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Breakthrough

The Big Picture

1 min read

Meet Lola. She lives in LA, weighs more than 1815 tons, is 105 meters long, stands 6.4 meters tall, is fed by a 13.2 kilovolt line, and has an 1800-kilowatt motor. She can bore through 15 meters of earth a day, and has a face (you’re looking at it) only a civil engineering contractor could love. She and her twin sister Viki, an identical $10 million-tunnel boring machine, were made specially to match the subway-tunneling needs of the city, says Jack Brockway, senior vice president of Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems USA, the U.S. subsidiary of the twins’ German manufacturer.In November, Lola finished a 1.7-mile tunnel and broke through to a future light rail station on a route that by 2009 will connect East Los Angeles to downtown, 6 miles away. Los Angeles, famous for dismantling its extensive public transportation system in favor of massive freeways in the mid-20th century, is experiencing a light-rail renaissance. It’s now number three in the United States in terms of the number of riders and has ambitious expansion plans. So Viki and Lola should be busy for many years.

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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
Green

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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