Why electric cars aren’t a panacea

If you follow me online, you know I’m very passionate about fixing how we get around cities. There are a few reasons:

1 — I want to survive to see my daughters get married, and I resent that I have to risk my life to get around Los Angeles choosing to use a bicycle.

2 — I believe climate change is real, and 60% of our greenhouse gas emmissions come from cities. In the US, the largest source of our greenhouse gas emissions (28%) is the Transportation sector, and cars make up 59% of Transportation.

If you solve how people get around cities, you solve climate change.

From one of my favorite books on urbanism — Happy City by Charles Montgomery.

4 — I think we often forget or are oblivious to the impacts on our physical and mental health that come from living in a city that’s dominated by cars. It shouldn’t be dangerous to cross the street, but 200 people a year die in LA due to traffic violence. Sirens shouldn’t be so loud they wake you up at night, but they need to be to penetrate through closed car windows. Children should be able to walk or bike themselves to school, as is very common in European countries. We shouldn’t have one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. We shouldn’t smoke the equivalent of up to 4 cigarettes per day, just by breathing. Our commercial corridors should feel more like main streets than highways — which would encourage foot traffic to businesses and reduce crime. We shouldn’t waste an average of one week per year sitting in traffic.

I want to live in a city that’s more livable, peaceful, safe, and equitable.

there is no quick fix for climate change, and electric cars aren’t it.

The electric Hummer coming out from GM.

1 — The biggest reason is space. Cars take up the same amount of space, whether they’re electric or not. This means we won’t solve congestion in cities. Traffic will continue to get worse as our population grows. Bikes and buses will continue to fight for their own lanes with ever increasing space demands from electric cars. And people will continue to get hurt and killed trying to bike or walk, especially if our SUV craze goes electric.

In short, electric cars — taking up just as much space as non-electric cars — do very little to make our cities safer or more livable, and the space they require makes it more difficult for cities to adopt modes that truly are very climate friendly, like bike and bus lanes.

3 — Electric cars still pollute! Yes, they don’t emit greenhouse gases from their tailpipe, but manufacturing and battery production do emit greenhouse gasses. On average, an electric car will still have about 1/3 the emissions of the average conventional car — so it’s much cleaner, but still polluting, especially if the source of charging the car is from non-clean sources like coal.

I don’t think we’ll ever have a world without cars — they provide a useful function for longer trips. And of course, we need delivery vans, buses, and other vehicles that make our economy hum. If we need to have vehicles — they should be electric, and we should be charging them from renewable energy sources like wind or solar. But let’s stop acting like electric cars will save the planet — they won’t.



Tali, Mika & Sofi’s dad, Katerina's husband, LA native. Founder, Service. Founder, Streets For All. Board Member, Mid City West Neighborhood Council.

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Michael Schneider

Tali, Mika & Sofi’s dad, Katerina's husband, LA native. Founder, Service. Founder, Streets For All. Board Member, Mid City West Neighborhood Council.