Electric car charging Sergei Fadeichev/Getty Images

A World Without Exhaust Pipes

The growing popularity of electric vehicles is set to curb one of the largest sources of global pollution. But a consumption bias continues to impede many buyers' embrace of the technology, and until it is addressed, electric mobility will fail to reach its potential, particularly in developing countries.

SAN JOSÉ – The efficient movement of people is crucial for any society. When transportation networks function well, they drive economic development and literally bring people together. But in many parts of the world, mobility is a matter of life and death; it is dirty, unsafe, and chaotic. Pollution and congestion from trucks, buses, and cars are daily hazards for millions, especially in emerging countries.

Fortunately, big changes are coming to how humans move. For the first time since the mid-nineteenth century, when the modern internal combustion engine was invented, its demise is within sight. Car manufacturers have announced plans for scores of electric models, and politicians in several European countries have put an expiry date on gasoline and diesel cars, with leaders in India and China aspiring to do the same.

Companies around the world are making bold predictions that electric mobility is the future of transportation. Even those with the most to lose from a shift away from fossil fuels understand that electric vehicles (EV) are inevitable. In July, even Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Shell, conceded that his next car will be electric.

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