News outlets have compiled their "best-ofs"—or more likely "worst-ofs"—lists for 2017. Here we hop on the bandwagon and look back at last year in the European vehicle market. Demand for low-emission vehicles continued to grow while diesel sales continued to fall, thanks in part to a smorgasbord of policies to clean up road transportation.
A common, comforting assumption about the future of transportation is that it will be autonomous, shared, and electric, which implies that it will offer deep emissions reductions. The problem with assumptions is that they sometimes turn out to be wrong. In this case, governments will have to take steps now to actively ensure such a low-emissions future, for it may not develop on its own.
If your next car is going to be electric, where you might “fill up” is a good and practical question that has to be resolved. There is evidence to suggest that fast charging at least shows promise as an interim strategy for some customers, perhaps as they wait a few years for home charging to be installed in apartment complexes, on curbsides, and in garages. And who knows, very fast charging stations may eventually prove to be the preferred permanent option for some EV owners, just as refueling at a public filling station is today.
Tesla isn’t the only company betting big on long-haul electric trucks. Some of the others are betting on hydrogen, some on catenary systems. But don't look yet for an odds-on favorite.
Sales of battery electric buses are surging, yet a complete technology transition won't happen overnight. Meanwhile, tightening emission standards on conventionally powered buses would have immediate benefits for air quality in many of the world's fastest growing megacities.
Governments the world over face major challenges to reduce the health and environmental impacts from the transportation sector. Steering the car market to electric vehicles and ultimately zero-emission fleets will require comprehensive and sustained policy action.