The American automobile industry has a long history of ingenuity and adaption, but to help the country achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, U.S. automakers need to make significant strides to keep up with international automakers in the race to build carbon-neutral vehicles.
A hundred years ago, American vehicles were utilitarian, stylish and generally affordable. After World War II, automakers responded to market demands and political imperatives to make vehicles safer, more fuel efficient and less polluting. This required new kinds of steel, different designs and changes to the engine, but American companies rose to the challenge.
Today, the automotive sector is transforming again. Sales of electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles have steadily grown in the last two decades. A report from analysts at Deloitte predicts that green cars could be 30 to 45 percent of new-vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2035.
Efforts to create the next generation of cars and trucks have so far focused more on the engine than on the structural parts. Indeed, the beating heart of the automobile is going green while the protective body is lagging behind. But that is starting to change.
The Circular Cars Initiative, led by the World Economic Forum, has been analyzing how to make automobiles completely green. It is now developing recommendations for the European Union to eliminate or minimize the total life-cycle emissions of climate-warming pollutants such as carbon dioxide during vehicle production, operation and dismantlement.