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The evolution of battery-powered vehicles
The coming of battery-powered cars has a long history. In 1799, the Italian Alessandro Volta established the scientific principles regarding storage of electricity in electrochemical form by putting two different types of metals—electrodes and the electrolytes—into contact, which led to the creation of the first electric cell. In 1859, the French physicist Gaston Planté developed the first acid battery. Electric vehicles (EVs) appeared with the advent of the automobile and accounted for one third of vehicles in the United States in the 1900s, before being displaced by more competitive internal combustion engines (ICEs) (1).
In recent years, there has been a rekindling of interest in EVs, as governments look to tackle carbon emissions from transportation sectors, contributing over 20% of total global emissions (2). The quest for energy independence and technological ownership are also factors driving government support for EVs (3). Norway and California have implemented subsidy programmes towards such ends. The United Kingdom and France have recently announced that they will ban the sale of fossil-fuel automobiles after 2040.
Within the European Union (EU), one of the key aspects of its energy strategy is to ensure the security of supply. This objective was introduced in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, in its article 176A:
“The Union policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to ... ensure security of energy supply in the Union” (1).
As a significant portion of the energy consumed in Europe is imported from Russia, it is crucial for the EU to reduce its dependency. The Lisbon Treaty vows to procure to the EU a roadmap to build a resilient energy network within its territory, as well as to diversify import channels.
In November, Paris will be hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties, also known as COP21, and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The conference is expected to deliver a “New Kyoto”, a binding agreement between member nations on their commitment to reduce carbon emissions. This would be the result of a long and tedious process started in 1992 and without a doubt one of the main geopolitical achievements of the year. However, reducing CO2 emissions is not a benign task and therefore assessing the potential impact of an international agreement is critical for policy makers, business owners and any individuals interested in affordable access to energy and energy-supply security.