Electric Cars Not the Total Solution

Electric cars are much talked about as a way to reduce our transportation footprint. The transportation sector has been said to be the top source of carbon emissions in the USA, and electrification of automobiles could surely be a significant component of the solution.

But cars have a footprint beyond the emissions themselves. There’s the manufacture of the cars, for one thing. I haven’t yet researched it but I assume electric-car manufacture has a footprint comparable to manufacture of gas-powered cars.

And then too there is the footprint of the roads, parking lots, and other car infrastructure. Cars take up a lot of space, and their infrastructure is chewing up forests and wetlands, as well as creating big wide patches of asphalt in cities.

And car-dependence is contributing to obesity, social isolation, and other serious public-health problems, which themselves generate a carbon footprint in addition to the immediate, grave human cost.

Not to demonize cars — they have their place. But electric cars are not the total climate savior some might want to believe in.

We need to add bicycle and pedestrian amenities, and public transit. Electric-powered buses maybe?

On the subject of chewing up land, minimum parking requirements (which some municipalities have in their land development codes) have become a burdensome thing. They create asphalt wastelands, and they greatly inflate the cost of urban infill projects such as apartment buildings and commercial developments.

Many people are fearful about reducing or abolishing parking minimums. This article from Strong Towns, “How To Talk To a Skeptic About Reducing Parking Requirements,” gives good talking points for addressing frequently expressed concerns.