cars

"Electric Car" by MikesPhotos is licensed under CC0 Public Domain

On July 4, car giant Volvo announced its plan to suspend all production of non-electric or hybrid cars by the year 2019. This means that Volvo will not produce any new diesel or gasoline-powered cars in only two years. In reaction to this announcement, France’s new cabinet released an ambitious plan to ban all diesel and petroleum-fueled car sales by 2040. Though France is not the only country to take this approach to clean energy transition, regulating the sale of petroleum-fueled cars is still very rare. France’s ecology minister stated that the new standard was “a way to fight against air pollution.” Though this move is being applauded by many environmentalists, is the French government’s regulation of petroleum fueled cars really better for the environment? And how will this new regulation influence socioeconomic inequality?

"Volkswagen" by Mahal is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

It seemed as though the world had seen the end of Volkswagen after a massive scandal was uncovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in September 2015. One of VW’s major marketing campaigns in the United States was flaunting their diesel cars’ low emissions. It turns out, in fact, that they had been cheating on emissions tests for years by installing software in their cars to detect when an emissions test was being run. At least 482,000 cars were discovered with this “defeat device” in the United States, and the German car maker admitted to producing 11 million cars worldwide with this device as well. The crisis has even been termed “Dieselgate” by some. With society’s trend towards environmental consciousness, many were unsure how VW would recover from this.

"INside hte Google RoboCar" by Steve Juretson is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Picture yourself in a sterile cabin sitting atop four wheels. The only sound you hear is the soft hum of an electric engine. There is not much there except for four seats. The dashboard is bare, and it only has a large screen showing the remainder of your trip on a map — there is no steering wheel.  The tinted windows block out the sun; still, you are able to see outside. You can observe a swarm of cars moving in a peloton through a downtown area—at a frightening speed—breaking their even spacing to cross an intersection, where a pileup is avoided by only a few millimeters, as another swarm of cars crosses the intersection perpendicular to you.