Arriving on a snowy winter’s day in gray Vancouver, IEEE Spectrum journalism intern Anne-Marie Corley was nonetheless full of anticipation. She had jetted across the continent to be among the first journalists to drive Nissan’s highly anticipated pure-electric car, the Leaf. She was on assignment for our ”Top 10 Tech Cars” (in this issue), and she’d be in Vancouver for a grand total of 22 hours.

Then she got a look at the car. It wasn’t the sleek e-speedster that will go on sale later this year in Japan, the United States, and Europe, but rather a ”test mule,” with the guts of a Leaf and the body of a dowdy Versa. But that didn’t take away from the fun of driving it. A Nissan observer riding shotgun didn’t flinch as Corley stomped on the gas (whoops, electricity!) and slammed on the brakes while zipping around the test course. But when he saw her sneaking back to the track to try for a fourth spin, he greeted her with a shake of the head and said, ”Oh, you again?”

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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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