COP26 declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans comes at a time when road transport accounts for 17% of global emissions, and its emissions are rising faster than other sectors. Although some say its 16%, the challenge of emissions from road transport is a cause for concern. All electric vehicle (EV) batteries emit approximately 13 metric tonnes of CO2 and another 9-12 tonnes for the rest of the vehicle before it rolls off of the production line.  It would in fact take several years of use before the climate saw any net gain. Equally, there are 1.4 billion internal combustion (IC) cars on the road globally. The pessimists doubt if there are sufficient quantities of finite’ precious earth minerals in the ground to sustain a global switch to all EV. 

In this article, Global Road Technology interrogates critical questions related to accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans and provides an account of what is happening currently relative to projections from different schools of thought. These critical questions are: 

  • Why electric vehicles?
  • What promises were made at COP26?
  • Who are the leading voices in the global transition to electric vehicles? 
  • What are the challenges currently faced?
  • Are you for or against?

Why electric vehicles? 

Electrification represents the most transformative change in the cars and vans industry in over 100 years. So, we go on and answer why EVs:

  • cheaper to run
  • quieter on the road
  • superior driving experience
  • lower total cost of ownership
  • ability to conveniently charge at home
  • reduce air pollution
  • better for our health
  • efficient at converting energy into motion
  • sustainable when renewable energy is used to charge them
  • zero emissions at the tailpipe

What promises were made at COP26?

At the COP26, UN summit in Glasgow a pledge known as the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans was presented. The pledge outlines an agreement for car/van manufacturers, governments, cities, businesses, investors and financial institutions to ‘work towards’ all sales of new cars and vans being fully zero-emissions in ‘leading markets’ by 2035 and globally by 2040. Although the pledge is not binding, it is certainly interesting to see some of the biggest automotive brands have chosen to back it. Over 100 national governments, cities, states and major businesses have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of IC engines by 2035 in leading markets and 2040 worldwide. At least 13 have signed a similar memorandum of understanding to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered heavy-duty vehicles by 2040. 

Who are the leading voices in the global transition to electric cars?

Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson spoke on the main stage of the COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference about the importance of the transition to fully electric vehicles and the importance of making sustainability into a key part of the business. Volvo Cars will be a fully electric car company globally by 2030. Volvo also became one of the first signatories of the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans. Ford signed the ambitious Route Zero initiative which aims to reduce carbon associated with road transportation. Ford, is leading the way in its ambition to create a sustainably profitable all-electric future. In the UK, SSE Energy Solutions, is one of the companies actively participating in the global transition to electric vehicles. SSE signed the COP26 declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans. Their Road to Renewables electric bus has been visiting examples of projects and sites that are helping get us on the road to net zero, from vehicle-to-grid technology to wind farms. Their pledge is to work with all their stakeholders to deliver the right infrastructure and the right tariff together. For them, improving the consumer’s experience is crucial for the mass zero carbon transport revolution needed in the coming years. 

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

What are the challenges currently faced?

Making electric mobility mainstream will change our life styles, road construction, trade and commerce, power grid supply and many more things than you can ever imagine. The whole infrastructure will need a drastic change. Transition to electric mobility is much more complicated than it looks. Some of these challenges include:

  • Setting up charging stations
  • Improving batteries
  • Finding alternatives to coal to produce electricity.
  • Getting earth metals to make batteries that are rare.
  • Public perception of EV technology as expensive.
  • The environmentalist resistance and doubt if EVs are really green.
  • Fear of gas cars being banned or discriminated by high taxation. 
  • Inferiority to companies such as Tesla.

In conclusion… Are you for or against?  

The transition to 100% zero-emissions cars and vans still has a long way to go, as these emissions should not only come from using the vehicles but are spread right across the value chain from the pit to the road. As it stands, there is a bit of debate about how much an EV can reduce air pollution. The act of building an EV is energy-intensive from mining the minerals needed, to manufacture of all the various components to assembly, there is a lot of CO2 and other pollutants that are being generated. Some even argue that, EVs require more energy to manufacture than conventional cars. EVs are charged by power plant that aren’t always clean, with examples of coal-fired power plants providing 100% electricity. However, if you can recharge your EV from renewable power sources like wind and solar, the pollution reduction is significant. So should buying an efficient used car that doesn’t require additional manufacturing, needs no new metals compared to EVs and spend the rest of your money on carbon credits? Well, the transition to 100% EVs has a lot of dichotomies to consider and it’s up to you to tell us what you think! Are you for or against? 

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