Electric cars wont save us and the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There are, despite what governments and especially industry try to tell us, far too many points against it, and I know that I have said many of those things before.

Aside from everything else and the fact that they have become cheaper nowadays it is in no way certain that they will ever get cheap enough for everyone who wants to or especially needs to drive to afford one.

The cost of the raw materials for the batteries are one point and those costs are not going to go down as demand increases; the opposite will be the case, unless other kinds of materials are found from which to make (more efficient) batteries.

There is a reason for raw materials that are currently used to be called rare earths, rare minerals and rare metals and the word “rare” should be the dead giveaway. It is true that battery designs and components may change over time but in the short term, considering that many governments want to ban gasoline- or diesel-powered cars and vehicles by 2030 or even earlier, though some have set a later target date, this is not going to happen.

Then there is the problem that presently – though, obviously, the designs may improve – the lifetime of the battery is around three years, give or take, although some manufacturers claim that their batteries are better in performance (though I do not believe this, as yet) and the costs of a replacement around one-third of that of the price of the vehicle. Alone for a £1,000 E-bike that is £370 for a new battery. For that price you can get a fairly good “ordinary” bicycle that has no such issues.

Switching power sources also does nothing to address the vast amount of space the car demands, which could otherwise be used for greens, parks, playgrounds and homes. It doesn’t stop cars from carving up community and turning streets into thoroughfares and outdoor life into a mortal hazard. Electric vehicles don’t and won't solve congestion, or the extreme lack of physical activity that contributes to our poor health.

Also, when it comes to reduction of “carbon emissions”, electric vehicles are not carbon neutral and that not even remotely. First there are those emissions created by manufacturing them and indeed already beforehand in the extraction and preparations of the raw materials for the making of those cars. And then there is the switch from one exhaust, that of the vehicle, to the other one, namely the smokestack of the power station. In addition to that governments already fret that the electricity grid will be unable to cope with all those electric vehicles being put on charge overnight or maybe even at other times.

Even a switch to bicycles (including electric bikes and scooters) is only part of the answer. Fundamentally, this is not a vehicle problem but an urban design problem. Or rather, it is an urban design problem created by our favored vehicle. Cars have made everything bigger and further away.

Because of the car, in all honesty, and, yes, today also because of Internet shopping, the high streets of our towns and cities have been turned into places where coffee shops, sandwich bars, bars, restaurants and whatever else congregate but hardly any “real” shops can be found today.

Supermarkets have moved, very often, away from the walkable and cyclable centers and areas to out-of-town locations and many other shops also have gone into the out-of-town malls. There are some that reversing the trend, like some of the German discounters in the UK, such as Aldi and Lidl, who are deliberately trying to have their stores sited within towns and cities and not to out-of-town locations and on industrial parks. And the same is true for all the discounter stores in Germany that I saw years ago, whether Aldi, Lidl, REWE, or others.

Some countries on mainland Europe are a little different as regards to towns and cities and their centers especially as, unlike in the UK, and often also the US, people actually still live in the centers of those towns and cities. The center of London (UK), on the other hand, is, after the offices close, almost a ghost town as far as people living there are concerned; almost no one does.

The problem for using alternative transport to the car in British cities, and more so even the countryside where many of the towns do not have much of shopping either anymore, and there is a lack of other places such as post offices, banks, etc., is all geared towards the car. Even more so, obviously, in the rural USA where, without a car, you can't even get to the “nearest” store. Doing a 50 mile round trip to get your groceries is not really feasible on a bicycle and not even with horse and buggy.

There was a time when in the rural areas – in the US – the “general stores” abounded, and where not all that far away, necessarily, from where people lived. But all those have gone to the wall ages ago aided and abetted by the car and the likes of Wally World. Obviously, the governments also had their fingers in the pie, so to speak, paid for by the car lobby.

In order to truly change the situation we need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and return to the way some things were in times past when places, shops, work and all, were easily accessible and there was no need to travel long distances. The electric car and other electric vehicles will only perpetuate the situation and move the carbon emissions to locations other than the car when it is driven.

© 2020