top of page

The Future of Automobiles: Implementing a Zero Emissions Policy

The development of the transportation sector has caused climate change worldwide. The global community has faced climate change for decades. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) are the major contributors to climate change, driving unusual weather conditions such as increased droughts and flooding. (1)

Although environmentalists have taken giant steps to achieve zero anthropogenic emission as a realistic goal, it may soon be to evaluate the results independently. In other words, not only a certain level of technological development but also the development of the public understanding and motivation to invest in such technologies are required for practically implementing the zero-emission concepts (2). Zero Emission policy, a constructive program designed to achieve long-term emission reduction goals, can be considered an appropriate method to diminish the countries’ concerns about air pollution and climate change. Therefore, I would like this column to lead readers toward finding the solution to the probable questions related to this critical topic.

Although advanced technologies, including engine modifications, post-combustion treatment of exhaust gases, reformulated gasoline, alternative fuels, and inspection and maintenance programs, have been developed for mobile sources, the total emission from mobile sources remains a growing pollutant. Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a primary greenhouse gas has yet to be reduced in concentration by modern pollution control technologies. One of the strategically vital steps to overcome this challenge to move to the radical reduction of transportation emissions is referring to the concept of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). (2)

But what is a zero-emission vehicle? Under the ZEV regulation, there are three distinct vehicle designs, though varying degrees, considered “zero emission.” The first design relates to the Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which combine a conventional gasoline-powered engine with a battery that can be recharged from the electrical grid. The second design relates to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) that run entirely on electricity and can be recharged from the grid. The last one is Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that run on electricity produced from a fuel cell using hydrogen gas.

The largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas has been attributed to the Transportation sector in recent years. Due to the increased demand for travel based on population growth and economics, low fuel prices, and urban sprawl, transportation sector emissions experienced a significant expansion of about 21.5 percent from 1990 to 2016. (4) To change these connected series of events, the states have ordained vehicle GHG emissions standards and adopted goals for zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) deployment, which include both plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and provided rebates for ZEVs and incentives for ZEV infrastructure, such as EV supply equipment (EVSE) and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. (3)

A large gap has been observed between countries committed to future emission reductions and what would be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Full implementation of the necessary climate actions and policies in line with the Paris Agreement will unlock significant investment opportunities in varied aspects of clean technologies, green infrastructure, and other net-zero emissions assets, products, and services. However, some countries need to pay more attention to the importance of these policies' implementation and assist in enlarging the gap between the goals of the Paris Agreement and what happens in reality. (5)

Also, paying attention to zero-emission policies and vehicles is a robust market signal for investors. Their investment can result in significant profits for them but also results in decarbonization. We will observe huge competition in deploying zero-emission policies and vehicles to gain trillion dollars. (5)

At last, the concentration on transportation and energy usage and the climate crisis mitigation strategies should not be neglected during plans. It is recommended that due to the dramatic reduction in the costs of renewable electricity and batteries, the U.S., as a pioneer in this field all around the world, can now — during the 2020s — take giant steps toward achieving a net-zero emitting energy system at a cost lower than investing in reduced air pollution alone. This matter is not limited to the US and is valid for each country worldwide that allocates its effort to implement the issue of zero-emission policies in its decisions.


1) Team, C.W.; Pachauri, R.K.; Meyer, L.A. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report; Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; IPCC: Geneva, Switzerland, 2014.

3) U.S. State Clean Vehicle Policies and Incentives, Last Updated January 2019

4) Climate Policy Database:

bottom of page