Philip McMaster / Flickr

7 Countries Leading the Way on the Race to Go Electric

By Kieran Cooke

The car maker Volvo has shed its reputation for safe but rather boring models—sledges rather than sleek runabouts—as it takes a decisive step towards electric cars.

The Sweden-based auto manufacturer—since 2010 owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding group—is set to become the first of the world's major car makers to wave goodbye to the traditional internal combustion engine.

Emissions from cars and trucks make up a large proportion of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists in the U.S. calculate that cars and trucks account for up to 20 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Fumes from diesel- and petrol-fueled engines also cause severe pollution problems, particularly in big cities; there is increasing concern about the impact of these fumes on health.

Starting in 2019, Volvo will be producing only cars with electric motors, or hybrids—vehicles that run on combined electric and petrol-driven engines.

"This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's chief executive. "People increasingly demand electrified cars."

Volvo said it plans to launch five new models—all either fully or partially electric—between 2019 and 2021. Three of them will be marketed under the Volvo brand; the other two more powerful vehicles, designed to compete with the California-based Tesla high performance electric car, will be part of a new Polestar brand.

Volvo, which started producing cars in 1927, has been expanding its sales in recent years, with more than half a million vehicles sold in 2015, up eight percent on the previous year.

Heavy investment—particularly in electric and hybrid vehicles—by the company's Chinese owners is said by industry specialists to have spurred Volvo's revival.

Chinese lead

China is the world's biggest market for both electric and hybrid vehicles, with approximately 350,000 sold last year. China gives considerable incentives to purchasers of electric vehicles with various subsidies and tax breaks available; there has also been multi-million dollar investment in networks of charging stations.

Many countries in Europe—where a total of 220,000 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold last year—are also planning to increase electric car sales.

Norway, with the world's highest number of electric cars per capita, and where 40 percent of newly registered vehicles last year were electric powered, aims to end all sales of petrol and diesel cars within eight years.

Germany plans to have more than one million electric cars on its roads by 2020, while the Netherlands proposes to ban combustion engines by 2025.

Improved batteries

France recently joined the high-powered rush to electric vehicles, saying it would end all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 as part of its commitment to meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.

Developments in technology, such as batteries capable of giving driving ranges of between 280 and 350 miles, are stimulating electric car sales.

The U.S. has tended to lag behind in the race to go electric, with sales of electric-only cars falling in each of the last two years; they now make up less than 0.4 percent of the total U.S. car market.

The big surge in electric vehicle use is expected to happen in the developing world; India, now one of the world's biggest car markets, announced plans earlier this year to have only electric cars on its roads by 2030.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Show Comments ()

Those Little Produce Stickers? They’re a Big Waste Problem

By Dan Nosowitz

Those little produce stickers are ubiquitous fruits and vegetables everywhere. But, as CBC notes, they're actually a significant problem despite their small size.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite Trump’s Bluster, U.S. Officials and Scientists Maintain Climate Work with International Partners

Trump has loudly declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but, behind the tweets and the headlines, U.S. officials and scientists have carried on working with international partners to fight climate change, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Gina Loudon and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore

EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based think tank that rejects the science of man-made climate change and has received funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Aerial photo of Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill. Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Water Pollution Safeguards, Putting Communities at Risk

By Mary Anne Hitt

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't make this up. One day after new data revealed widespread toxic water contamination near coal ash disposal sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced a proposal to repeal the very 2015 EPA safeguards that had required this data to be tracked and released in the first place. Clean water is a basic human right that should never be treated as collateral damage on a corporate balance sheet, but that is exactly what is happening.

Keep reading... Show less
Impossible Foods

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Keep reading... Show less
Elephant family in Kenya. Nzomo Victor / Flickr

Why Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council Is a Disaster

By Elly Pepper

In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters' ability to hunt internationally.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council's mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn't want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.

Keep reading... Show less
A robot bee from a season three episode of Black Mirror on Netflix

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

With the mass die-off of bees spelling trouble for agriculture, the world's largest retailer has filed patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, to aid with pollination and crop production.

In U.S. Patent Office documents made public last week, Walmart has applied for six patents on drones designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides and pollinate plants.

Keep reading... Show less
The iconic moai of Easter Island are threatened by erosion caused by rising seas. Aupaelfary / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Climate Change Threatens Easter Island

Easter Island has long served as a reminder of what happens to a civilization when the environment it depends upon collapses. Now, the iconic remains of that civilization are under threat from a new environmental challenge: global climate change.

Easter Island, Rapa Nui in Polynesian, is surrounded by statues called moai situated on top of ahu, or platforms. But according to an in-depth report for The New York Times published Thursday, the moai are now at risk from erosion caused by sea level rise.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!