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Why electric vehicles aren’t the simple solution to the climate crisis – Rachael Murphy

Why electric vehicles aren’t the simple solution to the climate crisis – Rachael Murphy

Co Wheels has become the UK’s largest community interest car club operator.

Hence, any attempt to fulfill the promises of COP26 and hit net zero emissions within a generation – which all UK devolved governments and most Scottish local authorities are signed up to –depends heavily on addressing the role of private vehicles.

As a silver bullet, persuading people to switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles has been a long-held goal.

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Electric vehicles are definitely better for the environment. They are also tend to have a higher range and are generally newer.

They are still responsible for congestion and the manufacturing process is equally unfriendly.

There’s also the question of charging infrastructure.

The Scottish Government has set a target to eliminate new petrol and diesel cars by 2032. However, if all of Scotland’s two-and-a-half million cars are replaced by EVs, the impact on the grid, infrastructure, and cost will be immense.

There’s also an affordability barrier, with it still being noticeably more expensive to buy an electric car than one powered by traditional sources.

So why accept the status quo, that we need to replace these cars like for like, when whatever environmental mitigation EVs can offer, still won’t be enough to make the changes needed in the time we have?

The whole transport infrastructure needs to be revolutionised to make the necessary difference – it’s not just about reducing particular emissions from particular vehicles.

It’s about changing behaviours, improving the way people move around, and creating ways to enhance cities, towns and villages, and the methods by which we connect them.

After all, simply substituting petrol and diesel cars for electric alternatives won’t address problems with congestion, parking and safety.

This is where shared transportation comes into play.

We can persuade people to get out of their cars and overcome the obstacles surrounding chargepoint infrastructure, cost, and electricity supply.

Despite challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, the number of people signed up to car clubs schemes rose to 30,617 in 2020 – a rise of more than a fifth.

That alone resulted in 5,177 fewer cars on Scotland’s roads.

Ten private cars are taken off of the road for every car-club vehicle.

That means less congestion on the road and Fewer cars mean more space on pavements and outside shops and schools – all important areas which many communities are keen to reclaim.

And these vehicles are more likely to be electric – such as the all-electric car club introduced in Falkirk last month and managed by Co Wheels.

Car clubs can make it easier to walk and cycle. Additionally, by giving up a private vehicle to join a club, you can save significant money.

Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK) wants to see these benefits in every corner of Scotland. We want to make this possible by creating car clubs, bike sharing, shared rides, and demand responsive transport in rural, suburban, and urban areas of Scotland. Part of this shift can come from mobility hubs, which are so successful in the way they’ve transformed the lives of people and businesses in parts of Europe.

They connect public transport links and shared transport options.

You can take an electric bus, train, or tram to another town from the same place.

You can use an electric car-sharing and bike-sharing program.

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Perhaps you’ll enjoy some of the greenspace or community facilities that will have been gained.

CoMoUK believes mobility centers can be a crucial boost for the Scottish high street. We see international examples of local businesses and organisations that are using the newly-created resource while still supporting the local economy.

Both the Scottish and UK governments are keen on these hubs – one has already opened in a suburb of London and one is being introduced in Musselburgh in East Lothian.

They bring energy and excitement into urban centres and offer new opportunities and connectivity to deprived areas that are often cut off from the prosperous parts of town.

But these possibilities don’t need to be limited to mobility hubs.

Since their increased visibility, bike-sharing schemes have been popular in the UK.

Our research shows that when they are given promotional offers by government agencies, such as discounts and free periods, they become more popular.

They are cost-effective and can be used to save money. Our studies also show that many people end up buying their own bikes, so they are excited about their new way of traveling.

And as everyone knows, more cycling doesn’t just take cars off the road – it saves users money and has statistically proven benefits for both physical and mental health.

Following COP26, people are looking for ways to ensure a Scottish legacy. Therefore, ministers are to be commended for their boldness regarding electric vehicles. We will work closely with them every step of this journey to help.

However, it is our relationship to private car ownership that holds the key for a greener future.

Rachael Murray is the director of Collaborative Mobility UK in Scotland.

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