It’s a sobering statistic. Around the world today, roughly a billion cars are on the road, and by some estimates we’re on track to double that number in 20 years. China and India, in particular, are developing car cultures that may soon rival our own. Add to that the fact that each gallon of gas burned releases 5.5 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere, where it combines with oxygen to create 20 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, and this kind of growth starts to seem like an impending disaster.
How can we avert it? Abandoning the car simply isn’t an option. During the past century, we’ve invested far too much in driving—economically, culturally, and psychologically—to be able to give it up anytime soon. The only realistic solution, the journalist Jason Fagone asserts in his new book, “Ingenious,” is to design a radically new kind of car, one that not only gets dramatically higher mileage than anything on the road right now—say, 100 to 200 miles per gallon—but is also safe and appealing enough to sell on the mass market. That might sound more like a dream than reality, but the point of “Ingenious” is this: We already know how to make that car.