Steps to get to zero road-travel emissions

Although there have been significant developments in zero-emission research and testing in the past few years, we still have a long way to go in making zero road-travel emissions mainstream. This is important not only on a global scale to reduce the impact of climate change, but also locally, for us to enjoy greener and healthier public spaces. But in order for the US to do its part, there remain several tough barriers that need to be overcome.

Generic feature image for getting to zero road travel emissions

Setting long-term goals

Recently, the UN launched a zero emission vehicle challenge, which urges the global auto industry, transport businesses, and national and local governments to accelerate the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The initiative shows the full scale of the rising demand for cleaner vehicles, posing a challenge to automakers to transition from combustion engines to zero road-travel emissions vehicles. It also asks businesses to make fleet electrification the standard by 2030. The challenges issued could be the nudge the US and other countries needed in order to prioritize zero emission projects.

California is one example of a state that has already mapped out its zero emission plans, having committed to 5 million zero emission cars on its roads by 2030. In fact, the Golden State actually leads the US in terms of EV purchases and incentives. But to achieve its goal, California plans to establish 250,000 EV charging stations, 10,000 fast charging stations, and 200 hydrogen refueling stations to support its growing EV numbers, which are currently at around 350,000. 

A nation-wide vision and a list of detailed plans are critical to jumpstart the transition to a 100% zero emission country, which brings us to the next point.

Issuing Government Policies

As we mentioned in a pervious blog post, California was given the authority to enact stricter environmental regulations than those set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009. Their policies were then adopted by nine other states. To boost this momentum and create a better environment for EV in the mainstream, the federal government needs to work on having all states commit to this goal.

However, it seems that the national government is heading towards the opposite. A Forbes article notes that the Trump administration plans to revoke California’s greenhouse emission standards. If it succeeds and places the zero emission travel goals to the bottom of the national agenda, this would be yet another barrier to zero emission travel in the US. In that scenario, the much-needed reforms and policies that need to be in place to encourage people to adapt the new technology will never materialize.

There are, however, pockets of development in the reduction of harmful emissions on a national scale. For instance, the federal government has mandated the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial vehicles. While this was primarily implemented to improve road safety, these devices also indirectly contribute to protecting the environment. As Kevin Aries explains on Verizon Connect, ELDs are able to alert drivers when they are wasting fuel.

Bad driving habits such as idling and aggressive driving tend to waste fuel. Drivers can then be encouraged to practice fuel efficiency, and in turn reducing the wastage of non-renewable resources. 

Lessons from other countries

Do policies and goal-setting activities like these have an effect? Very much so. Take Norway as an example. The country imposes a high stamp duty on vehicles with combustion engines, while exempting owners of EVs from it, as well as a high 25% value added tax. It also provides EV owners free ferry travel, parking, and access to bus lanes to cement public preference for electric cars. Today, some 60% of all newly sold cars in the country are electric.

The lesson to be learned here is this: no matter how advanced the technology will become over the next few years in terms of environmental preservation and road performance, it will mean nothing if there are still price and structural barriers to owning them. Support for changing our automotive industry could be spurred on by non-profit organizations or private companies, but in order to see a real difference we need to reform our current policies.

Post specially written for by Alexa Cassie.