Ducking the issue with electric cars

The car industry seems to have convinced itself – understandably enough, from their perspective – that the solution to transport in urban areas is simply to convert existing private motor vehicles to run on electricity, rather than combustion engines.

The latest evidence of this belief comes from Renault UK, who appear to be arguing that electric cars should be allowed in bus lanes.

Leading cities should do more to encourage the use of electric cars by investing in charging facilities and allowing zero emission vehicles to use bus lanes, says the head of Renault UK. Kenneth Ramirez said that it was important to create a “wave of acceptance” around electric vehicle technology to encourage their uptake, calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to follow Norway in allowing electric cars to use lanes reserved for public transport.

He told RTCC: “In London that would be an interesting approach. In other cities having legislation that requires new buildings have a dedicated number of parking spaces with charge stations already included.”

But bus lanes don’t exist to encourage the ‘uptake’ of electric cars. They exist to relieve congestion, and to make more space-efficient modes of transport viable. Flooding bus lanes with electric cars would render them redundant, because buses would become mired in the same congestion that necessitated their implementation in the first place.

This is all part of a wider pattern of failing to address the problem of excess car use in urban areas, and for short trips. Electric cars only deal with one particular issue – tailpipe emissions.

  • they don’t reduce congestion;
  • they don’t reduce road danger;
  • they don’t provide independence and mobility for those who cannot drive, or who choose not to;
  • while they can improve local air quality, they don’t solve other public health problems;
  • they don’t make urban areas more attractive and pleasant places.
Imagine what a difference it would make If all these vehicles were powered by batteries

Imagine what a difference it would make if all these vehicles were powered by batteries

Motor vehicle manufacturers would like to imagine that the only issue that matters is carbon emissions. Or – more specifically – reducing carbon emissions from private transport, because unless electric cars are charged from power provided by renewable energy, the emissions are simply displaced elsewhere.

They do this by pretending that demand for driving is fixed, and not created by the physical environment – by the way our roads and streets are laid out. A classic example of this kind of thinking is a piece by Paul Everitt, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, in the Times, a few years ago. He wrote (£) -

From its invention, the car has provided an unquestionable level of personal mobility, giving people the freedom to travel where they like, when they like. For many, owning a car is no longer a luxury but a necessity that allows them to commute to work, take the kids to school and do the weekly shop. There is, and always will be, an important role for the car. But in a low-carbon future, the car will have to be cleaner and greener than ever before…

… As the global demand for cars increases it is essential that we retain and grow our share of the market. Designing, developing and manufacturing the technologies and vehicles of tomorrow is our route to a more sustainable future.

Well, not really. Electric cars are still a very inefficient use of resources and energy, and don’t address the myriad other problems caused by excess private car use. If we are truly aiming at a ‘sustainable future’, we need to be shifting a good proportion of the 40% or so of trips of under 2 miles that are made by private car in Britain to genuinely sustainable modes.

While there is a sensible case to be made for powering motor vehicles with better energy sources, the motor industry should not be allowed to pretend that this is the end of the issue. It’s not just the clogging of bus lanes that is counterproductive; it’s clogging our urban areas as a whole with the inefficient private car that is destructive and wasteful. That means we need space for cycling, not a continuation of the same patterns of designing for private motor vehicle use, however it is powered.

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74 Responses to Ducking the issue with electric cars

  1. Mark Hewitt says:

    Electric bikes! Of course still subject to the same parking / theft nightmare than non-electric bikes are.

    • Mark B says:

      A genuinely sustainable mode of transportation for trips 10 miles and under is the Solowheel. Parking not an issue, theft avoided because it’s compact and able to be carried into office, classroom, work, etc. It’s electric and can be recharged in about an hour using any standard electrical outlet, just as you would charge your laptop or cell phone. It’s safe carry-on able on commercial flight. It has regenarative breaking that recaptures energy when going down a hill or slowing down. The Solowheel is what the Segway was suppose to be. CHECK IT OUT http://www.SoloWheelDC.com

      • A marvellously satirical comment, that, from someone who probably did not read the article. Why do americans keep thinking of new ways to add electronics to the skateboard?That solowheel ad claim about being the smallest ‘eco’ vehicle should perhaps be run past the ASA, too. It’s larger in transit than a Brompton, has a non-recyclable battery, and all the generation pollution of the grid, plus it is dubiously identified as a ‘vehicle’ at all, seeing as the most sedate cyclist would be likely to exceed 10mph as top speed. I don’t think I’d be able to get from London to Cambridge on one, either…. “You can ride for approximately 10 miles, at up to 10 miles per hour, and the lithium-ion battery can be fully recharged in around an hour and a half.” IE, no practical application whatsoever. Go tho, if you never managed to use a skateboard and want to look futuristic as you entertain world leaders on the golf course.

        • “Use the Solowheel to replace a car for short distances.” – fantastic! Their FAQs are headed by a picture of someone unloading one from the back of a car. Clearly the idea is, you use it to cross a two kilometre wide car-park.

          • Looking at what it can actually do, wouldn’t a better, faster, smaller and more eco-freindly skateboard be… a skateboard?

            • Mark B says:

              Hi Mr. David Robjant, FYI I did read the article and what prompted me to post a comment was the sentence that “If we are truly aiming at a ‘sustainable future’, we need to be shifting a good proportion of the 40% or so of trips of under 2 miles that are made by private car in Britain to genuinely sustainable modes.”. This is a goal for many here in the U.S. as it is in your country. I’m relatively new to the whole “green” lifestyle and I’m trying to do all that I can to “reduce my footprint”. My point was that in short trips, the Solowheel is just one of many options for people to consider. As the owner of a Dahon folding bike and a person that would love to have a Brompton folding bike, comparing it to the Solowheel isn’t an apples to apples comparison. I would submit for your consideration that people who ride a bike, solowheel, or skateboard are all really on the same team. I would also submit for your consideration that using a forum on sustainably to show your distain of Americans isn’t a very nice thing to do. Once again, as a “newbie” to the “green” lifestyle, I’m still learning. This was my first post ever on the topic. I hope as I continue to grow in this topic my contributions to the conversation aren’t met with such hostility. One would think that if you aren’t able to completely eliminate your carbon footprint, then reducing it would not be a bad second option. By the way, the photo on the FAQ page you referenced, is of a person placing the Solowheel into the back of their electric car. Have a great day sir!

              • I don’t think it disdainful of americans to ask why they should in effect wish to add batteries and computers to skateboards, which both the Seqway and the solowheel accomplish. Yes, people on skateboards are on the same team with those on bikes. Why you’d need a $2000 dollar rechargeable skateboard to go 2 miles at 10mph when a $100 version is available consisting of four wheels and a plank, I do not understand. Electric-assist bicycles are available that do more than 10mph, and don’t cost $2000.

                I would not wish to discourage anyone attempting to find transport solutions with hostility to any person, and where I went beyond hostility to an idea was: in my guess that you had not read the article. That you now sign off your last with “the photo on the FAQ page you referenced, is of a person placing the Solowheel into the back of their electric car”, as if that counted as support for the Solowheel concept, would seem to confirm my wild surmise. By the way, how do you come to know that the car from which the Solowheel is pictured being unloaded in these commercial materials is an electric car?

              • Mark B says:

                Mr. David Robjant, in regards to how I know the vehicle is an electric vehicle that the Solowheel is being placed in? I’m assuming that it’s the Nissan Leaf by looking at the tail lights. When I google “Nissan Leaf”, it appears to be the same car -100% electric no-emissions vehicle. I also assume the purpose of the photo is to show the portability of the Solowheel when stowed away. I’ve seen similar photos of people placing their Brompton in a vehicle. Once again, I’m new to this. Thanks and have a great day!

              • Dear Mark B,

                We got off on the wrong foot when you responded to a thoughtful and considered piece with what looked like advertising copy, culminating in capital letters: “CHECK IT OUT”. I checked it out. Having looked up the claims made for the product and a few online reviews of this expensive bit of kit being used, or of people attempting to use it, I persist in my belief that your considering it a useful contribution to the problem of transport is entirely risible. You have the advantage of internet anonymity tempered by the fact that you’ve used the same product website twice, as a link and as your commenting identity. I still find the product risible. An element of the joke: the original post was about the absurdity of thinking that we have to invent a new transport device.

                Your spotting-knowledge of electric cars is in advance of mine, and I complement you on the speed with which you have acquainted yourself with such matters, given that you are ‘new to this’. I’m not altogether sure what the ‘this’ is.

                I would like to ride my bike without fear of being killed and injured. I think, if the roads were specially organised for me to do that, like they are in the Netherlands, there might also perhaps, depending on regulations, be some space in which to experiment with these machines you draw my attention to, without being killed. But you would not then have a transport solution in advance of one of these: http://www.bluerushshop.co.uk/ekmps/shops/bluerushshop/images/urban-beach-childrens-folding-scooter-with-foot-brake-availablein-three-colours-%5B2%5D-2186-p.jpg The reason that kind of scooter exists to menace pedestrians in the UK is simple enough: Children are not safe to ride bicycles on the roads. Where people can safely ride bicycles, demand for a $2000 machine of markedly reduced speed and range would be rather hard to imagine.

                Yours, Non-anonymously

                David

              • Mark B says:

                Mr. David Robjant, Thanks for your reply! This rss feed just dropped into my inbox. http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/tcaine/222871/circling-sustainability
                The article touches on “the definition of sustainability and how it differs from public perception inside and outside of the United States.” When I say that I’m new to “this”, I’m referring to my personal journey towards trying to become more “green”. I know that I have a lot to learn. A year ago, I would have never looked at or noticed electric cars. When I first bought my Dahon folding bike, I did so because I’m a gadget guy. The past two weekends, I’ve been test driving electric cars. It’s hard to believe the personal transformation that is taking place in my thinking. Anyway, I’m learning that there are different camps regarding sustainability and different perceptions /perspectives, definitions as well as different agendas. I apologize if I offended you in any way. Although I only use my first name (I work in security and I think it’s wise), I tried to be respectful in my postings. My thinking regarding sustainability has shifted a great deal from where it once was (even a year ago) and I’m excited to have found this blog. I refrain from further comments and end by once again apologizing if any of my postings offended you. Sincerely, Mark B.

        • Chris Joubert says:

          Why not just walk?

      • Har Davids says:

        I’ll wait for the home-version that will enable me to make trips from couch to fridge or toilet. Technically, this Solowheel may be an interesting gimmick, but toys like these can’t replace a bike, I think. If you can’t park your car right at your destination, you can always use your feet. If people want to go green, they should examine all options, like not using a car at all, and go for the basics.

  2. Paul M says:

    This may be true of most motor manufacturers. I do however sense slightly smarter thinking from Ford in the USA, where someone in the Blue-Sky development team (whatever name it is actually labelled with there) is thinking beyond the day when car-dependence as we now know it is broken.

    And so they should, if they think about what happened to IBM. You might recall (not directly of course, none of us are that old) that International Business Machines started out making mechanical comptometers and typewriters, and then advanced on to electric/electronic versions – I remember as an activist in the Oxford University Broad Left in the ‘70s we produced a book called “Privilege & Ideology, Action and Reaction at Oxford University” entirely on one of those golf-ball typewriters where you could change font by changing the ball – and finally to computers.

    They managed this all fairly seamlessly but then they began to come unstuck. The notion of a big and very expensive mainframe, such as the IBM 400, operated and entirely controlled by the IT department, worked very well and profitably for them for many years but they got complacent, and “Big Blue” didn’t notice how end users resented not having control over their own data and started to use the new personal computers coming out of Apple and Apricot. Suddenly no-one wanted mainframes or minis any more, and IBM was nearly wiped out, possibly would have been if they hadn’t done a deal with a small software company to provide an operating system for their new range of PCs – MS-DOS. Even so, in time as PCs were commoditised IBM lost interest in them but this time managed to rebadge themselves as a solutions provider, and so survived.

    How long before they conclude that simply converting a conventional four wheel three-box 1.5 tonner to run on batteries is not going to solve any problems, least of all harmful emissions coming out of power station chimneys instead of tail pipes? Renault in fact already has some microcars – kind of reminiscent of the old Messerschmidt and Isetta Trojan bubble cars which were quite common in my childhood but which you would only now see at enthusiasts’ rallies – where a driver and one passenger can travel in tandem with a degree of shelter and comfort in a vehicle not much bigger or heavier than a decent urban motor scooter. It would be logical for them to diversify into such vehicles, or into more conventional e-bikes as Smart has recently done, and to look at conventional motor cars – however powered – being organised into car clubs so that people can use them when they actually need to, but not be tied to the expense and responsibility when they don’t. I don’t see us leaving motor cars behind altogether in the foreseeable future, but evolutionary shifts like this seem quite probable and the smart manufacturers should surely be prepared for them.

    • John Ackers says:

      Electric vehicles and renewable energy can work well together in that the car can be charged when there is surplus supply on the grid (nuclear/renwable) and the car battery can supply energy back to the grid during peak demand. “least of all harmful emissions coming out of power station chimneys instead of tail pipes ” is often quoted but too simple.

      • Ian says:

        You assume of course that we can actually generate the electricity needed to supply the electric cars ‘cleanly’ (i.e. no toxic emissions, minimal CO2). I cannot think that this is a given – probably only nuclear or desert-generated solar would realistically match the demand levels, neither of which is easy, cheap, or without environmental problems. At some point it would be more sensible simply to admit we can’t do cars, and switch properly to public transport and bikes.

        • Chris Bonner says:

          If you were to try and replace all of our current car use with electric then I would agree. However, I think there will always be a place for the car, be it hopefully much reduced in the future.

    • highwayman says:

      Thumbs up. Good response – post.

      • highwayman says:

        This statement was directed to Paul M’s post that talked about Ford Motor Company and IBM:

        《Thumbs up. Good response – post.》

    • Angus H says:

      It’s the ownership model that’s the key here. People buy a one-size-fits-all vehicle because that’s how it is with sunk cost economics. Once you’ve paid for the £15,000, 1.5-tonner it makes little sense to splash out more on a lightweight urban runabout that doesn’t do motorways. At the other end of the scale, for luggage- and passenger-heavy trips, people would much rather overload their own car than hire something bigger and better suited to the job.

      Were it convenient and efficient for people to pay for motoring on-demand, many people would drive a lot less, and choose the lightest, leanest vehicle capable of doing the job. They’re probably paying £10 for each of those short 2-mile journeys (dividing number of trips by annual running cost inc. depreciation), but because the costs are paid up front, they’re not aware of it. Equally, because on-demand motoring is currently either inefficient/inconvenient (commercial car rental), expensive (taxis & minicabs), or a bit of both (ZipCar), owning a car becomes an attractive option just to make that small number of trips that really are best made in a motor.. and most people who buy one are going to look for an all-rounder and not concern themselves too much that it’s massively overpowered and inefficient for a short trip to the shops.

  3. Ian says:

    All part of the same mindset that says carbon emissions are somehow the only environmental problem of interest. The Scottish Government has it in spades, with their current desire to replace all cars by electric cars, while happily building new bridges and roads.

  4. John Ackers says:

    There is still a need to switch motor heads to electric vehicles using incentives. ‘Flooding bus lanes with electric cars’ would never occur because by the time it happened, electric cars would once again be banned from bus lanes, TfL Buses would make sure of that. The Prius no longer avoids the congestion charge. http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/nissan/leaf/64775/london-congestion-charge-rules-tightened The Mayor giveth and the Mayor taketh away.

    I’d rather share a bus lane with a small electric vehicle than a black cab emitting plumes of black smoke – which some still do.

    • Dan Bassford says:

      I’d rather not have to ride in a lane shared by buses, taxis and motorbikes. Allowing more traffic into an area where cyclists currently are does nothing for subjective safety, and nothing to encourage more people to ride. If all HGVs were electric, or powered by unicorn tears for that matter would they scare novice cyclists any less?

    • pm says:

      Incentivising electric cars by stealing road-space from public transport and cyclists is not the way to do it. Its like trying to incentivise cycling by stealing space from pedestrians – a backwards step pretending to be a progressive one.

    • pm says:

      Sorry to belabour the point, but I can’t believe anyone would take this proposal seriously. Essentially what this policy amounts to is:

      “Reallocate roadspace from electric cars to petrol cars (getting the electric cars out of the main traffic lane, thus allowing more space for petrol and deisel cars) and then reallocate roadspace from cyclists and public transport to electric cars.”

      In both cases, then, they would be taking public resources from the less polluting mode and give it to a more polluting one! And this would doubtless then be sold as a ‘green’ policy! In much the same way that councils make ‘space for cycling’ by making existing pavements “shared use”.

  5. pm says:

    I certainly don’t want any kind of car in bus lanes (indeed I want to see black cabs removed from them).

    But I do think the reduction in street-level pollution that could result from more electric cars would be a very welcome thing. The heart-disease/cancer-inducing (and just plain nasty) crap put out by current motorised vehicles is a major reason for wanting to reduce their use.

    In fact, this is the one-and-only benefit of electric vehicles (I don’t see that their CO2 emissions are any lower, given the electricity has to be produced somewhere, and even the total pollutants may be the same, just they won’t be concentrated in urban areas where people actually live and breath). But it is a very significant benefit, all the same.

    But as the article says, that’s not the reason for bus lanes. Any incentive for moving towards electric should be financial. Zero-rating them for VED is fair enough, but taking yet more roadspace from cyclists and public transport users would be a backwards step.

    Taking space from buses and cyclists to give to electric car users would be depressingly typical of the way politicians try to find ways to appear ‘green’ that will under no circumstances take anything from motorists. They want to look as if they are doing something, but only something that costs nothing, or rather, that will only impose costs on the politically less powerful groups.

    All that would happen is the roadspace for cars freed up by electric cars moving into the bus lanes would be asborbed by an increase in conventional traffic, leaving the pollution exactly the same.

  6. Joel C says:

    Electric cars are another red herring for the motor industry, alongside hydrogen fuel cells (which may or may not have useful applications elsewhere btw). It re-frames the conversation away from “we should have fewer motor vehicles” to “we should have less-polluting motor vehicles” – thus environmental campaigners are forced into the false dichotomy of “electric cars vs. status quo”. Investment in the infrastructure for electric cars (charging points, battery swapping stations etc) would be better spent on re-designing our streets to put people first.

  7. rdrf says:

    Good post. This has been a stonkingly great red herring from word go. As Ian says – where does the electricity come from? If we ever get non-greenhouse gas emitting sources of electricity, the electricity will have to be sued for domestic, commercial, industrial use (and trains) before this kind of nonsense.

    If there is going to be a more fuel-efficient car available it would be the 120 mpg types (about 5 times as fuel-efficient as the typical cars out there) that have existed , at least in prototype, for ages.

    But the central issue is that even then they would have to be kept away from bicycles, driven within the law, and paid for at a reasonable amount higher than the cost of cycling. Nothing which is far less healthy, non-dangerous to other road users, space consuming etc. than cycling can be called “green”

  8. Angus H says:

    I’m not so concerned about where the excess energy comes from as where it all ends up.

    CO2 from burning excessive, grossly wasteful amounts of fuel clogs up the atmosphere and our lungs, certainly.

    But the fuel is transformed in to excessive, grossly wasteful quantities of kinetic energy. Which smashes people, animals, communities, street furniture, peace, quiet and anything else unfortunate enough to get in the way.

    Even if private vehicles were to run on limitless, clean fusion energy, they’re still dumping all that waste energy in to the public realm – with disastrous consequences for the public.

  9. Hein Bloed says:

    It makes more sense to have electric busses in public transport than try to make the average motorist buy an electric car (which is too expensive for the average person anyway).

    • Joel C says:

      I often wondered why this isn’t touted more? The most heavily polluted streets in the city where I live aren’t the motorways or where cars are; they are where the buses and taxis congregate.

      Is it just the case that the weight/power ratio for a electrically-powered bus is too high? Buses obviously have longer operational periods as well, requiring either multiple charges or some method of transferring batteries efficiently. Trams and trolley buses are more viable but are less flexible.

      • Angus H says:

        That’s exactly the problem – cars spend most of their time sitting around unused, a good opportunity to recharge. Buses have to run for quite a few hours between breaks, and you don’t want vehicles sitting around unused in the depot while they recharge. Hybrid engines seem to work well on buses – the NB4L is diesel-electric, where the engine acts purely as a generator – and TfL have a few hydrogen powered single-deckers on city-centre routes, but interior space is at quite a premium on double deckers (bridge height limits = no space for a large hydrogen fuel tank on the top; space for fuel/batteries is space you can’t use for passengers).

  10. Sean Spurr says:

    Cars pollute in two ways: the engine and suburbia. Electric cars only tackle half of that if the electric is renewable, and none of it if it’s from fossil fuels. Housing stock in suburbs is far less energy efficient than apartments in the inner city. Just compare the electric and gas bills between them. This is partly because heat escaping from apartments warms other apartments rather than escaping through the roof.

    • Right- the sprawl attendant on car-dependency is part of what I mean, in my comment below, by saying that if you make densely populated areas bikeable, a lot of the carbon problems solve themselves. No need to build out into the floodplains and catchments if the sheer space taken up by the car, in the city, were better used.

  11. Tim says:

    Thought provoking article and some well written and equally interesting comments.

    You do seem to neglect the issue of noise pollution. It may seem like a relatively minor consideration, but it’s interesting in the following way. Quieter vehicles could arguably make urban areas more pleasant – perhaps I could actually converse with my daughter as we ride along sharing the same bike. However, a vehicle which can inflict the same damage as a petrol car, but without any audible warning, is less appealing. So the lower volume is a blessing and a curse. I know fake engine noise has been suggested in the past.

  12. I completely agree with this post- from which it doesn’t follow that Mark will agree with my comment.

    My view, probably not universally shared, is that important as global warming is, carbon has always been a dangerous red-herring when it comes to the merits of the bicycle. The issue is building liveable cities. You do that, which has to be with the bike, and a lot of the carbon problems solve themselves without you having to persuade anyone to be virtuous (“be virtuous: risk your life on the roads so that the race may prosper!”). Persuading people to be virtuous is a proper thing to do, obviously, but the efficacious department of public works there is religion, not politics. Make the city bikeable, people will get virtuous all by themselves.

    The dangerous red-herring has two fishy smells:
    1. You put it to the Motor-lot that pollution is the problem, and they provide you with: electric congestion, electric obesity.
    2. We have to decide- are we to be seen as puritan kill-joys, or as vendors of fun and civilised living? In politics, it’s the second that’s the saleable proposition.

    • I love that – “vendors of fun and civilised living” – such a positive way to present our case!

      And it’s not actually a lie, either – we really are promoting a better quality of life for everyone.

      • ‘And it’s not actually a lie’- OK… but rather a disturbing way to put it!

        There are a mix of political philosophies and priorities in play among cycling campaigners. There is no ‘us’, as Mark eloquently reminds us.
        Looking at things strategically, though, it strikes me that telling people to become virtuous and finance bike facilities out of concern for polar bears and the grand-children will always have a minority appeal – a hugely expanded minority appeal, if/when the Thames Barrier should fail, but a minority appeal all the same. Humans just do care about other things, besides their responsibilities for suffering at a distance of place or time. Even ignoring that permanent fact, the public understanding of science is not and will not be in a place where scientific consensus can be a main motivator for the populous as a whole. I think there’s an idea this would be overcome if the media were freed from certain ‘interests’ – but this is a bit like arguing that more people would cycle if drivers were nicer. True, up to a point, but wildly insufficient to the problem.

        The more dense urban environments are made attractive and liveable with the bike, the more sprawl is minimised, the better for the carbon balance sheet and food security and catchment management and so forth- but we want attractive and liveable urban environments anyway, don’t we? So why the additional arguments? Is the worry that some people do *not* want liveable urban environments? Saying that Cars ruin urban environments, make everyone sick from unpleasant kinds of inactivity, *and* bugger up the climate is a bit like arguing that RLJ will get you killed, and could result in a large fine, and *also* brings cycling into disrepute. The final observation is calculated to cement the status of cycling as an ‘out group’ activity.

        • I mean- *making* the final observation is calculated to cement out-group status. And it isn’t something you actually need to say, to achieve the objective. It gives a hostage to those who wish to identify ‘cyclists’ as a special kind of human being. Likewise, making an argument out of climate virtue gives an unnecessary hostage to those who wish to identify ‘cyclists’ as a specially strange kind of human being, and an unnecessary hostage to engineers thinking up other ways to move heavy boxes of metal at speed.

        • Joel C says:

          Is there not a bit element of tragedy of the commons here: “If only all those other people would stop driving…” but extended to urban sprawl – everyone still wants a garage, a garden shed and a driveway to park the 4×4 on…

    • Joel C says:

      You could argue that in some ways the inverse is true too – curbs on carbon emission combined with depleted oil stocks will make the running of motor vehicles prohibitively expensive to run – as a result urban sprawl will stop dead in its tracks. We just have to hope that more sustainable methods of farming have been invented prior to that happening :-/

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Emergency

      • The trouble with catastrophe thinking is not that it’s baseless – it’s that it divides the populous between three groups: those lucky people who can think in such terms and have the scientific understanding to do so in an informed way, those who actually like to think in such terms, and everyone else. Normal human psychology does not allow for the first two groups to constitute a majority. But it does allow for a majority of people to want play-room for their children and bikeable cities for themselves. So why keep pushing the door when it opens inward?

    • Joel C says:

      Governments would be better promoting the concept of car clubs or car sharing. It means that if you really needed a car for some specific task (say, a long distance trip impractical by public transport, moving loads), it’d be easy to get a hold of one but wouldn’t require you to own a car for day-to-day tasks.

  13. Patrick O'Riordan says:

    Do the general public care that much about pollution? If people were dropping dead in the street or coming down with illness with a direct causal relationship to pollution then something would be done but the effects are long term and indirect. If electric cars were cheaper, then more people would buy them but I can’t see many switching purely for “green” reasons.

  14. Har Davids says:

    Most of us want to eat our cake and have it; pollution and congestion are terrible and something should be done about it. We pretend to really need a car all of the time, so electric driving solves all problems. I haven’t had a car for a while now and I haven’t had any problems yet, living in an arban area, like the majority of people, thanks to my ability and willingnes to use public transport and my bike.

    The car-industry doesn’t give a damn about our mobility; it’s all about the money we generate. If steam-driven cars were the solution, they would be peddling those. We should be considering the speed and flexibility of our mode of transport when going about. Throw in health and environmental benefits and the choice not to own a car is obvious in most cases. After all, what’s wrong with renting or car-sharing?

  15. salvolomas says:

    Reblogged this on salvolomas and commented:
    La industria automotriz apuesta a los autos electricos como solucion a los enormes problemas que causa el automovil a la ciudad, las tierras de cultivo o reserva ecologica, a la atmosfera, a la integridad de los demas actores, a la destruccion de la ciudad, su textura, su escala, su ritmo, su paisaje, su monumentalidad, su vitalidad, su atractivo.

  16. Johnny Le says:

    Electric cars never claim to solve those problems. Why would you say they have those issues while they were never out to address those issues in the first place? To follow your logic, I could say they too have issues because they couldn’t teleport me instantly to my destination. While your points are valid problems we have, they should be applied to our transportation system as a whole and not singled out electric cars. That’s unfair.

    The problems you mentioned may be resolved soon though. Imagine a fleet of public auto-pilot electric cars. You can just step out of your house and into a public car parked nearby. It’s auto pilot so it’s less likely to have accidents and less likely to cause congestion. Since it’s public, it’s affordable, so people are less likely to own their own cars, which free up at least a lane on each road currently reserved for parking, and that further eases up the congestion.

    • pm says:

      Er, but if, as you agree, electric cars can’t solve these problems, why on Earth would you reallocate space from cyclists (and public transport) to them? Its precisely because they can’t solve these issues that its a ridiculous idea to let them use bus lanes. Bus lanes exist as an attempt to alleviate precisely the issues that electric cars are irrelevant for. Its the wrong incentive, and one that would shift the cost on to the wrong people (cyclists and public transport users).

      As I say, personally I’m OK with _some_ incentives for electric cars due to the urban pollution issue, but allowing them to use bus lanes is absolutely inappropriate. You don’t steal from modes that don’t create the problems outlined here in order to reward one that does.

      • Johnny Le says:

        Two words: resource allocation.

        Basically we have two major problems: congestion & pollution. We already have a dedicated lane for buses to address congestion, but now we have a new kid on the block that can ease up on the pollution and energy usage. We need to encourage it, reward it, but we can’t dedicate another lane for its use. Since it only accounts for what, 0.1% of the total # of cars on the road? Let it share the bus lane. It won’t clog up that lane.

        I’m sure when the number of electric cars pick up to be around 10% of the total # of cars on the road, they will go back to the other lanes.

        • pm says:

          I 100% disagree. That would be a regressive step pretending to be a progressive one. If you want to incentivise electric car use, do so by taking something from petrol/diesel cars, not by taking something from those modes that do _less_ harm than even electric cars.

          I’m so tired of these ‘easy options’ that politicians take that do exactly the reverse of what they are advertised as doing.

          What you are proposing is to take resources from the less damaging mode of transport and give it instead to a more damaging one. In turn, of course, the electric cars that move from the main part of the road to the bus lane will free up more space for still more petrol/deisel cars – _again_ reallocating space from the less damaging mode to the more damaging one.

          So you would be in both respects, carefully incentivising people to do more damage rather than less, exactly the reverse of what we need to do.

          If we want to encourage move from petrol/diesel to electric cars, then reallocate resources from the former to the latter, don’t try to avoid the issue by instead stealing resources from cyclists and public transport users.

        • pm says:

          In general I think it would help if the multiple external costs of motoring were charged to the motorist in clearly demarcated, distinct ways. Then one could think about incentives a bit more clearly.

          For example, the cost of pollution in the immediate (especially urban) environment is a distinct cost from that of, say, congestion or CO2 emissions, or RTA casualties, or other health costs. To a degree the VED is already a kind of charge for this (being emissions-based) but sadly it is widely misprepresented as a ‘road tax’. Probably be better to just have a specific local pollution charge. This is where an incentive for electric cars logically belongs, in reducing such a charge for less polluting vehicles. There is no rhyme or reason in giving electric cars a discount on congestion charges or road pricing, on the other hand, as electric cars cause just as much congestion or road damage as any other car.

          Likewise there is no logic at all in letting them use bus lanes, other than the logic that says its always easier to take from the less powerful (cyclists. bus users) than it is from the politically powerful (motorists).

        • pm says:

          Also when you say ‘it won’t clog up the bus lanes’, well, it will clog them up to precisely the degree that electric cars actually use them. Bus lanes are not an unlimited resource, the more cars you allow in them the more delay is going to be caused to buses.

          And as they are almost the only ‘safe haven’ cyclists have (and its bad enough having to share it with buses, and vastly more annoying that you get impatient black-cab-drivers menacing you, when they are only allowed there because their clientelle tend to be affluent and influential).

          I don’t see why cyclists should have to give up what little safety they have and accept yet another element of danger simply so electric cars can get a perk without taking anything at all from petrol-car drivers.

          Its such an absurd idea that I am puzzled why you can’t see the problem with it.

          We want people to switch from non-electric cars to electric cars, not from cycling and public transport to driving, so if you want to do this you need to take from non-electric cars, not from cyclists and bus users.

  17. Pingback: Eludiendo el problema con Autos electricos | salvolomas

  18. williams says:

    These days, latest electric cars are coming with rectified problems of traditional electric vehicles. Almost common problems are solved in new edition.

  19. Unfortunately the author is wrong on the last of his list of ‘don’ts’ – “they don’t make urban areas more attractive and pleasant places”. In fact, not having to put up with the cacophony of ICEVs in a built up area, especially in cities due to their silent operation is one of the major advantages of the EV. If this doesn’t make anywhere more pleasant, I don’t know what would.

    I think the idea behind allowing EVs to use bus lanes is nearly a way to tempt more into buying them. We are a very long way from EV being common enough to have any significant impact on congesting bus lanes. On this basis, that EVs in bus lanes is a temporary measure to increase adoption of EV generally, is therefore a good idea.

    Lastly, to hope to end the connection between perceived personal freedom and car use is ludicrously naive. Perhaps in 500 years when we are all a bit more socially cohesive prying people out of their car-cocoons and into clean, efficient, hygienic, quiet, spacious, cheap, reliable, safe and networked buses etc. might work. Until then, forget it!

    • pm says:

      “On this basis, that EVs in bus lanes is a temporary measure to increase adoption of EV generally, is therefore a good idea.”

      No. It isn’t. I don’t see why people have such trouble in seeing the moral and practical problem with this suggestion. Maybe I should just cut and paste my previous comment?

      Why do you want to take resources from less damaging modes of transport and give them to more damaging ones?

    • pm says:

      If you wish people to switch from petrol cars to electric ones you need to switch resources from the first to the second. You don’t get to steal resources from those who don’t use either (a majority of inner Londoners). I’m struggling not to just say ‘bugger off!’ in response to this daft proposal.

    • pm says:

      I’m struggling to think of an analogy to make it clear how silly this idea is. Best I can come up with is this…

      You want to encourage crisp-eaters to switch to low-fat varieties. So you subsidise low-fat crisps. But you can’t pay for this with a levy on full-fat snacks because the snack industry and snack eaters are too powerful a lobby. So instead you put a levy on fresh vegetables to fund the low-fat crisp subsidy. Then you claim this is a great victory for public health.

      My suspicion is that most of those pushing this idea (bus lanes, not crisps) are people with commercial interests in the electric car business.

    • “to hope to end the connection between perceived personal freedom and car use is ludicrously naive”

      It is not in the least naive to severe the connection between personal freedom and the car in urban areas- particularly given that it is, by and large, already severed there, even in UK cities, according to RAC figures. To assert that it is “ludicrously naive” to attempt to do something that has all ready occurred is, if you will forgive me returning your compliment, ludicrously ignorant.

      It is ludicrously ignorant of London and Londoners- never mind that it is yet more ludicrously ignorant of cities that have actually acted, in a sustained and concerted way, to “end the connection between perceived personal freedom and car use”. Perhaps, Martin, you might like to visit one of those cities. Failing that, you could read informed remarks from people who have.

      • Martin Winlow says:

        Blimey – pardon *me* for daring to take issue with the original article but I concede “ludicrously naive” was a bit OTT. From what you have written I get the impression that you don’t drive an EV. Nor, I have to conclude do you use buses (or have any experience of London – where I work – or any other big UK city) as if you did you must have noticed the huge number of personal-use cars that flood in and out each working day. This is not what I would call ‘severed’ or anywhere near it. If you have a source for your viewpoint (RAC?) I would be interested to see it.

        Again, I (humbly) suggest that the idea of allowing EVs to use bus lanes is merely one way (there are others) of encouraging people – particularly those who live in cities – to buy an EV instead of an ICEV – and a temporary one at that. I am not talking about less well-off people either. I am talking about middle class people who can still afford to live in central London and still afford to own and run a car or who commute by car into London. The same applies to any other city in the UK, Europe or probably anywhere else.

        Lastly, I should point out that many other places in the world, e.g. California, have implemented this idea for the last 20 years! (Just wiki ‘High occupancy vehicle lane’ – links are forbidden in comments).

        • Here’s my source, Martin: http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/car-and-the-commute-data-tables-london.pdf

          As you will see, both car ownership and use is a minority factor in personal and household mobility in a large number of London Boroughs. Doubtless you can redefine ‘severe’ and ‘perceive’ in as many ways as you like, but the Data simply do not back up the prejudice that cars are an assumed way of getting about. You will even note that there are more people getting to work on a bike than in a car, in quite a few boroughs. The question is, why the majority that don’t use a car, and make the city better in abstaining from it, should have their resources and space reallocated to the minority that do. What’s so special about that minority? Why should we be trying to promote the urban car user minority with state finance? Why, of all the transport mode minorities we could be trying to promote, is *that* one worthy of special state support? And why worthy of special support at the expense of depriving road-space from users who, between them, constitute the majority?

          You will agree that, on the evidence, responding in kind to your abuse (“ludicrously naive”) was entirely warranted. To repeat, it is ludicrously ignorant of the facts about Londoner’s choices to believe that, on the whole, Londoners perceive personal mobility as car use and ownership. Further, I notice you don’t address the point about other cities where car usage is vastly lower than London. It is not in the least naive to hope to do something that has in fact been done, time and again, in city after city.

          I responded to your abuse by using your own words back at you and supporting the inversion with the data. After launching the tone of abuse I reciprocate, you now put on the garb of a wounded naif, while launching a few further insults- that I have no experience of any UK city, and so forth. Tosh.

          • We simply don’t have the space, in cities, to encourage the private car in any form- unless we positively choose gridlock and immobility. Space to encourage public transport and cycling as the personal transport alternative to walking we do have, for very simple reasons: parked bicycles, queueing bicycles and even moving bicycles take up a fraction of the road-space per user that goes with car usage. You will note that it is possible, from the RAC/census figures, to calculate how many people are actually sitting in those cars that take up all the road-space in such and convincing and imperious way. It is as if you concluded from sheer size that the Dreadnought is the dominant form of water transport.

          • Martin Winlow says:

            Ok, you win. You are clearly the more superior intellect!

            • I was about to say ‘Not the game I’m playing, Martin’ – but then I realised that “more superior” is rubbish english- my even spotting this suggests that your diagnosis and jibe is entirely correct, and I am suitably chastened.

        • pm says:

          Your comments about ‘personal freedom’ have to be taken in the context of a reality where (a) road space is a finite and contended resource and there will never be enough of it for everyone to drive regularly, and (b) driving is strongly correlated with wealth – the wealthier you are the more you drive and the poorest don’t drive at all.

          I’d also suggest that driving is less a symbol of freedom than a status thing. Many poorer non-drivers do indeed aspire to drive, but its as much about status as it is about ‘freedom’.

          So I have to wonder _who’s_ freedom you are really thinking about here. It seems to be the freedom of affluent outer-Londoners to grab some of that precious road space from less affluent inner London public-transport users.

          (Its complicated slightly by the fact that in London here-and-now actual existing cycle commuters actually tend to be better off than average, but then again, electric car users are likely to be better off than average drivers, and the former take far less roadspace).

  20. Martin Winlow says:

    Seriously! The idea to allow EVs to use bus lanes has no psuedo-scocio-mumbo-jumbo connotations. It is just a way to encourage people to drive EVs instead of ICEVs!

    • Seriously! The idea of responding to detailed argument with exclamation marks has no psuedo-scocio-mumbo-jumbo reverse intellectual snobbery. It’s just a way to encourage people to ignore argument and fact!

    • Dan Bassford says:

      We should not be encouraging anyone to drive into central London at all. Would you be happier to be run over by an electric vehicle than you would a diesel one? Or would you prefer that vehicle not to run you over at all? Motor vehicles (however powered) create a hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists. They take up a huge amount of public space, especially while they aren’t even being used. I doubt any council would look favourably on me if I chose to leave some other possessions in the road for 15 hours a day, every day. As 40% of car journeys are shorter than 2 miles there is absolutely no reason to encourage car use when walking or cycling are free, available to all and in many instances faster than driving.

      You cannot claim there isn’t space for cycle infrastructure while at the same time allocate that same space to cars.

      • Martin Winlow says:

        Dan, As you seem a sensible chap and not just commenting for the sake of causing friction, I shall try my logic on you… All I am proposing is, that if people *must* use a car to commute into or around London, that it would be better they do so in an EV rather than an ICEV… for many and obvious reasons. I agree entirely that, in a better, more organised world, where people didn’t feel the need to out-do one-another with swanky, ludicrously inappropriately oversized cars, we would all use public transport, our legs or some other form of ‘green’ and modest transport. But we don’t and so we must do the best we can with a bad lot.

        Encouraging drivers to drive more sustainably is surely a laudable course of action for the powers that be to take and one way – just one way – to do it is to allow EVs the use of bus lanes as other more sociably orientated modes of personal transport are, e.g. bicycles, taxis and motorcycles (and horses (?) for that matter). MW

        • I don’t understand why you continue to treat your proposal a sweet reason, but the classic use of “surely” is perhaps a hopeful sign. In my experience of philosophy, the word ‘surely’ usually comes out at the moment of doubt and head-scratching- and well might you um and ah, when you realise what you are saying. Encouragement is what you give to kids in swimming-pools. What you are suggesting is resource reallocation. And in this case, you want to reallocate resource from healthier and more space-efficient forms of transport to forms which are worse for the city on every possible metric. That’s the crazy part, which causes you to meet opposition, scatch your head, and utter a doubtful ‘surely’.

          Granted, electric cars are somewhat better than internal combustion engine cars on some points… but in that case what you ought to be doing is reallocating resource from worse cars to better cars. Take from worse cars to give to better cars, by all means- easiest to start with parking spaces, or you could make it a rule that certain areas of motor vehicular access are for electric motors only. But don’t tell us that electric vehicles are such a great idea that we should take from cyclists and public transport to give to them, because people will look at you like you don’t know how to add 2 and 2 and get 4.

        • pm says:

          I am baffled why you keep repeating the same reasoning that has many times over been debunked. Its been explained why your claim uses false reasoning and all you do is ignore all responses and just repeat the same flawed argument.

          This is usually the mark of a spammer or shill who is only interested in publicising some product rather than actually engaging in debate. This makes me suspicious that you may be just pushing a commercial interest here.

    • pm says:

      And I already explained why that is not true (I refer you to my, admittedly rather contrived, snack-foods-based analogy). Your suggestion would lead to a perverse incentive, not the one you claim you want. To do what you claim you want to do you have to take on the petrol heads, you can’t evade that difficulty by stealing from others instead.

      The worst of it is I’m not against _some_ incentives for electric vehicles (because they do at least reduce local pollution), but they need to come at the expense of the modes you want people to switch from. Taking the route of stealing space from less politically-powerful groups is both a bit cowardly but also entirely counterproductive.

      PS if a vague claim about cars symbolising personal freedom isn’t pseudo-socio-mumbo-jumbo I don’t know what is. So you started it!

      As you have no answer to any of the argument as to why your claim is incorrect, am I to assume you concede the point?

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