By Audren Hedges Duroy, age 11
On July 4, Volvo announced that by 2019 it will stop all production of internal combustion engines and will only sell electric and hybrid cars.
The automaker’s decision aligns with the European Union’s carbon reduction targets to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and others are jumping on board. Two days later, France’s Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition, Nicolas Hulot, announced that France will end sales of all gasoline and diesel engine cars by 2040 in order to decrease urban smog and greenhouse gas emissions. Norway announced similar plans to sell only electric cars by 2025, and India by 2030. These commitments have great potential to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Though electric cars have a long history in both Europe and the United States, they’ve faced challenges since their creation. Scottish inventor Robert Anderson created the first electric vehicle in 1832, but it didn’t catch on because its batteries were not rechargeable. In 1988, General Motors (GM) created the all-electric EV1, which drove on American roads until a full recall in 2003, possibly due to pressure from oil companies wary of losing profits.
Today, electric cars struggle to be independent from fossil fuels because they are only as clean as the electricity that charges them. In California 60 percent of electricity came from burning fossil fuels in 2015, with only 14 percent from wind and solar energy.
The good news is that electric cars do improve air quality over internal combustion engines, which is why consumers like them. Thomas Turrentine, director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis, surveyed electric car owners. He explained to The Guardian, “Even conservative people in Los Angeles are interested in air quality.”
Internal combustion engine: An engine that uses a fuel, like gasoline or diesel, to create controlled explosions. The force from the explosions can be used to create motion.