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Moving down the criteria, electric vehicles don’t need to be monitored for emissions, and electricity can be generated from a variety of sources and in many locations. They’re easy to use; and the steady evolution of battery technology will improve the range—even as the ways we use and pay for “transportation services” may change (think car-sharing, or paying by the mile for ownership, perhaps). Finally, cost will gradually come down to be competitive with combustion engines—and Global Insight’s various economists agreed that growing demand and the increasing cost of extraction will keep oil prices within their current range, or higher, for the foreseeable future.

These changes won’t happen overnight, and they don’t mean that combustion engines will vanish. Such changes will take decades, and there will always be duties for which only combustion engines are suited. And hybrids are very likely to claim an ever larger percentage of the road.

Gott pointed out that in 1900, battery and steam vehicles were preferred for city usage, while gasoline cars were only used in rural areas. Perhaps, he suggested, we may be headed back to the future.