A Zero Emission Future

The endgame for the internal combustion engine
Dhruti Modha
Reading time: 6 minutes
26 July 2018

The year is 2030.

Every vehicle you see on the road is electric. Cars last longer, batteries are more powerful than they’ve ever been. Nobody is worrying about gas prices, and spending has decreased not just for individual consumers, but for corporates and governments too. The air is clean.

It sounds like a distant future, but it is within our power to make it a reality. 

ZEV Challenge Press Conference

In fact, as Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group says, “We think it’s time to talk about the endgame for the internal combustion engine. A zero-emission future is inevitable – the question is how fast we get there.”

So how can we accelerate this change? Leaders from all sectors answered this question at the launch of the ZEV Challenge at Red Hook, Brooklyn on July 10, 2018.

Led by The Climate Group and C40 Cities, the challenge was supported by The State of California, New York City, EDF Energy, LeasePlan and Unilever. In addition, the cities of Paris, Los Angeles, London, Milan, Rome, Copenhagen, Pittsburgh, Mexico City, Medellin and the regions of Australian Capital Territory and Navarra.

The aim was to rally the power of these states, regions, cities and international corporates around the globe to commit their spending and influence to the adoption of electric vehicles worldwide – and it was a huge success.

In the year 2017, new figures from the U.S. Energy Information Agency showed that transportation was a bigger emitter of pollutants than the energy sector. The ZEV Challenge is a response to these alarming figures, but it is also part of the solution.

We urged the auto industry to accelerate their manufacture of electric vehicles – in the words of the Mayor of Pittsburgh, we told them “If you make them, we will buy them!”

And the efforts are paying off! On the morning of the challenge, GM announced that due to a huge acceleration in EV demand, they would increase production of the Chevy Bolt by 40%.

This is only the beginning.

Helen Clarkson ZEV Challenge

At our panel, we heard from world leaders in industry and government about the steps they are taking to lead the electric vehicle revolution, EV100.

Mary Anne Brelinsky (CEO of EDF Energy) announced that they are working with Notre Dame University to put electric vehicle charging stations on campus, and in the United Kingdom, they are installing charging stations at peoples’ homes. But most importantly, as part of EV100, EDF has committed to convert the entire fleet of 30,000 to electric vehicles by 2030.

Michael Lightfoot, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, LeasePlan reported that LeasePlan are committed to EV100: all 1.8 million of their vehicles will be net zero in terms of emissions by 2030, starting with their own fleet by 2021. Not only that, but they are formulating the crucial infrastructure required to make it a reality – that includes billing and charging, both at home and at the office. He told us that “the whole village” should work towards making “EV charging as ubiquitous as street-lighting” and “promote a common message around electric vehicles: that these are now a realistic alternative to drivers across the world.” That’s the future that big corporates and governments are seeing.

On top of this green vehicles have changed the face of New York, as Deputy Commissioner Keith Kerman (New York City) told us 62% of their fleet vehicles already use alternative fuels, many of which are fully electric. But the innovation doesn’t stop there - earlier in the year they introduced their first solar car-ports: free-standing, fully-autonomous solar-powering of electric vehicles with fast-charging EV-ports coming “very soon” – and most importantly told us that the city is using its influence to push automotive manufacturers to make more EVs!

Green vehicles have been operating this city for 15 years, they help keep this city running, they’ve proven to be reliable, durable and they’re less expensive than the other units we’re buying – Keith Kerman, Deputy Commissioner, Chief Fleet Officer NYC

Mary D. Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, affirmed that “electric vehicles are not the future; electric vehicles are here now.” She added “we have opportunities to use technology to help us solve our problems and to prepare for what’s coming in a way which will not make things worse – and that is electric transportation.”

But what about criticism that EVs are only for the wealthy? This too is changing. Through one Californian initiative alone, more and more EVs in California are replacing the cars of low-income families. This not only provides mobility but is also “a way of investing in cleaning up the air, which in terms of dollar per ton of pollution out of the air is one of the most cost-effective things that we can do”. This proves to us that electric transportation is for everyone.

Yanni Andreopoulos from Formula E praised the ZEV Challenge as a “platform for manufacturers, cities, the public sector and the private sector to come together and talk and work on how electric mobility can become a reality quicker”.

Finally, Helen reminded us that “by really putting the demand together we can see how the market is going to move more quickly, and that’ll drive the major economics of price coming down and getting to this zero-emission vehicle future as quickly as we can.”

The ZEV Challenge will see automotive manufacturers, businesses, cities and regions making commitments on their vehicles between now and the Global Climate Action Summit 2018, taking place in San Francisco from 12-14 September, where we’ll aim to push our key actions for each sector:

  • Auto-sector – signal a willingness to work towards an endgame for combustion engine vehicles, and in the meantime commit to a ZEV percentage of sales by 2025.
  • Businesses – multinational businesses are being challenged to join EV100, the lead business commitment to fleet electrification by 2030 and charging infrastructure, run by The Climate Group.
  • States and regions – are called upon to join a new Under2 Coalition ZEV initiative, run in close cooperation with the ZEV Alliance, focused on procurement, infrastructure and policy.
  • Cities – some of the largest cities in the world will join in the push and commit their power and influence to making ZEV a reality for everyone.

At the ZEV Challenge, the zero-emissions race to the future has already begun.

Find out more about the ZEV Challenge. 

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