An Almost All-Electric Car?

Watch for the upcoming plug-in hybrid battle between GM and Toyota

3 min read

Remember General Motors’ all-electric plugâ''in vehicle, the EV1? It went to market in 1997, mostly in California, became a Hollywood and media darling, and ­vanished without a trace six years later after a paltry 1000 eâ''cars were leased. Depending on your ­political persuasion and ­tolerance for conspiracy theories, the car-killing forces included fickle consumer interest, poor battery life, corporate greed, global oil agendas, and government ineptitude. Who Killed the Electric Car? , a 2006 ­documentary, cinematically indicted all of the above, and more, for terminating interest in electric-­vehicle programs worldwide.

Well, despite all the postâ''EV1 talk that America’s ­premier ­automaker had ­cynically ­jettisoned its electric and ­alternative-fuel dreams to ­pursue gas-­guzzling SUV cash cows, GM seems never to have ­abandoned the e-car game. This time the auto­maker’s back with some ­economical gas/electric hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, including a fuel-cell SUV. But the big news is GM’s snappy new hybrid plug-in ­technology, used in the Chevrolet Volt ­concept car, which some are touting as the Toyota killer.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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