Why we don't need electric cars, but need to get rid of cars

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© Erik S. Lesser/ Getty Images

Many are convinced that we are entering a new safer, cleaner world of electric cars; writing in the Guardian in a post titled Our cities need fewer cars, not cleaner cars the authors of "Faster, Smarter, Greener: The Future of the Car and Urban Mobility" suggest that air quality is not the only problem, and that moving to all-electric cars "will be a positive step, albeit an inadequate measure."

Our urban mobility architecture will have to undergo fundamental change. In Boston, more than 40% of cars in rush-hour traffic have only one occupant. We envelop each occupant, weighing an average of 70-80kg (154-176 lbs), in a package that weighs 20 times their weight to achieve mobility. It takes a lot of energy to move that mass.

This has been an issue we have looked at before; does it make sense? An Escalade or the Tesla Model X weigh almost 3 tons and can't legally cross the Brooklyn Bridge with four people in it. It takes a lot of energy to manufacture and move such a big car, and it takes up a lot of space.

And there are other aspects to be concerned about. We currently demand considerable amounts of valuable urban land for roads. London allocates almost 24% of its land area to roads and supporting infrastructure. In many US cities this can be as high as 40%.

Again, whether it is electric or gasoline, we are giving up all that land to one person in a big box. The authors suggest that "cities need far fewer cars and should support a wide variety of modes favouring pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit or shared mobility."


Authors Venkat Sumantran, Charles Fine and David Gonsalvez suggest regulations to manage parking, congestion charges, incentives for HOVs, and " and incentivising last-mile connections to improve the viability of mass transit."

We all want our cities to be faster, smarter and greener – and the car is not the only answer. We must use technology and entrepreneurship to ensure that our urban future is fair, inclusive and aligned with the common good.

Indeed. In our post What would our cities be like if all our cars were electric? I quoted electric car expert Zach Shanan about how our air would be cleaner, our cities would be quieter. But it doesn't change sprawl, congestion, parking or safety of pedestrians and cyclists. It doesn't change the fact that in a crowded city, putting a single person in a big metal box is just silly.

Tags: Car-Free | Cities

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