7 things we learned in 9 years, and where green cars are headed

Chevrolet Bolt EV being charged outside Go Forth electric-car showroom, Portland   [photo: Forth]

Chevrolet Bolt EV being charged outside Go Forth electric-car showroom, Portland [photo: Forth]

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More than four years ago, this site looked back at its first five years of coverage to assess what had changed—and what we’d learned.

Now, we’re repeating the exercise. In February 2014, Green Car Reports had published about 9,800 news articles. The number is now up to more than 16,800.

Much has changed since then, however. We’ve broken down our thoughts into seven lessons, although regular readers will know that the site has covered each of these themes at some length over the years.

DON’T MISS: Green Car Reports, Five Years And 9,800 Articles Later (Feb 2014)

(1) A “green car” is now a battery-electric vehicle. Full stop. Four years ago, it might have been a plug-in hybrid or even the most efficient conventional hybrid, but no longer.

(2) China will lead the world. Perhaps the single most important story we’ve covered over that time was China’s announcement last September that it would set a year—still TBD—in which sales of new vehicles with combustion engines would be banned altogether.

China is the world’s largest car market, at roughly 30 million versus a U.S. peak of 17.5 million. It’s a growth market; the U.S. is not. What happens in China will have strong ripples in the rest of the world.

China’s government-backed push to zero-emission vehicles will proceed rapidly; the country modeled its zero-emission vehicle mandate on California’s—and then supercharged it, to a pace even the Golden State can only dream of.

That mandate plus China’s future ban on new vehicles with engines, even without a known date, will ensure that battery-electric vehicles become a substantial portion of the world’s production within 10 years.

The pace of that change outside China remains uncertain, and will require far more consumer demand in Europe and especially North America than we’ve seen so far.

READ THIS: Electric Cars’ Secret Advantage: They’re Just Nicer To Drive (Apr 2012)

(3) However, with the continued slow emergence of Teslas, Chevy Bolt EVs and Nissan Leafs, and future all-electric models configured as crossover utility vehicles, consumers will start to realize that electric cars are simply better cars. At some point.

They’re quieter, smoother, calmer, cheaper per mile, and dispense entirely with visits to the gas station (which many people turn out to dislike more than the rest of us may have realized).

(4) Despite the phenomenon of Tesla, North America is likely to lag the rest of the world in mass adoption of battery-electric cars.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range electric car, road test in greater Atlanta area, Feb 2018

2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range electric car, road test in greater Atlanta area, Feb 2018

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That’s due to many factors: longer travel distances, historically cheap gas leading to larger vehicles (full-size pickups and SUVs seen nowhere else in the world), enormous areas of dispersed low-density suburbia and exurbia, incoherent national energy policy, climate-science denial, and an utter lack of viable mass transit in most of the U.S. and Canada.

(5) Those electric cars are already cleaner than the average new vehicle sold today, and they will get continuously cleaner yet as more renewable energy comes online and the world’s electric grids slowly decarbonize.

(6) Hydrogen fuel-cell cars show no more signs of long-term viability on a global scale than they did in 2009. Nor do their carbon emissions favor them. (This one is endlessly debatable, but we’re not going to do that here.)

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