Giving up petrol cars was a marginal idea. Now is on the way to reality


Motorists fill their vehicles at a Shell station on July 22 in Denver. Phasing out the sale of gasoline cars once seemed laughable. It is now getting closer to reality.

David Zalubowski / AP

A few years ago when the Coltura advocacy group called on America to stop using gasoline, it drew mockery.

Coltura had been waging a war on gasoline for a few years at this point, but his primary weapons were things like music and performance art. One play featured actors inside a panicked clear plastic bubble as it filled with mock exhaust.

Then, in 2017, Coltura co-executive director Matthew Metz published an op-ed calling on Washington state to eliminate gasoline cars altogether. A Seattle columnist wrote an article on Metz, with the word “crazy” prominently displayed.

Much has changed in four years. Tesla is now the world’s most valuable automaker. Several automakers have announced that they will cease production of gasoline and diesel cars over the next two decades.

And what was once a fringe idea is now part of a global trend: momentum is building for the idea that zero-emission, predominantly electric vehicles are the future of the auto industry.

“More and more countries are announcing targets to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles nationally,” Sandra Wappelhorst, who has followed the trend for the International Clean Transport Council, told NPR.

She also pointed out individual cities such as like London or Oslo, which not only focus on new car sales, but offer bans on all combustion vehicles in the city center for years to come.

Plans to sell 100% electric vehicles are becoming widespread

The recently concluded climate talks in Glasgow included a non-binding call for all vehicles sold globally to be zero-emissions by 2040. The European Union is considering a zero-emissions mandate that would come into effect five years earlier, in 2035.

The idea permeates government leaders to individuals. A recent poll commissioned by Coltura, conducted by reputable national polling groups, found that more than 50% of U.S. voters support all new cars to be electric within a decade.

“In, like, 10 years, you probably won’t even have gasoline cars. Right?” Elle King asked, as she looked at an electric vehicle on display at a Northern Virginia mall this week. “And so much the better, because gasoline is expensive.”

In the United States, the federal government has not passed a complete phase-out, instead calling for 50% of new cars sold to be electric. Corn California, Massachusetts and New York all have plans to end sales of gasoline cars within 15 years.

And these state proposals to transform our automotive lives have not elicited a widespread political backlash – despite Americans’ obsession with cars and the country’s huge dependence on gasoline.

“I think more people in New York City were crazy about soda limitations than they would be, like gasoline vehicles,” says Trina Saha, who lives in Queens.

It has just received a new Toyota Corolla, a traditional one, powered by gas. But she says a car’s features are more important than what powers it, and she expects her to end up buying an electric vehicle.

An electric vehicle charging station is seen at a BP gas station in Bridge, NJ on May 6.  The lack of widespread infrastructure for electric vehicles is considered a major obstacle to the sale of such cars.

An electric vehicle charging station is seen at a BP gas station in Bridge, NJ on May 6. The lack of widespread infrastructure for electric vehicles is considered a major obstacle to the sale of such cars.

Kena Betancur / AFP via Getty Images

Huge challenges remain before reaching the goals

Ultimately, maybe the key word here. The phasing out of guy cars by 2035 – the date envisioned by the EU and many states – may seem far away, which could help explain why people aren’t outraged by these policies.

That could be a problem, says Jasmine Sanders, executive director of OurClimate. In fact, ending gasoline car sales by 2035 would require huge changes over the next 15 years, from investments in infrastructure to changes in consumer thinking and behavior.

“We have to go ahead and start doing it now,” Sanders said. “We can’t wait until 2034 and then [start] tell people, “No, you can’t buy that gasoline vehicle.” “

And the scale of the proposed transformation is immense. Today, gasoline and diesel vehicles represent 97% of the US auto market. Electric vehicles always cost more upfront, and America doesn’t have the power grid or charging infrastructure to support a fully electric fleet.

These are hot topics in boardrooms as well as in state houses.

Automakers are increasingly accepting the idea that electric vehicles are the future, but they are also keenly aware of the scale of the changes involved, and there is no consensus on how quickly this is happening. will actually produce.

Environmentalists are pushing for a phase-out of gasoline-powered cars as early as 2030, while some skeptical automakers believe even 2040 is too ambitious.

In short, America has not yet broken with gasoline. A few democratically controlled states that set targets do not guarantee that this will happen.

But what is clear is that in just a few short years, the idea of ​​no longer having gasoline cars has moved from the fringe to the center of attention.

Today, Coltura doesn’t just write editorials about the end of gasoline-powered cars. It helps to draft legislation to make it a reality, state by state.

Coltura’s shift from the periphery to the halls of power also manifests itself in unexpected ways. A woman named Jennifer Granholm made an appearance in one of the anti-essence music videos that Coltura released a few years ago.

At the time, she was the former governor of Michigan and an electric vehicle enthusiast. Today, she is the US Secretary of Energy.

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