Two climate technologies that matter

The 2023 Breakthrough Technologies

It’s finally here—our 2023 list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies. Two climate items made the list this year: electric vehicles and battery recycling!

We’ve been working on this list since July, sifting through our coverage and keeping our eyes on the news to pick out technologies we think will be important. 

If you haven’t perused it yet, a good place to start is the introductory essay from my editor, David Rotman. In it, David talks about the government’s role in innovation and explains what the recent embrace of industrial policy, both in the US and in many other countries, will mean for future technologies. In a nutshell, Silicon Valley’s approach isn’t doing a great job boosting productivity and transforming the economy. But there’s another way. 

If you’re interested in understanding what it takes to help technologies make an impact, or if you just want to learn what the phrase “industrial policy” really means, I’d highly recommend giving the piece a read before diving into the rest of the list. 

Now, on to the breakthroughs, starting with the inevitable EV.

I know some of you might be thinking that electric vehicles aren’t exactly new. The first Tesla Roadsters were delivered 15 years ago (yes, 2008 was 15 years ago), and small numbers of other electric cars, like the GM EV1, had even made it onto roads in the 1990s. 

EVs made the list this year not because of any one technical milestone, but because they’ve reached critical mass. They’re a real commercial contender now, reaching about 13% of global new vehicle sales in 2022. This is a big moment for electric vehicles, marked by progress not only in technology but also in infrastructure, manufacturing, and consumer acceptance. 

It was a tricky thing to crystallize exactly what about EVs should be on the list this year. Different forms of this idea came up early on when we were planning, with several members on the team proposing ideas that touched on EVs in some way. 

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