Will electric cars solve the problem?
No. Electric cars will reduce emissions, but will encourage more driving and make other problems worse.
Let’s think through our 7 problems. The main thing to remember is that electric vehicles have a high initial cost, but then reduce the cost of driving, so the DfT and other forecasters expect them to increase the amount of traffic.
1. Climate change. Electric cars perform better here than fossil fuel powered cars, although still not as well as public transport, cycling or walking. PLUS
2. Road Casualties. With more driving, casualties will increase. What’s more, electric vehicles accelerate faster and are heavier, so are likely to cause more and worse casualties. MINUS
3. Physical inactivity. With more driving, physical inactivity will get worse, and health problems and pressure on the NHS will increase. MINUS
4. Air pollution. Electric vehicles will eliminate tailpipe emissions of Nitrous Oxides and Particulates, which is good news. They will still emit particulates from brake and tyre wear. PLUS
5. Congestion. With more driving, congestion will increase. MINUS
6. Public Space. With more driving, demands for public space will increase. Electric vehicles also need charging – needs that are different to fuelling of fossil powered cars. This may take more or less space in the long-term, but we should avoid poorly designed charging facilities that block pavements. UNSURE
7. Inequalities. Currently electric cars are expensive to buy, but cheap to run, and may have special privileges in Low Emission Zones etc. so they tend to increase inequalities. MINUS
So currently two pluses, and four minuses – electric vehicles an improvement, butnot the solution to every transport problem.