The hot topic in the news recently is “net-zero”. This concept encompasses how cities and companies plan to reduce their carbon emissions in the next few decades. For instance, California is making preeminent moves to cut emissions by enacting an executive order prohibiting the sale of any new gas-powered vehicles after 2035. This motion is an effort to promote the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) and lessen the carbon footprint of Californians. That is 15 years from now! Is 2035 too late to get started? According to the giant clock ticking in the middle of New York City at the Metronome, we only have seven years until irreparable damage done to Earth's ecosystems. At the rate we are going, the planet will exceed preindustrial levels by 1.5°C, which is the point of no return, costing the plant upwards of $54 trillion in damages.
So, what is net-zero? According to Carbon Trust, a UK-based non-profit whose mission is to promote a low-carbon economy, “a national net-zero target requires deep reductions in emissions, with any remaining sources being removed from the atmosphere with greenhouse gas removals.”
What can we do to act now?
Transportation is a primary player in a net-zero future and contributes to nearly a quarter of the CO2 in the atmosphere. It only seems natural to start tackling the lowest hanging fruit first and make drastic shifts in the transportation sector. Is the EV technology ready for that big of a role in today's society? Many areas are aiming to meet a net-zero goal by 2050. Over the next 30 years, key factors that need consideration include increases in population, the environmental impact of these changes, and global waste generated from the batteries used to power EVs. The required infrastructure is immense, and public perception has to completely shift gears. Fears such as range anxiety, cost, and reliability are only a few matters to take into consideration moving forward with plans to make electric vehicles more mainstream.
Issues with vehicles that are already on the road need addressing to begin making significant changes to the fleet now. While giving car companies, cities, and motorists a chance to catch up with cleaner transportation and EV goals. Immediate change is possible if vehicles that emit excessively in the real-world are proactively identified using on-road technology and repaired.
The incredible thing is, this technology already exists and is proven to be highly accurate and effective at identifying real-world emissions. The device is called the Emissions Detection and Reporting (EDAR) system. The science behind its measuring capabilities is conceived from NASA technology, years of innovation, and the experience from seasoned scientists and engineers. The laser-based EDAR device attaches to a pole above the roadway scanning downward to quantify the emissions from each vehicle that travels underneath the unit. The real-time amounts of CO, CO2, NO, NO2, HC, and PM emitted from the tailpipe of any vehicle type – light-duty to heavy-duty and even motorcycles - are reported. Implementations of this system have taken place around the globe, supplying cities with a powerful regulatory tool and robust data on how the vehicle fleet is performing. For example, tampered vehicles equipped with delete kits or defeat devices, made infamous by the Dieselgate scandal of 2015, are detected on-road using EDAR. This continuous monitoring application is an innovative, high-tech solution for cities to create more effective policies and to regulate in a just manner.
Reducing tampering, developing an electric vehicle infrastructure, and meeting net-zero goals is a great deal to accomplish in only 30 years. Mitigation strategies need to start now while the finite details of bigger goals that are well in the future are developing. It is not going to be one giant leap or a quick flip of a switch for cities to reach net zero. It is going to take a series of small actions that compound upon one another along with collaboration among innovative technology providers and key stakeholders in the fight for a greener future. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will a sustainable planet.