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The Internal Combustion Bust

With or without a catastrophic pandemic and global recession, the trend in motorized transportation has long been shifting toward zero-carbon technologies. But the strategies that governments and industries adopt in the next few years will be decisive for humanity's long-term success in managing climate change.

AMSTERDAM – It has been clear for years that tailpipes and exhaust fumes make people sick, and that climate change poses an existential threat. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has confronted society with the need to tackle multiple crises at once, it is time to consider how the economy can be built back healthier.

According to a multi-country survey conducted during the lockdowns earlier this year, people want to breathe cleaner air and increasingly would support stricter rules to achieve that goal. There is strong evidence that air pollution increases COVID-19 infections. Public sentiment is shifting in favor of a future without tailpipes. From walking and bike lanes to electric scooters, cars (EVs), buses, and trucks, the portfolio of zero-emission mobility options keeps expanding.

Our long-term success at managing climate change will depend heavily on the energy and transportation strategies we adopt this decade, particularly over the next five years. Decarbonizing transportation systems will require a mix of the old and the new, from traditional modes of transportation such as electric trains, trams, and trollies to new EV-sharing schemes, managed electric fleets, smart-charging systems, and improved grid management.

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