Many people would be surprised to learn that electric vehicles (EVs) have been around since the 1830s — even before the internal combustion engine. Car and Driver tells the story: Around 1832, Scottish visionary Robert Anderson created a motorized carriage that ran on galvanic cells (batteries). About 50 years later, English inventor Thomas Parker helped deploy electric-powered trams. By 1893, a prototype EV designed by Scottish chemist William Morrison was a sensation at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Fast-forward 150 years, and new regulations get people charged up about EVs once again. It’s not long before we have the GM EV1, the Toyota Prius — and a little Silicon Valley startup called Tesla Motors that aims to produce a luxury electric sports car with a range of 200-plus miles.
Today, industry experts are saying that the cost of EVs will match that of gas-powered vehicles much sooner than original estimates — as early as 2023. In fact, government incentives in many parts of the world have already made them cheaper. “We are on a very accelerated timeline,” Carnegie Mellon Associate Professor Venkat Viswanathan told The New York Times. “If you asked anyone in 2010 whether we would have price parity by 2025, they would have said that was impossible.”
There are a few other reasons for the accelerated timeline: As Elon Musk announced this past week, technological advances are slashing battery price tags and boosting storage capacity for more miles per charge. He also promised to make a $25,000 Tesla within the next three years.
Set in motion
Although cost is a huge factor when car-buying, according to CNN, the biggest reason by far that people choose to purchase an EV is concern for the environment (80% of respondents). While there are debates over whether EVs are, in fact, environmentally friendly, according to CarbonBrief Factcheck, they have considerably lower emissions over their lifetime than conventional vehicles. Of course, car power is just the tip of the melting iceberg.
This week has been a significant one for the environment. First, California announced a rigorous climate goal of banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. Last year, only 8% of cars sold in the state were not gas-powered.
Additionally, the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly featured numerous speeches on global warming, with China — the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions — aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.
Meanwhile, the Climate Week summit was hosted by the City of New York and the United Nations, with a goal of “exploring what lessons we can learn in the pursuit of a net-zero future.”
And perhaps most striking is a new installation of a clock that counts down the time humans have left to avert climate disaster. It started September 17 at seven years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes and seven seconds remaining. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, when the clock runs out, the average global temperature will be irreversibly on its way to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels, The Smithsonian reports. The clock also shows a percentage value representing the fraction of energy produced with renewable sources, which designers from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change call “the lifeline.”
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