Thought of the Day: Are Electric Cars Enough?

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, prompted by watching Before the Flood last night, Nikki asks if driving zero emission electric cars charged by renewable energy is enough when it comes to lowering our carbon footprint — or if we should be working harder to rethink our carbon footprint and travel footprint. Should we be bicycling or walking more, for example? And what would that look like in the real world?

Watch the video above, and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Fred

    Of course a means of transport it only efficient if it is used for what it is designed to do. Of course it’s absurd to travel 2km by car when you need to carry 2Kg of groceries. Equally absurd as trying to carry 2people and 100kg of bags over 300km with a bicycle. Horses for courses… There is no “competition” between bicycles and cars. They are two different modes of transport, designed for two different uses.

    Just would like to point out a common misconception : The way we commonly measure efficiency in cars is actualy flawed. Energy consumption per distance travelled is an awefull measure, because it leaves out the two most important factors : usefull load carried and speed. Instead of measuring efficiency in mpg or l/100km or Kwh/km, we should measure it in Kwh/KmKg @ xxxkph. If different modes of transport would be compared by that measure, you would see some very surprising results. Commercial transport aircraft for example : An A380 will carry a 100kg payload at 850 kph for 3l/100km!! Extremely efficient. We could even improve that by a factor of 2-2,5 through electrification. Either way, this sort of efficiency cannot be achieved with a car.

  • Denison

    I think the next priority should be power generation, that will have quicker impact.

  • dan_swain

    I live in London and don’t own a car but will likely buy one next year with baby number 2. It’s hard work getting around with buggies with all the paraphernalia on public transport especially with no lifts at the local stations ( I think theyre putting them in soon).

    I don’t have a garage or drive but increasingly need a car especially at weekends with a roundtrip being an average of 180 miles. Train is workable but with so many rail replacement buses and engineering works especially at weekends it’s stressful and time consuming.

    I walk everywhere but don’t cycle mainly put off by witnessing a lorry vs bicycle incident in central London and many tales of woe from friends working in hospitals.

    I’d like an EV but without a garage or a drive the infrastructure just doesn’t look reliable enough. There was news that Esso the petrol station at the bottom of my road might bring in super chargers if they do I’d be really happy. I’m likely to compromise on a plugin hybrid but I’d much prefer a full EV the Mrs isn’t convinced on this front saying it isn’t practical.

    I think it’s all getting there. For developing world I can see self driving cars as possibly taking over from trains. But at a larger level we expect developing world to build huge cities like we did In the industrial revolution but with the internet and the potential for distributed power generation maybe they can develop in a more modern decentralised way than we did and avoid highly congested cities and the need for as much travel and infrastructure. The pessimist in me thinks they’ll follow our model.

    • Yorkman99

      I see a future where there is no need to own a car. You will simply dial up a self drive car and it will pick you up and take you where you want to go. For many this will be far cheaper than owning a car which is mostly parked in a garage or in the street.

      I just hope I am around to see it happening.

      • dan_swain

        I essentially live like that now, but obviously they’re not self driving, either a London black cab or an uber. Current cabs don’t really want to do 300 mile fares, not to mention it’s expensive, possibly not as expensive as a car. Depends how often you use it. I fully expect to buy a car, plugin hybrid probably owing to no drive or garage. I need to ask the council about putting public chargers on some roads. We have the hire cars but they’re £0.17p per minute. Autonomous is definitely the future, I’m thinking within 10 years. Just frustrating it’s not hear already.

  • archiveking

    Electric cars are a tiny band-aid on the bleeding body of our planet – please watch Cowspiracy another Leonardo Di Caprio film on Netflix. Giving up red meat would have a much greater effect than switching to electric cars.

    Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
    Transportation exhaust is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
    Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions
    Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
    Methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
    Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.

  • Martin Howes

    The switch to electric vehicles is a positive, but it is just one of many ways in which transport should evolve. Better land use planning to reduce the need to travel, more use of modern telecommunications, increasing public transport, reducing the carbon footprint of public transport through electrification of railways, electric buses, promoting walking for short trips, safer routes for cycling, more car clubs, more ride sharing. All these things should be within the remit of Transport Evolved.

  • Richard Glover

    You are perfectly right Nikki, we use our cars too much. Use of energy from any source is a modern luxury that we should question the use of, all the time.

    Sadly when we are asked for advice about setting an annual mileage to go with a PCP deal, we say you will almost certainly do more miles because you will feel less guilty about popping here and there.

    If you walked or cycled to save the burning of fuel before you got your EV, do so now.

    Only trouble is, you certainly seem to notice the smell of exhausts more than you use too.

  • Lawrence Taylor

    I live in Freiburg in Deutschland which is Solar City, but also a biking capital. Due to a shoulder problem, I couldn’t ride a bike for 15 years, but I also used to live in Bulle, Switzerland which was a city with targets on the back of bikers. I now have a recumbent trike and can hit the roads. I had some friends from Bulle come up and they were impressed with the infrastructure of the whole city, since in most places cyclists have the priority. I feel safe riding around since drivers are always aware. Now I have a Tesla but I don’t use it much in the city since it is much easier to get around on the bike. Portland must also have the same mentality for cycling. There are many vegetarians and vegans, so I agree that we need to decrease our dependence on Animal Farms. There is one Huuge Problem, and that is the plastic packaging in stores. I have been hearing for 25 years that we will be banning plastic bags, and they are still here. Since plastic production is an integral part of petroleum, is it any wonder?
    I would propose that we help our climate by trying to plant a weed which would provide us with jobs, fiber, oil, and it would be an effective way to capture CO2. My dad would tell me stories about in Texas and farmers complaining about Big Government forcing them to plant Hemp.
    Have you noticed an argument that batteries are highly toxic to produce, which is of course the reason they don’t want to put in solar panels, neither? Big Oil is desperate.