 Scenario 4.3 million barrels a day ( IEA, 2019A , p. 7). 34 Less of more is not a saving in an objective sense, if this is a preventable future, and it is not a rational way to set about ‘saving’ the planet. It remains the case, of course, that this is better than nothing, but it is deeply questionable whether in policy terms any of this is the ‘best that can be done’. As stated in the Introduction section, technocentrism distracts from appropriate recognition of this. At its worse, technocentrism fails to address and so works to reproduce a counter-productive ecological modernisation: the technological focus facilitates socio-economic trends, which are part of the broader problem rather than solutions to it. The important inference is that there are multiple reasons to think that greater emphasis on social redesign and less private transport avoids successful failure and is more in accordance with the Precautionary Principle.

I ended the introduction to this essay by stating that we would be exploring the foregrounding question: What kind of solution are BEVs to what kind of problem? It should be clearer now what was meant by this. Ultimately, the balance between private and public transport matters if the Paris goals are to be achieved. Equally clearly, this is not news to the UK CCC or to any serious analyst of electric vehicles and the transport issue for our climatological and ecological future (again, e.g. Chapman, 2007 ; Bailey and Wilson, 2009 ; Williamson et al. , 2018 ; Mattioli et al. , 2020 ). At the same time, the context and issues are not widely understood and the problems are often understated, at least in so far as, discursively, most weight is placed on stating progress in achieving a transition to ULEVs and BEVs. This is technocentric. Despite its general concerns and careful critical stance, the CCC is also partly guilty of this. For example, Ewa Kmietowicz, Transport Team Leader of the CCC Secretariat, refers to the UK Road to Zero strategy as a ‘lost opportunity’, and the CCC identifies a number of shortfalls in the strategy. 35 However, the general thrust of the CCC position is to focus on a rapid transition to BEVs and to overcoming bottlenecks. 36 Broader feasibility is subsumed under general assumptions about continued economic expansion and expansion of the transport system. So, there is more of a situation of complementarity (with caveats) between public and private transport, and the whole becomes an exercise in types of investment within expansionary trends, rather than a more radical recognition of the fundamental problems that we ought to think about avoiding. It is also worth noting that many of the major advocates of BEVs are industry organisations. The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, for example, are not unconcerned but they are not impartial either; they have a vested interest in the vehicle industry and its growth. For industry, ULEVs and BEVs are an opportunity before they are a solution to a problem. There are, however, recognitions that a rethink is required. These range from direct activism, such as ‘Rocks in the Gearbox’ (along the lines of Extinction Rebellion), to analysis from establishment think tanks, such as the World Economic Forum 37 , and statements from government oversight committees. For example, the UK Commons Science and Technology Committee (CSTC) not only endorses the CCC 2035 accelerated BEV target but also states more explicitly:

In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emissions versions. Alongside the Government’s existing targets and policies, it must develop a strategy to stimulate a low-emissions transport system, with the metrics and targets to match. This should aim to reduce the number of vehicles required, for example by: promoting and improving public transport; reducing its cost relative to private transport; encouraging vehicle usership in place of ownership; and encouraging and supporting increased levels of walking and cycling. ( CSTC, 2019 )

This, as Caroline Lucas suggests, speaks to the need to coordinate public and private transport policy more effectively and clearly, and there is a need for broader informed debate here. In political ecological circles, for example, there is a growing critique of the tensions encapsulated in the concept of an ‘environmental state’ (see Koch, 2019 ). That is the coordination and coherence of environmental imperatives with other policy concerns. State-rescaling and degrowth and postgrowth work highlight the profound problems that are now starting to emerge as states come to terms with the basic mechanisms that have been built into our economies and societies (see also Newell and Mulvaney, 2013 ; Newell, 2019 ). 38 New thinking is required and this extends to the social ontology and theory we use to conceptualise economies (see Spash and Ryan, 2012 ; Lawson, 2012 , 2019 ) and political formations (see Bacevic, 2019 ; Patomäki, 2019. Covid-19 does not change this ( Gills, 2020 ).

In transport terms, there are many specific issues to consider. Some solutions are simple but overlooked because we are always thinking in terms of sophisticated innovations and inventions. However, we do not need to conform to the logics of ‘technological fixes’, that we somehow think will enable the impossible, to perhaps see some scope in ‘fourth industrial revolution’ transformations ( Center for Global Policy Solutions, 2017 ; Morgan, 2019B ). For example, public transport may also extend to a future where no individual owns a range extensive powered vehicle (perhaps just local scooters for the young and mobility scooters for the infirm) and instead a system operates of autonomous fleet vehicles that are coordinated by artificial intelligence with logistics implemented through Smartphone calendar access booking systems—and coordination functions could maximise sharing, where vehicles could also be (given no drivers are involved) adaptable connective pods that chain together to minimise congestion and energy use. This seems like science fiction now, and perhaps a little ridiculous, but a few years ago so did the Smartphone. And the technology already exists in infancy. Such a system could be either state-funded and run or private partnership and franchise, but in either case, it radically redraws the transport environment whilst working in conformity with the geography of living spaces we have already developed. Will is what is required and if the outcome of COP24 ( UNFCCC, 2018 ) and COP25 ( Newell and Taylor, 2020 ) with limited progress towards the Paris goals persists, then it seems likely that emissions will accumulate rapidly in the near future and the likelihood of a serious climate event with socio-economic consequences rises. At that stage, more invasive statutory and regulatory intervention may start to occur as the carbon budget becomes a more urgent target. Prohibitions, transport rationing and various other possibilities may then be on the agenda if we are to unmake the future we are currently writing and, to mix metaphors, avoid a road to nowhere.

None declared

Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for extensive and useful comment—particularly regarding the systematic statement of issues in the Introduction section and for additional useful references. Jamie Morganis Professor of Economic Sociology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. He coedits the Real-World Economics Review with Edward Fullbrook. RWER is the world’s largest subscription based open access economics journal. He has published widely in the fields of economics, political economy, philosophy, sociology, and international politics. His recent books include: Modern Monetary Theory and its Critics (ed. with E. Fullbrook, WEA Books, 2020), Economics and the ecosystem (ed. with E. Fullbrook, WEA Books, 2019); Brexit and the political economy of fragmentation: Things fall apart (ed. with H. Patomäki, Routledge, 2018); Realist responses to post-human society (ed. with I. Al-Amoudi, Routledge, 2018); Trumponomics: Causes and consequences (ed. with E. Fullbrook, College Publications, 2017); What is neoclassical economics? (ed., Routledge, 2015); and Piketty’s capital in the twenty-first century (ed. with E. Fullbrook, College Publications, 2014).

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Global electric car sales and market share, 2013–18.

Global electric car sales and market share, 2013–18.

Source : IEA (2019, p. 10).

ULEV refers to vehicles that emit less than 75 gCO 2 per km. This essentially means BEVs, PHEVs, range-extended (typically an auxiliary fuel tank) electric vehicles, fuel cell (non-plug-in) electric vehicles and hybrid models (non-plug in vehicles with a main fuel tank but whose battery recharges and which drive short distances in electric mode).

Note, there is little sign of legislative and regulatory detail to plans as of early 2020. Furthermore, there is a difference between acknowledging that the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles, including BEVs, is growing and drawing the inference that UK government policy (channelled primarily via the Department for Transport) is as effective as it might be (see Environmental Audit Committee, 2016 ; National Audit Office, 2019 and also later discussions).

CEM is coordinated by the IEA and is an initiative lead by Canada and China (but including a steadily growing number of signatory countries). The EV30@30 initiative aims to achieve a 30% annual sales share for BEVs by 2030.

IEA headline statistics include plug-in hybrids so 2018 becomes 46% for Norway (IEA, 2019A, p. 10).

For example, Spash (2020) and Spash and Ryan (2012) . One might also note the work of John O’Neill at Manchester University. Perhaps the most prominent ‘realist’ working on transport and ecology is Petter Naess, at Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

The UNEP 9th Report calls for a 55% reduction by 2030.

The initial rationale in 2008 was that to achieve a maximum limit of 2°C warming global emissions needed to fall from the levels at that time to 20–24 GtCO 2 e with an implied average of 2.1–2.6 t CO 2 per capita on a global basis in 2050. This translated to a 50–60% reduction to the then global total. Since UK emissions were above average per capita, the UK reduction required was estimated at about 80%. Given that emissions then increased and atmospheric ppm has risen the original calculations are now mainly redundant.

For the work of the CCC, see: https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/ .

The report also provides useful context regarding the UN sustainable development goals ( CCC, 2019 : p. 66) and CCC thinking on growth and economics ( CCC, 2019 : pp. 46–7).

https://www.theccc.org.uk/2019/06/11/response-to-government-plan-to-legislate-for-net-zero-emissions-target/ .

And further methodological issues apply in economics (see; Morgan and Patomäki, 2017 ; Nasir and Morgan, 2018 ; Morgan, 2019A ).

For a full analysis, see https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-uks-co2-emissions-have-fallen-29-per-cent-over-the-past-decade . The Carbon Brief analysis omits shipping and aviation. As the campaign group Transport and Environment notes UK shipping was responsible for 14.4 MtCO 2 , which is the third highest in Europe (after the Netherlands and Spain) and shipping is exempt from tax on fossil fuels under EU law. See p. 20: https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/Study-EU_shippings_climate_record_20191209_final.pdf .

UK coal use for energy supply reduced by approximately 90% from 1990 to 2017 and in 2019 amounted to just 2% of the energy mix and in 2019 the UK went two weeks without using any coal at all for power production (the first time since 1882); 1990 to 2010 natural gas use steadily increased from a near-zero base but has declined since 2010 as use of renewables has grown. Coal use in manufacturing has decreased by 75% from 1990 to 2017 ( ONS, 2019 ). As noted, some assessments place the reduction in total emissions at around 40% based on other metrics and the tabulated figures I provide indicate yet another percentage— all however are trend decreases indicative of a general direction of travel.

‘Embedded emissions’ or the UK carbon footprint is addressed by the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). To be clear, there is a whole set of further issues that one might address in regard of measurement of emissions—how they are attributed and what this means (where created, where induced through demand, which state, what corporation and so different ‘Cartesian’ claims regarding the significance of location are possible), and this is indicative of the conflict over representation and partition of responsibility (so whilst the climate does not care about borders, they have infected measurement and policy). There is no scientifically neutral way to achieve this, merely different sets of criteria with different consequences (I thank an anonymous referee for extended comment on this, see also Taylor, 2015 ; who argues that adaptation politics produces a focus on governance within existing political and economic structures based on borders, etc.).

Congestion charges in London or a plastic bag tax do not meet this threshold.

This is supported, for example, by The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative: a voluntary scheme where corporations commit to making electric the ‘new normal’ of their vehicle fleets by 2030 (recognising that over half of annual new registrations are owned by businesses) https://www.theclimategroup.org/project/ev100 .

Until recently Tesla had one main production centre in California. However, it now also has a $5 billion factory in Shanghai and plans for a factory in Berlin. Tesla is currently the world’s largest producer of BEVs (368,000 units in 2019), followed by the Chinese company BYD Auto (195,000 units in 2019). Tesla was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Mark Tarpenning in response to General Motors scrapping its EV programme (as unprofitable). Elon Musk joined as a HNWI first-round investor in February 2004 (he put in $6.5 m of the total $7.5 m and became chairman of the Tesla board); Eberhard was initially CEO but was removed and replaced by Musk in 2007 and Tarpenning left in 2008. Tesla floated on the Nasdaq in June 2010 at $17 per share and exceeded $500 per share for the first time in January 2020. Tesla is the USA’s most valuable car manufacturer by market capitalisation (worth more than Ford and GM combined).

The European Commission’s collaborative research forum JEC has been producing ‘well-to-wheels’ analyses of energy efficiency of different engine technologies since the beginning of the century. The USA periodically publishes the findings of its GREET model (the Greenhouse gases Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation model). See https://greet.es.anl.gov .

For example, since 1985 according to Carbon Brief global coal use in power production measured in terawatt hours only reduced in 2009 and 2015 (though it seems likely to do so in 2019); China notably continues to build coal-fired power plants though the rate of growth of use has slowed. (According to the IEA Coal report, 2019, China consumed 3,756 million tonnes of coal in 2018 (a 1% increase) and India 986 million tonnes (a 5% increase). Renewables are a growing part of an expanding global energy system.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-global-coal-power-set-for-record-fall-in-2019 .

Staffell et al . observe that the British electricity grid produces an average 204 gCO 2 per kWh in 2019 and a standard petrol car emits 120–160 gCO 2 per km.

This is a point made by Richard Smith. There are, of course, alternatives to aluminium. One should also note that manufacturers are responding to consumer preference by increasing the average size of models and this is increasing the weight and resource use. In February 2020, for example, Which Magazine analysed 292 popular car models and found that they were on average 3.4% or 67 kg heavier than older models and this was offsetting some of the efficiency gains for emissions.

And the argument this is leading to is that it makes far greater sense to default to greater dependence on prudential social redesign, rather than optimistic technocentrism, behind which is techno-politics.

For discussion of battery technology and scope for improvement, see Manzetti and Mariasiu (2015) and Faraday Institution (2019) . Currently, most BEVs use lithium-ion phosphate, nickel-manganese cobalt oxide or aluminium oxide batteries. Liquid electrolyte constituents require containment and shielding. Specifically, a battery creates a flow of electrons from the positive electrode (the cathode made of a lithium metal oxide, etc. from the previous list) through a conducting electrolyte medium (lithium salt in an organic solution) to a negative electrode (the anode made typically of carbon, since early experiment with metals tended to produce excess heating and fire). This creates a current. Charging flows to the anode and discharge oxidises the anode which must then be recharged. The batteries are relatively low ‘energy density’ and can be a fire hazard when they heat. Given the chemical constituents, battery disposal is also a significant environmental hazard (see IEA, 2019A: pp. 8, 22–3). A ‘solid-state’ battery uses a specially designed (possibly glass or ceramic) solid medium that allows ions to travel through from one electrode to another. The solid-state technology is in principle higher energy density, much lighter and more durable. The implication is higher kWh batteries with greater range, charging capacity and durability and efficiency. Jeremy Dyson has reportedly invested heavily in solid-state technology and though his proposed own brand BEV is not now going ahead, reports indicate the battery technology investment will continue.

One might also consider hydrogen battery technology. Hydrogen fuel cell technology for vehicles is different than BEV. The vehicle has a tank in the rear for compressed cooled gas, which supplies the cell at the front of the car whilst driving. Refuelling is a rapid pumping process rather than a long wait. The gas has two possible origins: natural gas conversion where ‘steam methane reformation’ separates methane into hydrogen and CO 2 or water electrolysis, where grid AC electricity is converted to DC, which is applied to water and using a membrane splits it into hydrogen and waste oxygen. Currently, over 95% of hydrogen is from the former. Major investors in hydrogen technology are Shell (for natural gas conversion), IMT Power (in partnership with Shell) for water conversion and Toyota whose Mirai model is hydrogen powered.

Though fewer new cars were registered than in previous years, this significant metric for the total number of vehicles is the cumulative number of registrations (taking into account cars no longer registered). There are, however, some underlying issues: uncertainty regarding the status of diesel cars and problems of availability, cost and trust in BEVs seems to be causing many people in the UK to delay buying a new car; the expansion of Uber meanwhile has had a generational and urban effect, reducing car ownership as an aspiration amongst the young.

And re aviation, a new runway at Heathrow between 2026 and 2050.

See: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/852708/provisional-road-traffic-estimates-gb-october-2018-to-september-2019.pdf .

See: https://greenworld.org.uk/article/budget-deeply-disappointing-says-caroline-lucas

For example, global production of cobalt in 2018 was 120,000 tonnes, and production of about 2 million BEVs currently requires around 25,000 tonnes, so 10 million BEVs would require all of the current output. Cobalt traded at more than US$90,000 per ton 2018 but had fallen to around US$30,000 at the end of 2019.

In the UK, the current daily consumption of petrol and diesel for road transport is about 125 million litres or about 45 billion litres per year. So, BEVs are essentially substituting for this scale of energy use, shifting demand to electricity generation. National Grid attempted to model this in 2017. Their forecast (highly contingent obviously) suggests that if all cars sold by 2040 were BEVs and thus the car market was dominated by BEVs by 2050 and if most vehicles were charged at peak times in 2050 then an additional 30 gigawatts of electricity would be required. This is about 50% greater than the current peak winter demand in 2017. This was widely reported in the press. This best/worst case, of course, does not allow for innovative solutions such as off-peak home charging pioneered by Ovo and other niche suppliers. However, even with such solutions, there will still be a net increase in required capacity from the system. This has been estimated at about 10 new Hinckley power stations.

One possible long-term solution currently in development is toughened solar panel devices that can be laid as a road or car park surfaces, enabling contact recharging of the vehicle (in motion or otherwise). There are, however, multiple problems with the technology so far.

For example, analysis from Capital Economics suggests a three-way charging split is likely to develop: home recharging is likely to dominate, followed by an on-route charging model (substituting for current petrol forecourts at roadside) and destination recharging (given charging is slower than filling a fuel tank it makes sense to transform car parks at destinations into charging centres—supermarkets, etc.). They estimate UK demand at 25 million BEV chargers by 2050 of which all but 2.6 million will be home charging. As of early 2020, there were 8,400 filling stations which might be fully converted. Tesco has a reported commitment to install 2,400 charging points. These are issues frequently reported in the press.

This point can also be made in other ways. Not only does the emissions saving relate to net new sources of cars, but the contrast is also in terms of trend changes in the size of vehicle. According to the recent IEA World Energy Outlook report ( IEA, 2019B ), the number of SUVs is increasing and these consume around 25% more fuel than a mid-range car. If current growth trends continue (SUVs are 42% of new sales in China, 30% in India and about 50% in the USA), the IEA projects that the take-up of ICE SUVs will more than offset any marginal gains in emissions from the transition to BEVs.

It is also the case that the projected ‘savings’ from ULEVs are likely inaccurate. Following the EU, most countries adopted (and manufacturers report using) the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). This became mandatory in the UK from September 2018. The WLTP is the new laboratory defined test for car distance-energy metrics. Vehicles are tested at 23°C, but without associated use of A/C or heating. Though claimed to as realistic than its predecessors, it is still basically unrealistic. Temperature range for ULEVs has significant consequences for battery performance and for use of on-board services, so real distance travelled per unit of energy is liable to be less. For similar reasons, ICEs will also travel less distance per litre of fuel so this is not a comparative gain for ICEs, it is likely a comparative loss to all of us if we rely on the figures.

See https://www.theccc.org.uk/2018/07/10/road-to-zero-a-missed-opportunity/ .

See https://www.theccc.org.uk/2018/07/10/governments-road-to-zero-strategy-falls-short-ccc-says/ .

See https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/shared-avs-could-save-the-world-private-avs-could-ruin-it/ .

For practical network initiatives, see, for example, https://climatestrategies.org .

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Electric Car - Free Essay Examples and Topic Ideas

An electric car, also known as an EV, is a vehicle that is powered by electricity rather than gasoline or diesel fuel. It is equipped with one or more electric motors that drive the wheels and a rechargeable battery that stores the electricity. With electric cars, emissions are eliminated, since there is no combustion engine exhaust fumes. These vehicles are becoming increasingly popular due to their low operating costs, environmental benefits, and improvements in technology, such as greater range, faster charging times, and better performance.

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Essay on Electric Cars And The Environment

Students are often asked to write an essay on Electric Cars And The Environment in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

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100 Words Essay on Electric Cars And The Environment

Introduction to electric cars.

Electric cars are vehicles that use electricity instead of gasoline. They have a large battery that stores electricity. When you drive, the battery powers the motor, which moves the car. Electric cars are becoming more popular because they don’t produce harmful emissions like traditional cars do.

Electric Cars and Air Quality

Energy efficiency of electric cars.

Electric cars are more energy-efficient than gasoline cars. They convert a higher percentage of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. This means you get more mileage out of the same amount of energy, which is good for the environment.

Electric Cars and Noise Pollution

Electric cars are also quieter than gasoline cars. This means less noise pollution. In busy cities, noise pollution can be a big problem. So, electric cars can help make cities quieter and more pleasant to live in.

Challenges with Electric Cars

250 words essay on electric cars and the environment, introduction.

Electric cars are vehicles that use electric motors instead of traditional fuel engines. They are becoming more popular because they are better for the environment.

Why Electric Cars are Good for the Environment

Electric cars are good for the environment because they don’t release harmful gases. Regular cars burn fuel and release carbon dioxide, which is a major cause of global warming. Electric cars, on the other hand, don’t burn fuel, so they don’t release these harmful gases.

Battery Production and the Environment

Yet, it’s important to note that making electric cars can also harm the environment. The process of making batteries for these cars can produce a lot of pollution. But, once the car is made and being used, it is much cleaner than regular cars.

Electric Cars and Renewable Energy

Electric cars can also use renewable energy. This means they can run on power made from the sun, wind, or water. This is much better for the environment than using fossil fuels like oil or gas.

In conclusion, electric cars are better for the environment than regular cars. They don’t release harmful gases and can use renewable energy. But, it’s also important to remember that making electric cars can still harm the environment. So, we need to keep working on ways to make electric cars even more eco-friendly.

500 Words Essay on Electric Cars And The Environment

One of the biggest ways electric cars help the environment is by improving the air quality. Cars that run on gasoline or diesel produce exhaust fumes. These fumes are bad for the air and can make people sick. But electric cars don’t produce these harmful fumes. Instead, they run on clean electricity. This means they don’t pollute the air, making it healthier for everyone.

Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Electric cars also help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, causing it to warm up. This is known as global warming, and it’s a big problem for our planet. Cars that run on fossil fuels, like gasoline or diesel, release a lot of these gases. But electric cars don’t. This means they help to slow down global warming.

Energy Efficiency

Electric cars are also more energy-efficient than traditional cars. This means they use less energy to do the same amount of work. For example, an electric car can travel the same distance as a gasoline car but use less energy. This is good for the environment because it means we need to produce less energy, which often involves burning fossil fuels and releasing more greenhouse gases.

Use of Renewable Energy

In conclusion, electric cars are a great choice for the environment. They don’t pollute the air, they help to reduce greenhouse gases, they are more energy-efficient, and they can use renewable energy. As more people start to use electric cars, we can hope to see big improvements in our environment. This is why electric cars are an important part of our future.

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About 3 in 10 Americans would seriously consider buying an electric vehicle

An electric car charges near a gas station on May 21, 2024, in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Electric vehicle sales continue to hit record highs, but the pace of growth in the United States has slowed for the first time since mid-2020 . And a new Pew Research Center survey finds that only about three-in-ten Americans say they would very or somewhat seriously consider purchasing an electric vehicle (EV), down 9 percentage points in the past year.

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand Americans’ views of electric vehicles. For this analysis, we surveyed 8,638 U.S. adults from May 13 to 19, 2024.

Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for this analysis , along with responses, and the survey methodology .

A diverging bar chart showing that about 3 in 10 Americans say they would seriously consider purchasing an electric vehicle.

Amid this softening interest, we asked Americans about factors that could influence their choice of electric versus gas-powered vehicles: environmental benefits, cost, driving experience and reliability. We also looked at how confident Americans are that there will be enough EV charging stations and infrastructure to meet demand.

Related: How Americans View National, Local and Personal Energy Choices

Are EVs better for the environment than gas vehicles?

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing how Americans assess the pros and cons of electric vehicles.

One area where Americans rate EVs more favorably than gas vehicles is their environmental benefits. Nearly half (47%) say EVs are better for the environment than gas vehicles. Smaller shares say they are about the same (31%) or are worse for the environment (20%).

However, the share of Americans who say electric vehicles are better for the environment than gas vehicles has decreased 20 points since 2021, from 67%.

Do EVs cost less to buy and to charge?

Most Americans say EVs require a bigger up-front investment to buy than gas-powered vehicles (72%). Industry data shows that the average EV still costs more than the average gas vehicle, though this gap is narrowing .

Americans are split in their perceptions of the cost of charging or fueling these vehicles. Some 36% say EVs cost less to charge than gas-powered vehicles do to fuel, while 28% say EVs cost more and 32% think the costs are about the same.

Are EVs more fun to drive?

EV enthusiasts tout EVs’ faster acceleration and quiet engines as selling points over gas vehicles. But in our survey, just 13% say EVs are more fun to drive than gas vehicles. More than half (59%) say the two types of vehicles are about equally fun to drive.

Are EVs more reliable?

Amid reports about problems some EV owners have encountered , such as battery issues and squeaky brakes, half of Americans say electric vehicles are less reliable than gas vehicles. That share is up 16 points from 2021. Only 9% say EVs are more reliable, while 38% say electric and gas vehicles are about equally reliable.

Differences by party

On every dimension, Democrats view EVs more favorably than Republicans do.

A bar chart showing that Democrats have a much more positive impression of electric vehicles than Republicans do.

  • Environmental benefits: Democrats and those who lean to the Democratic Party are much more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to say EVs are better for the environment than gas vehicles (69% vs. 24%).
  • Cost to buy: A majority of both Democrats and Republicans say EVs cost more to buy than gas vehicles. But fewer Democrats than Republicans say this (65% vs. 81%).
  • Cost to charge/fuel: Half of Democrats say EVs cost less to charge than gas vehicles do to fuel. That compares with a quarter of Republicans.
  • Reliability: Very few Democrats or Republicans think EVs are more reliable than gas vehicles, but Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say this (14% vs. 5%). Half of Democrats say EVs and gas vehicles are about the same on reliability, while 34% say EVs are less reliable. Republicans are even more negative, with 69% saying EVs are less reliable.
  • Fun: Small shares of both Democrats and Republicans say EVs are more fun to drive than gas-powered cars, but Democrats are more likely to say this (17% vs. 9%). The most common view among both groups is that EVs are about as fun to drive as gas cars.

Hybrid vehicle sales have been increasing for the past three years, and our survey finds that Americans are more likely to consider a hybrid than an electric vehicle. Some 43% of Americans say they would seriously consider purchasing a hybrid, compared with 29% who say this about an EV.

Still, a sizable share of the public (42%) say they would probably not consider a hybrid.

A diverging bar chart showing that roughly 4 in 10 Americans would seriously consider purchasing a hybrid vehicle.

Will there be enough EV charging stations and infrastructure?

Concerns about limited EV charging stations and infrastructure are one factor that can hold buyers back from switching from gas to electric vehicles.

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing that few Americans are confident U.S. will build charging infrastructure to support large numbers of EVs.

Overall, 56% of Americans are not too or not at all confident that the U.S. will build the necessary infrastructure to support large numbers of EVs. Another 31% are somewhat confident, while just 13% are extremely or very confident.

Republicans express strikingly low confidence in EV infrastructure. Only 6% are extremely or very confident the U.S. will build the necessary infrastructure, while 76% are not confident.

Democrats are more positive, but confidence is hardly widespread: 19% say they are extremely or very confident about this, while 38% are not confident. The share of Democrats who are extremely or very confident in EV infrastructure has decreased by 7 points from a year ago.

Illustrating the tie between infrastructure and interest, 58% of Americans who are extremely or very confident that the U.S. will build enough charging stations say they would seriously consider purchasing an EV. Only 16% of those who are not confident in EV infrastructure say the same.

Related: Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in the U.S.

Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis , along with responses, and the survey methodology .

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Ieee spectrum, follow ieee spectrum, support ieee spectrum, enjoy more free content and benefits by creating an account, saving articles to read later requires an ieee spectrum account, the institute content is only available for members, downloading full pdf issues is exclusive for ieee members, downloading this e-book is exclusive for ieee members, access to spectrum 's digital edition is exclusive for ieee members, following topics is a feature exclusive for ieee members, adding your response to an article requires an ieee spectrum account, create an account to access more content and features on ieee spectrum , including the ability to save articles to read later, download spectrum collections, and participate in conversations with readers and editors. for more exclusive content and features, consider joining ieee ., join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of spectrum’s articles, archives, pdf downloads, and other benefits. learn more about ieee →, join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to this e-book plus all of ieee spectrum’s articles, archives, pdf downloads, and other benefits. learn more about ieee →, access thousands of articles — completely free, create an account and get exclusive content and features: save articles, download collections, and talk to tech insiders — all free for full access and benefits, join ieee as a paying member., how to build ev motors without rare earth elements, experimental motors use exotic materials and clever configurations.

An exploded view of an advanced electric motor shows the copper coils used to produce magnetic fields and transmit power.

The experimental in-rotor inductive-excited synchronous motor by ZF Friedrichshafen dispenses with rare earth elements by using electromagnets in its stator and rotor.

The dilemma is easy to describe. Global efforts to combat climate change hinge on pivoting sharply away from fossil fuels. To do that will require electrifying transportation, primarily by shifting from vehicles with combustion engines to ones with electric drive trains. Such a massive shift will inevitably mean far greater use of electric traction motors, nearly all of which rely on magnets that contain rare earth elements, which cause substantial environmental degradation when their ores are extracted and then processed into industrially useful forms. And for automakers outside of China, there is an additional deterrent: Roughly 90 percent of processed rare earth elements now come from China, so for these companies, increasing dependence on rare earths means growing vulnerability in critical supply chains.

Against this backdrop, massive efforts are underway to design and test advanced electric-vehicle (EV) motors that do not use rare earth elements (or use relatively little of them). Government agencies, companies, and universities are working on this challenge, oftentimes in collaborative efforts, in virtually all industrialized countries. In the United States, these initiatives include long-standing efforts at the country’s national laboratories to develop permanent magnets and motor designs that do not use rare earth elements. Also, in a collaboration announced last November, General Motors and Stellantis are working with a startup company, Niron Magnetics , to develop EV motors based on Niron’s rare earth–free permanent magnet. Another automaker, Tesla , shocked observers in March of last year when a senior official declared that the company’s “next drive unit,” which would be based on a permanent magnet, would nevertheless use no “rare earth elements at all.” In Europe, a consortium called Passenger includes 20 partners from industry and academia working on rare earth–free permanent magnets for EVs.

We have been working for nearly a decade on magnetic and other aspects of traction-motor design at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), in Tennessee, a hub of U.S. research on advanced motors for EVs. Along with colleagues from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory , Ames Laboratory , and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, we have been studying advanced motor concepts as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s U.S. Drive Technologies Consortium. The group also includes Sandia National Laboratories , Purdue University , and the Illinois Institute of Technology .

With all of this activity, you would think that engineers would have by now developed a sophisticated understanding of what is possible with rare earth–free electric motors . And indeed they have. We and other researchers are evaluating promising permanent-magnet materials that don’t use rare earth elements, and we are evaluating possible motor-design changes required to best use these materials. We are also evaluating advanced motor designs that do not use permanent magnets at all. The bottom line is that replacing rare earth–based magnets with non–rare earth ones comes at a cost: degraded motor performance. But innovations in design, manufacturing, and materials will be able to offset—maybe even entirely—this gap in performance. Already, there are a few reports of tantalizing results with innovative new motors whose performance is said to be on a par with the best permanent-magnet synchronous motors.

Why rare earths make the most powerful electric motors

Rare earth elements (which people in our line of work often refer to as REEs) have unique properties that make them indispensable to many forms of modern technology. Some of these elements, such as neodymium, samarium, dysprosium, and terbium, can be combined with ferromagnetic elements such as iron and cobalt to produce crystals that are not only highly magnetic but also strongly resist demagnetization. The metric typically used to gauge these important qualities of a magnet is called the maximum energy product , measured in megagauss-oersteds (MGOe). The strongest and most commercially successful permanent magnets yet invented, neodymium iron boron, have energy products in the range of 30 to 55 MGOe.

For an electric motor based on permanent magnets, the stronger its magnets, the more efficient, compact, and lightweight the motor can be. So the highest-performing EV motors today all use neodymium iron boron magnets. Nevertheless, clever motor design can reduce the performance gap between motors based on rare earth permanent magnets and ones based on other types of magnets. To understand how, you need to know a little more about electric motors.

There are two basic types of electric motors: synchronous and induction. Most modern electric vehicles use a type of synchronous motor that has a rotor equipped with permanent magnets. Induction motors use only electromagnets and are therefore inherently rare earth–free. But they are not used today in most EV models because their performance is generally not on a par with permanent-magnet synchronous motors, although several R&D projects in the United States, Europe, and Asia are trying to improve induction motors.

The term “synchronous motors” refers to the fact that the rotor of the motor (the part that turns) rotates in synchrony with the changing magnetic fields produced by the stator (the part that remains stationary). In the rotor, permanent magnets are embedded in a circle around the structure. In the stator, also in a circular arrangement, electromagnets are pulsed with electricity one after another to set up a rotating magnetic field. This process causes the rotor magnets and stator magnets to attract and repel one another sequentially, producing rotation and torque.

Synchronous motors, too, fall into several categories. Two important types are surface-mount permanent-magnet synchronous motors and synchronous reluctance motors. In the former group, permanent magnets are mounted on the external surface of the rotor, and torque is produced because different parts of the stator and rotor either attract or repel. In a synchronous reluctance motor , on the other hand, the rotor doesn’t need to have permanent magnets at all. What makes the motor spin is a phenomenon called magnetic reluctance, which refers to how much a material opposes magnetic flux passing through it. Ferromagnetic materials have low values of reluctance and will tend to align themselves with strong magnetic fields. This phenomenon is exploited to cause a ferromagnetic rotor, in a reluctance motor, to spin. (Some reluctance motors also employ permanent magnets to assist that rotation.)

If a motor depends mainly on the interaction between the stator and rotor magnetic fields, it is called a permanent-magnet dominated motor. If on the other hand it depends on the torque produced by differences in reluctance, it is a permanent-magnet assisted motor. The combined use of both types of torque—that produced by the attraction and repulsion of permanent magnets and that produced by the tendency of magnetic lines of force to flow along a path of least reluctance—is the key strategy being used by engineers striving to achieve high performance in a motor that is less reliant on REE magnets.

Replacing REE-based magnets with non-REE ones comes at a cost: degraded motor performance. But innovations in motor design, manufacturing, and materials will be able to offset—maybe even entirely—this gap in performance.

The most common motor type at the moment combining the two kinds of torque is the interior-mount permanent-magnet motor , in which the permanent magnets embedded within the rotor add to the reluctance torque. Many commercial EV manufacturers, including GM, Tesla, and Toyota, now use this type of rotor design.

The design of the motors for the Toyota Prius underscores the effectiveness of this approach. In these motors, the magnet mass decreased significantly over a period of 13 years, from 1.2 kilograms in the 2004 Prius to about 0.5 kg in the 2017 Prius. Much the same occurred with the Chevrolet Bolt motor, which reduced the overall usage of magnet material by 30 percent compared with the motor in its predecessor, the Chevrolet Spark.

Wringing the most out of permanent magnets without rare earths

But what about getting rid of REEs entirely? Here, there are two possibilities: Use REE-free permanent magnets in a motor designed to make the most of them, or use a motor that dispenses with permanent magnets entirely, in favor of electromagnets.

To understand the suitability of a particular REE-free permanent magnet for use in a powerful traction motor, you have to consider a couple of additional characteristics of a permanent magnet: remanence and coercivity. To begin with, recall the metric used to compare the strength of different permanent-magnet materials: maximum energy product. These three parameters—maximum energy product, remanence, and coercivity—largely indicate how well a permanent-magnet material will perform in an electric motor.

Remanence indicates the amount of magnetic intensity, as measured by the density of the lines of force, left in a permanent magnet after the magnetic field that magnetized this magnet is withdrawn. Remanence is important because without it you wouldn’t have a permanent magnet. And the higher the remanence of the material, the stronger the forces of magnetic attraction and repulsion that create torque.

The coercivity of a permanent magnet is a measure of its ability to resist demagnetization. The higher the value of coercivity, the harder it is to demagnetize the magnet with an external magnetic field. For an EV traction motor, an optimal permanent magnet, such as neodymium iron boron, has high maximum energy product, high remanence, and high coercivity. No REE-free permanent magnet has all of these characteristics. So if you replace neodymium iron boron magnets with, say, ferrite magnets in a motor, you can expect a decrease in torque output and also must accept a greater risk that the magnets will demagnetize during operation.

Motor engineers can minimize the difference by designing a motor that exploits both permanent magnets and reluctance. But even with a highly optimized design, a motor based on ferrite magnets will be considerably heavier—perhaps a third or more—if it is to achieve the same performance as a motor with rare earth magnets.

One technique used to wring maximum performance out of ferrite magnets is to concentrate the flux from those magnets to the maximum extent possible. It’s analogous to passing moving water through a funnel: The water moves faster in the narrow opening. Researchers have built such machines, called spoke-ferrite magnet motors, but have found them to be about 30 percent heavier than comparable motors based on REE magnets. And there’s more bad news: Spoke-type motors can be complex to manufacture and pose mechanical challenges.

Some designers have proposed using another kind of non-REE magnet, one made from an aluminum nickel cobalt alloy called alnico, commonly used in the magnets that hold refrigerator doors shut. Although alnico magnets have high remanence, their coercivity is quite low, making them prone to demagnetization.

To address this issue, several researchers have studied and designed variable-flux memory motors , which use a magnetizing component of current to aid in torque production, in effect keeping the magnets from demagnetizing during operation. Additionally, researchers from the Ames Laboratory have shown that alnico magnets can have increased coercivity while maintaining their high remanence.

Three parameters—maximum energy product, remanence, and coercivity—largely indicate how a permanent magnet material will perform in an electric motor.

Lately, there’s been a lot of attention focused on a new type of permanent-magnet material, iron nitride (FeN). This magnet, produced by Niron Magnetics, has high remanence, equivalent to that of REE-magnets, but like alnico has low coercivity— about a fifth of a comparable neodymium iron boron magnet. Because of these fundamentally different properties, FeN magnets require the development of new rotor designs, which will probably resemble those of past alnico motors. Niron is now developing such designs with automotive partners, including General Motors.

Yet another REE-free permanent-magnet material that comes up in discussions of future motors is manganese bismuth (MnBi), which has been the subject of collaborative research at the University of Pittsburgh, Iowa State University, and Powdermet Inc. Together these engineers designed a surface-mount permanent-magnet synchronous motor using MnBi magnets. The remanence and coercivity of these magnets is higher than ferrite magnets but lower than neodymium iron boron (NdFeB). The researchers found that a MnBi-magnet motor can produce the same torque output as a NdFeB-magnet motor but with substantial compromises: a whopping 60 percent increase in volume and a 65 percent increase in weight. On the bright side, the researchers suggested that replacing NdFeB magnets with MnBi magnets could reduce the overall cost of the motor by 32 percent.

Another strategy for reducing rare earth content in motors involves eliminating just the heavy rare earth elements used in some of these magnets. NdFeB magnets, for example, typically contain small amounts of the heavy rare earth element dysprosium, used to increase their coercivity at high temperatures. (Heavy rare earth metals are generally in shorter supply than the light rare earths, such as neodymium.) The rub with not using them is that high-temperature coercivity then suffers.

So the major challenge in designing this kind of motor is keeping the rotor cool. Last year, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we developed a 100-kilowatt traction motor that uses no heavy rare earth elements in its magnets. Another nice feature is that its power electronics are integrated inside of it. These power electronics included the inverter, which takes direct-current power from the battery and feeds the motor with alternating current at the proper frequency to drive the machine.

We faced several fundamental challenges in keeping the magnets from getting too hot. You see, permanent magnets are good conductors. And when an electrical conductor moves in a magnetic field, which is what rotor magnets do while the motor is operating, currents are induced in it. These currents, which do not contribute to the torque, heat up the magnets and can demagnetize them. One way to reduce this heating is to break up the path of the circulating currents by making the magnets from thin segments that are electrically insulated from one another. In our motor, each of these segments was only 1 millimeter thick.

We chose to use a grade of NdFeB magnets called N50 that can operate at temperatures up to 80 °C. Also, we needed to use a carbon-fiber-and-epoxy system to reinforce the outer diameter of the rotor to let it spin at speeds as high as 20,000 rpm. After analyzing our motor prototype, we discovered it would be necessary to force air through the motor to reduce its temperature when operating at maximum speed. While that’s not ideal, it’s a reasonable compromise to avoid having to use heavy REEs in the design.

New approaches for advanced motors

Perhaps the most attractive near-term option to make powerful motors that lack REEs entirely is to build synchronous motors that have rotors equipped with electromagnets (meaning coils of wire), either with or without ferrite magnets included with them. But doing that requires that you somehow pass electrical current to those spinning coils.

The traditional solution is to use carbon brushes to make electrical contact with spinning metal rings, called slip rings. This technique allows you to apply direct current to the rotor to energize its electromagnets. Those brushes produce dust, though, and eventually wear out, so these motors aren’t suitable for use in EVs.

To address this issue, engineers have devised what are called rotary transformers or exciters. They employ an inductive or capacitive system to transfer power wirelessly to the spinning rotor. These motors have a great advantage over conventional, permanent-magnet synchronous motors, which is that their rotor’s magnetic field can be precisely adjusted, simply by controlling the current to the rotor’s electromagnets. That in turn permits a technique called field weakening, which allows high efficiency to be maintained through a wide range of operating speeds.

A notable recent example is a motor built by the automotive supplier ZF Group. Last year the company announced it had produced a synchronous motor in which electromagnets in the rotor are powered by an inductive system that fits inside the machine’s rotor shaft. The 220-kW motor has power-density and efficiency characteristics on a par with those of the NdFeB permanent-magnet motors now used in EVs, according to a company official .

New materials can also help bridge the gap between REE-magnet and non-REE-magnet motors. For example, high-silicon steel, renowned for its superior magnetic properties, emerges as a promising candidate for rotor construction, offering the potential to improve the magnetic efficiency of REE-free motors. Concurrently, using high-conductivity copper alloys or ultraconducting copper strands can greatly reduce electrical losses and improve overall performance. Doubling the conductivity of copper, for example, could reduce the volume of certain motors by 30 percent. The strategic integration of such materials could dramatically narrow the performance gap between REE-containing and REE-free motors.

Another good example of an advanced material that could make a big difference is a dual-phase magnetic material developed by GE Aerospace , which can be magnetized either very strongly or not at all in specified areas. By selectively making certain sections of the rotor nonmagnetic, the GE Aerospace team demonstrated that it is possible to eliminate virtually all magnetic leakage, which in turn allowed them to forgo using rare earth permanent magnets in the motor.

How engineers will navigate the transition to REE-free motors

The transition toward rare earth–free motors for EVs is a major and pivotal engineering endeavor. It will be difficult, but research is beginning to yield intriguing and encouraging results. There will soon be multiple designs available—with, alas, a complex array of trade-offs. Motor weight, power density, cost, manufacturability, and overall performance dynamics will all be important considerations. And success in the marketplace will no doubt depend on an equally complex set of economic factors, so it’s very hard to predict which designs will dominate.

What’s becoming clear, though, is that it’s perfectly feasible that REE-free motors will one day become mainstream. That outcome will require continued and concerted effort. But we see no reason why engineers can’t navigate the complexities of this transition, ensuring that the next generation of EVs is more environmentally benign. Already, at ORNL and elsewhere, AI-enabled motor-design tools are accelerating the development of these REE-free motors.

Today, the large-scale use of REE magnets is marked by arguments pitting technological benefits against environmental and ethical considerations. Soon, those arguments could be much less relevant.

We’re not there yet. As with any major technological transition, the journey to rare earth–free motors won’t be short or straight. But it will be a journey well worth taking.

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Vandana Rallabandi is a member of the research and development staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Prior to joining ORNL in May ‘22, she was a Lead Engineer with the GE Research Center in Niskayuna, NY, USA. She has also held previous positions as a postdoctoral researcher with the SPARK Lab, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA, and Research Engineer at GE Research, Bangalore, India. She received the M.Tech. and Ph.D. degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, in 2008 and 2013, respectively. She is a Senior Member of IEEE and an Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion .

Burak Ozpineci is a Corporate Fellow and head of the Vehicle and Mobility System Research Section at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He began working at ORNL in 2001 while completing his graduate studies and progressed through roles as a researcher, founding group leader of the Power and Energy Systems Group, and leader of the Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Group. He received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Orta Dogu Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, in 1994, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1998 and 2002. A Fellow of the IEEE, he also holds a joint appointment with the Bredesen Center at the University of Tennessee.

Praveen Kumar is a member of the research and development staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His research interests include optimizing electrical motors and drives, hybrid and electric vehicles, and smart grids. He received a B.Tech. degree in electrical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, India in 1998, an M.Tech. degree in energy systems from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India in 2000, and a Ph.D. degree in electrical machines from the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, in 2008. He is a Senior Member of IEEE and a reviewer for journals including IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics , IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion , and IEEE Transactions on Magnetics .

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Why is Canada eyeing the nuclear option for tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles?

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The Government of Canada announced this month that it was looking into imposing additional tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles. -/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Lamp is associate professor at the faculty of law at Queen’s University.

Wolfgang Alschner is associate professor at the common law section of the University of Ottawa. He holds the Hyman Soloway Chair in business and trade law.

Few were surprised when the Government of Canada announced that it was looking into imposing additional tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles – an almost inevitable move after the United States and the European Union announced their own tariffs in recent weeks. What caught observers off guard, however, is how – on which legal basis – the government is proposing to impose those duties.

The federal government seems intent on following the United States in taking the scofflaw route: its proposed tariffs would openly defy Canada’s obligations under international trade law and would align Canada closely with the United States’ confrontational policy toward China, instead of charting an independent course.

This week’s announcement spelled out the possibility of “a surtax under section 53 of the Customs Tariff” – a provision of Canadian customs law that allows the government to levy tariffs in response to foreign practices that adversely affect trade. Section 53 is the nuclear option: it makes the Canadian government judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the trade policies of its trading partners. Absent an international ruling that authorizes Canada to retaliate in the context of a specific trade dispute, the use of Section 53 is inconsistent with Canada’s obligations under the law of the World Trade Organization.

Wisely, Canada has so far used this provision without international legal authorization only once, namely, in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. That use of the provision was defensible, as Canada had to hit back quickly to deter Washington from doing further damage. There is no credible claim to urgency now. Canadian electric vehicle and battery production is just starting and, apart from Tesla’s Shanghai-manufactured Model Y, which counts as Chinese-made, China exports virtually no EVs to Canada.

With time on its side, why would Canada choose Section 53 to impose its tariffs? The likely reason is that it would allow Canada to follow the United States, which is using its own version of a judge-jury-executioner trade law, the notorious Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, to raise tariffs on Chinese EVs to 100 per cent. However, it is far from clear that following in the United States’ footsteps is in Canada’s interest.

The United States has been willing to pay the price for the unilateral imposition of tariffs on China, which includes undermining the WTO and suffering Chinese trade retaliation in response. For Canada, which is more dependent on international trade and less able to throw its weight around, the cost would be disproportionately higher. Canada’s trade with China still takes place on WTO terms. If Canada started ignoring its WTO obligations, on what basis could it ask China, or any other WTO member, to live up to its obligations toward Canada? More broadly, the use of Section 53 would shatter Canada’s reputation as a supporter of the rules-based trading system and make Canada’s efforts to restore the WTO’s central role in international trade regulation less credible.

The federal government has several legal alternatives to raising tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles. To offset Chinese subsidies that, according to Ottawa, give an unfair disadvantage to Chinese EVs, Canada can impose so-called “countervailing duties” after an investigation. This is the path that the EU has taken and that has allowed it to avoid Chinese retaliation for now . Because anti-subsidy tariffs target subsidized producers rather than China per se, they are less confrontational. They also allow differentiating tariffs between exporters based on the subsidies they have received, possibly levying a lower duty on Tesla than on Chinese brands.

Even if the Canadian government wanted to keep foreign EVs out rather than just level the playing field, international trade law provides options. Canada could impose so-called “safeguard” tariffs that temporarily provide the domestic industry with breathing space. Canada chose this option to help its steel industry in the face of global overcapacity between 2018 and 2021. Canada could also renegotiate its tariff ceiling on imported cars, which currently stands at 6.1 per cent, to increase the tariff permanently, while compensating its trading partners with market access opportunities elsewhere.

Section 53 would set Canada on a dangerous trajectory. While the United States is Canada’s closest ally, Canadian trade policy should be made in Ottawa and not in Washington. A good way to start is to craft an independent WTO-compliant Canadian response to the challenges posed by Chinese EVs.

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From group stretches to “Hitting Roman,” MIT Motorsports traditions live on

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Monica and Kevin Chan in front of a red MIT tent

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While siblings Kevin Chan ’17 and rising senior Monica Chan may be seven years apart in age, as Monica Chan puts it, “we’re eight grades apart, so, like, eight life-years apart.”

Despite this age gap — Kevin left for college when Monica was in fifth grade — the siblings share remarkably similar experiences and interests. Both led subteams on the MIT Motorsports team, albeit eight years apart. Kevin was the electrical systems lead from 2015 to 2017, and Monica is the current software lead.

Founded in 2001 by Rich James ’04, SM '06 and Nick Gidwani ’04, and supported by the Edgerton Center, MIT Motorsports designs and builds a high-caliber Formula SAE car to race in yearly competitions. Over the past 23 years, MIT Motorsports has built 19 cars, won 10 trophies, and has had hundreds of team members. Alumni are die-hard fans and established an endowed fund for their 20th anniversary to ensure the team’s longevity. In 2017, Kevin’s team won  Second Place Overall at the Formula SAE Electric competition in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kevin was one of two electrical engineering students on the team, and today Monica oversees a subteam of 10 students. The subteam expansion has facilitated the development of a custom telemetry system. “You can view live data coming off of the car that’s transmitted through radio, and we have a custom dashboard that we created with a custom PCB that transmits all that data now,” Monica says. 

“It’s so funny to hear Monica talking about this, because when I was on the team, our UI [user interface] for the driver and everything was so simple. It was just a little, single-line display that showed the max cell temperature and minimum cell voltage,” Kevin chuckles. “And then we literally had a sticky note on the dashboard that was like, do not go above this temperature. Do not go below this voltage.”

While at MIT, Kevin kept up with his sister weekly, updating her on everything happening at Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE). “A big piece of advice Kevin gave me when I was a junior in high school was that you’re never too young to do something amazing,” Monica says. “He told me back then that ‘you're not going to be much smarter two years from now than you are now.’ That piece of advice helped me get through high school and pushed me to do my best to do the hard and difficult things because indeed, it’s more about the personal qualities you have that push you to do the hard projects. Knowledge can always be acquired, but the drive is the harder part.”

Traditions are part of the fabric of the team culture. Their team stretch at the end of every meeting is an enduring tradition. “Everyone just extends their arms out while standing up and then does a squat. Then, they clap. This is just a thing that has been done on the team since before I was on the team. They said that the origin of it was the stretch that Japanese autoworkers do at the beginning of the day to stretch out their jumpsuits in the factory and make the knees a little bit more flexible. And it’s just fascinating, because this stretch is now almost 20 years old on the team,” Kevin says.

“Hitting Roman,” the day the car first rolls, is an important milestone. “When I was on the team, we were convinced that saying that the car was going to run was bad luck,” Kevin says. “We were trying to come up with a new term to replace the term ‘running car’ because we thought that saying the words ‘running car’ would make it so that the car never ran. So instead of calling it a running car, we called it ‘Roman Chariot.’” The name stuck, and Monica’s team hit Roman in April.

For Kevin, the spirit of Motorsports remains ever-present, as he shares his home with four Motorsports alums and collaborates with three Motorsports alums at Tesla, where he serves as a staff energy systems design/architecture engineer.

“FSAE and the Edgerton Center played a huge role in jump starting my career and my internships. I think there’s not many places where you can get both the breadth and the depth of the design process,” Kevin says.

For Monica, “Race car puts many things in perspective where you implement a lot of the things that you learn in class into a physical project. Sometimes I learn things through race car before I learn them in class. And then when I go back to class, it gives me a better physical intuition for how something works because I have experience implementing it.”

The team recently returned from the Formula Hybrid competition in Loudon, New Hampshire, where they finished first in design, first in scrutineering [mandatory technical, safety, and administrative checks], second in acceleration, third in the racing challenge, fourth in project management, and fifth overall. Edgerton Center Technical Instructor Pat McAtamney reports, “I’ve never seen a team complete a brakes test in one try.”

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Electric Car and the Environment Essay

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Introduction

How electric cars conserve the environment, personal opinion.

An electric car refers to an automobile that runs on electric energy. Batteries and other energy storage devices attached to the car supply electrical energy. The manufacture of electric cars began in the 1880s (Boxwell, 2010). However, the development of internal combustion engines led to their popularity during the early years of the 20 th Century. The situation was eased by the energy crises that hit the global market during the 1970s and 1980s (Boxwell, 2010). The crisis led to a rise in the demand for electric cars among people. However, the demand was not enough to sustain mass production.

The demand for electric cars emerged again after the development of power management technologies that gave electric cars advantages over internal combustion cars (Boxwell, 2010). Other factors that contributed to the rise in demand of electric cars included a rise in oil prices and the need to conserve the environment by controlling the rate of greenhouse gas emission.

The main advantages of electric cars over internal combustion cars include reduction of air pollution, low maintenance cost, and reduction of overreliance on oil (Bullis, 2013). The high rate of the depletion of oil reserves has prompted many nations to invest in technologies that use other sources of energy. The demand and manufacture of electric cars have grown significantly in past years. However, high costs and the unreliability of batteries discourage many people from embracing electric cars.

One of the benefits of electric cars is that they conserve the environment because they do not release greenhouse gases, which are the main cause of environmental pollution (Bomford, 2013). In recent years, debates regarding the effects of internal combustion vehicles have dominated discussions on environmental conservation. The main issues frequently discussed include global warming, air pollution, and reliance on oil as the major source of energy.

One of the solutions to the challenges of air pollution and global warming is the manufacture of electric cars. Electric cars do not produce greenhouse gases, thus reducing the level of air pollution. Cars that run on oil products produce carbon monoxide, ozone, hydrocarbons, soot, and oxides of nitrogen that pollute the environment (Bomford, 2013).

Another benefit of electric cars is their ability to regulate noise pollution. The absence of a combustion engine means that they do not produce loud noises that pollute the environment (Bomford, 2013). Therefore, they prevent air and noise pollution. Electric cars that are charged using hydroelectric power further reduce pollution because the process of electricity production does not cause pollution.

People opposed to electric cars argue that the process of manufacturing them is a major concern because it significantly pollutes the environment. Materials used in manufacturing electric cars require high quantities of energy to produce. However, the net effect from the manufacture of electric cars is less than that of the manufacture and operation of gas as well as diesel vehicles (Bomford, 2013). A study conducted by Renault revealed that electric cars are better for the environment than cars that run on gas and oil products.

The study considered the effects of manufacturing and operating different types of vehicles. Factors considered during the study included emissions from cars, manufacturing plants, resources used in production, and the environmental impacts of the whole process. According to the study, the process of manufacturing electric cars pollutes the environment more than that of manufacturing other types of cars. However, the impact of using diesel and gas cars has a greater environmental impact than that of using electric cars (Bullis, 2013).

I think that electric cars are good for the environment because they do not produce gases that pollute the environment. Even though their manufacturing process has adverse effects on the environment, their operation does not affect the environment negatively.

Cars that operate on oil products produce greenhouse gases and other substances that pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. The gases released by internal combustion cars also cause acid rain that has adverse environmental effects. I also think that electric cars should be encouraged because they reduce dependence on oil as the main source of energy.

Electric cars have been in existence for more than hundred years. However, they are not as popular as internal combustion cars. Their manufacture commenced in the 1880s. However, after the development of internal combustion engines, their popularity waned. During the energy crises of the 1970s and the 1980s, they regained popularity again.

However, it was short-lived and did not lead to mass production of electric cars. Currently, their popularity is on the rise due to the instability of oil prices and a high depletion rate of oil reserves. Electric cars are advantageous because they do not produce gas emissions that pollute the environment. Opponents have criticized them because their manufacture includes processes that have adverse environmental effects. However, the net effect of manufacturing and using them is lower than that of internal combustion cars.

Bomford, A. (2013). How Environmentally Friendly are Electric Cars ? Web.

Boxwell, M. (2010). Owing an Electric Car . New York: Greensteram Publishing.

Bullis, K. (2013). Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment than Gas-Powered Ones? Web.

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Evolution of Electric Cars

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Origins of electric cars, the rise and fall of electric cars, the modern era of electric cars, the rise of electric cars today.

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