Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Living Lightly column

Why We Don’t Need Electric Cars but Need Less Cars

By James G Sloan

Some people think electric cars are a partial answer to climate change. They are not. We need fewer cars not different cars. Air quality is not the only problem. Moving to all-electric cars, to the extent they replace existing petrol cars, is positive but inadequate.

Our urban road system will have to undergo fundamental change. In Australian cities over 60% of cars in peak hour have one occupant. We envelop each occupant, weighing an average of 70-80kg, in in a complicated bulky capsule that weighs 20 times their weight often to move them less than 5 km. Whether the car is electric or petrol, it takes a lot of energy to manufacture and move that mass, and it takes up a lot of space, primarily public space.
We currently demand considerable amounts of valuable urban land for roads. I’m not sure on the figures in Albury/Wodonga but big cities allocate between 25%-40% of their land area to roads and supporting infrastructure.

Again, whether it is electric or petrol, we are giving up all that land to one person in a big box. In towns at least, we need far fewer cars and should support a wide variety of transport modes primarily favouring pedestrians and cyclists.

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

Certainly, if all our cars were electric our air would be cleaner, and 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 putting a single person in a big metal box for very short trips is just silly!