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The electrification of automobility

Parkhurst, Graham



Observations worldwide suggest that climate heating has moved from the stage of being a conceptual future threat to being widely recognisable as having a tangible and present impact in the 2020s. The promotion of the electric car, as a key feature of the wider electrification of mobility, is one of the key policy initiatives seeking to reduce climate change emissions from the transport sector, particularly in the wealthier, more car-dependent states globally. Such developments led the International Energy Agency to question, in 2020, whether we had entered the decade of “electric drive” (IEA, 2020). However, electric motive power is not new. Electric cars have been around for longer than the internal combustion engine (ICE). The century-long dominance of the latter is explained by a number of advantages and contextual factors. In the 2020s, whilst some of the barriers to EV adoption have reduced, others, notably battery energy density and cost to the consumer, remain. And the consequences of the transition to electric cars will be felt not solely in respect of greenhouse gas emissions, but will affect economic production, the relative demand for resources and human skills, social and technical practices, travel behaviour, and the extent to which all citizens are included in/excluded from mobility systems, and hence wider society. The present chapter introduces the principal themes of the book, outlining the narrative through its 4 parts and 11 subsequent chapters. In doing so, it underlines the importance of the transition from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor as not simply a technical substitution, but a potential revolution that could radically change the economy, society, and hopefully the environment, for the better. Now is an important moment to be charting and examining the rise of the electric car and exploring whether it represents a step towards more sustainable mobility.


Parkhurst, G. (2022). The electrification of automobility. In Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car (3-12). Bingley: Emerald.

Online Publication Date Oct 17, 2022
Publication Date Oct 17, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 24, 2022
Publisher Emerald
Pages 3-12
Series Title Transport and Sustainability
Series Number Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car, Volume 15
Book Title Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car
Chapter Number 1
ISBN 978-1-83982-635-1
Keywords Climate heating; electrification; sociotechnical transition; electric car; sustainable mobility; automobility
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