Business leaders seem more committed than ever to bypass the US government in their desire to make more vehicles emission-free.
Business leaders gathered in San Francisco last week for a climate change summit that was focused on the demise of the internal combustion engine in motorized vehicles.
The report from the meeting calls for carmakers to speed up the pace of their electric vehicle rollout as 12 major cities around the world pledge to allow only zero-emission cars and buses on their streets from 2025.
This follows company moves to increase the number of electric vehicles in their own fleets and has Swedish flat-pack furniture maker IKEA taking the lead by promising to make its home deliveries using only electric powered vehicles.
“This really gives auto companies the message that they need to signal the endgame for the internal combustion engine,” said Helen Clarkson, chief executive of the Climate Group, which is behind the zero-emission vehicle challenge. “When you see cities, making this sort of commitment, it creates a new normal in the market. Transport is a bit behind on the curve of the energy transformation, but we are really seeing things move now.”
The move away from fossil-fuelled vehicles in the United States is particularly challenging due to the fact that low gasoline prices encourage Americans to buy larger SUV type cars and trucks. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s policy of weakening fuel efficiency standards has car makers holding back on pushing their new electric cars.
Mayors at the climate summit hosted by California’s governor, Jerry Brown, who has himself set a target of 5million electric cars on the state’s roads – have said they can look to bypass the federal government and help the US catch up to the likes of China, India, and the Netherlands, which have all committed to getting rid of carbon-polluting cars.
The UN’s environment chief, Erik Solheim, said that half of the vehicles bought in his native Norway are now electric or hybrid due to tax incentives and that electric vehicle can drive in dedicated bus lanes.
“With political leadership, it can change a lot faster than people think,” he said. “In Norway, you see Nissan Leafs everywhere now. Every city and state should look to see what they can do on this.”
Elected officials in the US are not going as far as naming an end date for carbon-emitting vehicles, but advocates for electric vehicles hope even the more modest commitments will provide the momentum to radically change the face of car fleets, thereby helping avoid dangerous climate change and lessen the health impacts of air pollution near roadways.
When talking about the situation in the US, Sue Reid, vice-president of climate and energy at Ceres said: “We are now seeing electric vehicles becoming cost competitive right at the point of sale due to improvements in battery technology.
“There is a gap in awareness and education in the US, but once that is bridged, things will change. This is the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine. Soon, it won’t make sense for automakers to be producing cars on different platforms.”