Electric cars will not solve transport problem
Don’t look at me, I didn’t say that. There is a whole freaking report from The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) that ruins all the hopes and bursts the dream bubbles of electric car visionaries.
It doesn’t say they are completely useless, not in any case. But cars are cars, no matter what you use to make them move: gas, oil, electricity, horse, your noisy neighbors. Whatever makes you cheap-ass vehicle drive, it doesn’t change the fact that it takes some space and it needs infrastructure. Yes, the following one will be kinds different when (or if) we all turn to clean energy-powered cars, but still.
Problems that make people get pissed off today won’t magically disappear once there are no more vehicles that run on gas. Just think about traffic jams, issues with parking, and, more globally, urban sprawl. I can feel you starting to rage — everybody hates this stuff. And it’s time to deal with this shit!
CREDS report suggests a solution and you will never guess which one. They. Suggested. To use. Fewer. Cars. Genius, how comes we’ve never thought about it before it a pure mystery.
But seriously. The report calls on the government to make up a strategy that will allow people to live without the car as well as when having one. And the government claims that it was spending two billion pounds to encourage people to go walking or cycling. It feels like this money just went walking. Hehe, pun intended.
They also plan to spend fifty billion pounds on attempts to improve roads. But it doesn’t feel like anyone out there has a plan. A serious, solid, structured plan on how to not just make the roads better but cope with the social problems that come together with the fact so many people own a car.
The report that throws shade on electric cars is created by super smart people who have all the right to do so: CREDS is an academic association that includes more than eighty academics from all over the UK.
One of the report authors, professor Jillian Anable calls car use a “massive blind spot on government policy.” She said that the government for many years had been trying to meet demand by increasing road space as the solution to the problem, but they should try to reduce the demand instead.
But what about people who depend on their cars?
Reduce demand doesn’t mean to deprive people of a convenient and necessary means of transportation. The authors admit that some people will still have a high demand for cars, especially those who live in the countryside or suburbs. So they will keep using them. Because no one is fucked up enough to live in the country without a car in the family.
But on the other side, the report places a stake on the youth. It says that many young people who live in cities prefer not to have a car. Instead of taking care of the own car and try to deal with all the problems (don’t even get me started on parking), they use more public transport, go walking or cycling around the city. If they need a car they take a minicab or rent one, easy.
This approach is cool on so many levels. First, the transport issue — it helps to reduce pollution and road danger. Although some asshead cyclists can be more dangerous than drivers, just saying. It also can vacate parking spaces for better use: more housing, gardens, green areas in the city. Lovely.
More goods — an active lifestyle. Fewer cars mean more movement, less obesity, healthier population. And it also lets people communicate more, as they can meet neighbors or colleagues on the way. Not everyone thinks it’s an advantage, though.
The authors say the government should be persuading and motivating other people to do the same as the young. “It is a happy accident that car ownership is static in every age group except the over-60s,” Prof Anable says. “The government should build on that.”
How could we help people to live without cars?
Professor Anable thinks that car-owning is wasteful. Ninety-eight percent of a car lifetime it is parked and a third of all the cars do not go out every day.
She continues saying that having a car tempts people to use it even when they don’t actually need it, like a simple journey to the local shop. She also adds that a car is not cheap at all and needs high investments (you tell!). And this money, once free, can be spent on many other things. “A car is so much hassle” — she concludes when talking about a no-car experience.
She says that the government should promote walking, cycling, public transport, and vehicle-sharing wherever possible. Another aspect to pay attention to should be a housing development. Local councils should be encouraged to build those so that they are easily accessible without a car. It would be a great benefit for twenty-five percent of households that do not own cars.
Won’t electric cars be a good thing?
The government does its share by reducing petrol and diesel cars in the move towards Net Zero emissions, which authors of the report heavily support. But there is always some but. The pace of all that stuff is just too slow and it seems the timetable may not be achieved at all.
One of the holdbacks is charging. Well, it’s better to say a lack of charging — while in cities it is possible to find a charging station after some quality search, I bet you do the same in some shithole miles away from major cities. No chances.
To have a backup plan for such situations (cos no one wants to get stuck in the middle of the countryside, no thank you), people prefer buying hybrid vehicles over pure electric cars. That leads to a cloud of smug formation sealing further fossil fuel usage in the future.
Oh, and SUVs. Dambasses that buy huge cars to support their huge egos just clog up narrow streets and take too much space. So banning them from selected areas, like the whole country, for example, might be a solution.
Will driverless cars help?
The authors of the report even went as much as ruining another pie in the sky of the automotive industry: driverless cars. How could they!
Have to admit, they’ve got a point. Once a decent number of people start using driverless cars, they may prefer traveling miles to their workplaces. And while super-extra-innovative-smart cars will drive them to the destination, they will sit comfortably in traffic jams they contributed to and use the car as a mobile office.
Edmund King, the president of AA, agrees that electric driverless cars can make the situation with traffic overload worse.
He vividly described what can be called a nightmare: imagine a person driving to the city center where their office is located. They go to work and leave the car with a task to park. In the city center. On a working day. The poor thing will continue driving around the area for hours in the search for a free parking space. And then will come back once the owner beckons it. Living hell.
The solution he suggests is kind interesting. He thinks it may be better to change the taxation principles: instead of charging for gas and diesel change it to road miles — drivers should pay for mileage despite the fuel type.
How are people reacting to the report?
Not people, politicians.
The Department for Transport spokesperson said that they were committed to future-proofing their towns and cities for journeys which reduce traffic, encourage healthy exercise, tackle carbon emissions and improve air quality. This year they started a massive regulatory review which should show if they are able to utilize what innovative technologies can offer to help in achieving the above-mentioned tasks. They added that they were investing about two billion pounds in active travel to promote the choice of cleaner and greener transportation.
But some think it is not enough. Chair of the Commons Transport Committee, Labour’s Lilian Greenwood believes there must be more. She said: “The move to electric vehicles is most definitely not a panacea and fails to address wider concerns about public health and the kind of places where we want to live.”
She sounded a note of warning that we will end up getting stuck in clean green traffic jams that will replace the polluting ones we have today as the real problem is still congestion. She also pointed out that it is essential to get people out of their cars to cope with inactivity and obesity as this today are serious public health problems. She adds that “the government has no targets for such a shift – my committee has called for that to change.”