Three years ago, the world’s largest car manufacturer made global headlines for deliberately evading emissions standards.
The Volkswagen Group spiraled into an unmitigated public relations crisis—now known as Dieselgate—once it became apparent that the company installed “defeat devices” in 11 million vehicles between 2009 and 2015. Those devices enabled VWs to pass emissions tests while emitting far more pollutants than allowed by law.
For years, transportation experts in the environmental community had shown that this practice was far more commonplace than official testing data might suggest. But it was thanks to the investigative prowess of the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Volkswagen’s deceit was exposed—and from the depths of a $20+ billion corporate scandal rose a clarion call for action against unacceptably high emissions from vehicles. The dust has yet to fully settle from Dieselgate, but the fallout has already generated an urgent demand from corporations, cities and nations to embrace a new path that can provide significantly cleaner, more accessible and more affordable mobility for all.
A race has now emerged to determine the future of transportation and it is increasingly clear that those who invest in electric mobility will come out ahead. It is also clear that philanthropic funding proved instrumental in exposing Dieselgate and has helped amplify the call for increased ambition and action. In this new environment, philanthropy can continue to invest in accelerating innovation and ushering the world toward a zero-emission mobility future. Fast-tracking adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), however, requires tackling four challenges that could stand in the way of success.
The first is initial cost. While battery prices are falling rapidly and EVs are less expensive to operate and maintain than their combustion-engine competitors, the initial cost of EVs is still higher. Overcoming this challenge will require targeted fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that recognize the public benefits of EVs. The good news is that by taking innovation to scale, EVs will eventually become less expensive than combustion vehicles, providing significant economic savings in addition to environmental benefits.
The second challenge is convenience. Transitioning away from internal combustion engines toward EVs requires infrastructure building at scale. While early EV adopters were able to get by mostly charging at home, expanding the market further requires the installation of convenient public, apartment building and workplace charging stations. Once deployed, strategic management of vehicle charging can facilitate greater renewable energy integration and can make more efficient use of the grid, providing a double-win for clean power and transport.
Read more: Forbes