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Sept. 11, 2021, 4:02 p.m. EDT

Electric vehicles are gaining traction, but chances are that you’ll still be driving a gas-powered car in 2035

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By Mike Feibus

With such a dramatic rise in electric-vehicle sales amid a growing push to combat climate change, it’s sobering to think that in 15 years, most of us will still be driving gas-powered cars. Indeed, many who hope to make a difference by driving an EV already have one. So if alternative-fuel vehicles are ever going to run gas-powered cars and trucks off the road, they’ll have to beat them at their own game.

That’s a tall order. Gasoline is cheap, plentiful and efficient.

“If you gave the smartest scientists and engineers an infinite amount of money and told them to design the perfect storage medium for transportation, they’d come up with gasoline,” said Eric Toone, who co-chairs the investment committee at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, or BEV, a sustainability-investment firm co-founded by Bill Gates based in Kirkland, Washington. Billionaires Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros are also involved.

Gasoline /zigman2/quotes/210286597/delayed RB00 +1.07% is “safe, it’s massively energy-dense, it’s easy to move around. It has like every conceivable attribute you could want in an energy-storage medium — except for this problem that it produces carbon dioxide,” he said.

But all is not lost. We may, in fact, have the right combination for a dynamic market that still advances the U.S. toward its climate goals. President Joe Biden believes he’s set the U.S. on a course for a 50% emissions drop as soon as 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Consider that by 2030:

An explosion of choice headlined by Ford Motor Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +0.46% F-150 Lightning, one of the first all-electric light trucks , will entice more buyers to join the EV fold;

Green hydrogen alternatives will lead the charge over batteries for planes and trains, if not automobiles, and;

Cleaner-burning fuels will help cut emissions for gas-burning vehicles.

This combination will get the U.S. roughly halfway to the Paris climate accord’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050 , according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency. The report shocked some in the energy space with its blunt call to curb new oil and gas investment .

Read: Hydrogen, ammonia and a clean-fuel standard could help get the world to net-zero emissions

Getting to net zero

“If we as a planet are going to get to net zero, it’s pretty clear that much of our emissions reduction is going to have to come from technologies that haven’t been invented, commercialized or scaled,” said Matt Peterson, who heads Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund .

Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +3.11% and BEV are just two of a growing number of Fortune 500 companies, venture capitalists and bankers making multi-billion-dollar bets on startups with innovations that could help close the gap in areas like energy, agriculture, construction and transportation.

Read: As drought ravages the West, any investor not focused on climate risk is ‘really kidding themselves,’ says this portfolio manager

Can they succeed? Here’s a look at the three biggest areas of sustainability investment in transportation, and how they might impact what you’ll drive in 2035 and beyond.

Battery-powered EVs

EVs are starting to appeal to more people, due in part to a growing selection of models, more fast-charge stations and longer-range batteries. But the real kicker is expected in as little as two months: all-electric pickup trucks.

The Ford F-150 Lightning, the electric version of this country’s best-selling vehicle, could help lift EV sales when it arrives next spring.

Three of four American vehicles are light trucks, which include pickups and SUVs, so all-electric models could prove to be an important boost to the EV market. The Lightning, which isn’t due out until next spring, probably won’t be the first EV pickup. But the electric version of the world’s most popular truck — and this country’s best-selling vehicle — could help lift EV sales onto a higher plane.

“The Ford F-150 Lightning is the most important thing that’s happened in EVs since Tesla first started selling cars,” said BEV’s Toone. “If they really start to sell that thing in a configuration that people can use for $40,000, that’s a game-changer.”

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