There is simply no credible way to address climate change without changing the way we get from here to there, meaning cars, trucks, planes and any other gas-guzzling forms of transportation.
That is why it is so heartening to see electric cars, considered curios for the rich or eccentric or both not that long ago, now entering the mainstream.
A slew of recent announcements by researchers, auto companies and world leaders offer real promise. First up, a forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that electric cars would become cheaper than conventional cars without government subsidies between 2025 and 2030.
At the same time, auto companies like Tesla, General Motors and Volvo are planning a slate of new models that they say will be not only more affordable but also more practical than earlier versions. And officials in such countries as France, India and Norway have set aggressive targets for putting these vehicles to use and phasing out emission-spewing gasoline and diesel cars.
Skeptics may see these announcements as wishful thinking. After all, just 1.1 percent of all cars sold globally in 2016 were electrics or plug-in hybrids. And many popular models still cost much more than comparable fossil-fuel cars.
The skeptics, however, have consistently been overly pessimistic about this technology. Electric cars face challenges, yet they have caught on much faster than was thought likely just a few years ago. There were two million of them on the world’s roads last year, up 60 percent from 2015, according to the International Energy Agency.
The cost of batteries, the single most expensive component of the cars, fell by more than half between 2012 and 2016, according to the Department of Energy. Tesla has indicated that it can produce batteries for about $125 per kilowatt-hour. Researchers say the cost of electric cars will be at parity with conventional vehicles when battery prices reach $100 per kilowatt-hour, which experts say is just a few years away. Electric cars are more efficient, of course, but they also require less maintenance, which should make them cheaper to own over time.
Read more: The New York Times