50 years ago, scientists were trying to develop a low-emission car

Excerpt from the September 12, 1970 issue of Science News

electric car charging

Technological advances over the last few decades have helped make electric cars a more popular choice, such as this hybrid charging at a station in Paris.

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Cover of September 12, 1970 issue

Another auto entry Science News, September 12, 1970

The recent week-long clean air car race from Massachusetts to California provided a shotgun approach to development of low-emission or nonpolluting vehicle engines. Yet despite more than 40 entries employing five engine classes, the winner was a modified standard internal-combustion engine…. There is a consensus among some engineers that the answer will lie with some form of electrically powered vehicle.


Most vehicles today house internal-combustion engines, but cars with electric motors are gaining ground. In 2010, there were about 17,000 electric cars globally, including all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids. By 2019, that number had soared to 7.2 million, the International Energy Agency reported in June. Although air pollution and oil shortages sparked interest in electric cars, the vehicles also curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, generating energy for electric cars emitted about half as much carbon dioxide equivalent as that emitted from the same number of gas-fueled vehicles, the agency noted.

Erin I. Garcia de Jesus is a staff writer at Science News. She holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington and a master’s in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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