Electric cars are definitely better than fossil fueled vehicles. However, they are not resolving all problems with vehicle traffic in the cities. Lately I have seen politicians arguing to improve the car friendliness of the city. This is done with reference to that electric vehicles will be solving the negative aspects of vehicle traffic. In the best interpretation, this is having a windshield view of reality.
Here are five reasons why the electric cars will not solve the problems of vehicle traffic in the cities.
1. Space Pollution
Vehicle traffic is the least space effective transportation mode in the city. Only 2000 passengers per hour and lane, one eighth of the capacity of buses. Almost a tenth of the capacity of trams. On top of that we have to add the space taken by parked cars. Hence, we are wasting valuable space in order to give room to a convenient but low capacity transportation mode. This situation will not change wirh electric vehicles. That is unless it is combined with a shift to autonomous driving and car sharing.
2. Noise Pollution
The noise from vehicle traffic is mainly created by the contact between the tires and the road surface. Electric vehicles will resolve the engine noise from heavy diesel trucks or buses, and occasional high performance vehicles. However, the stressing and unhealthy background noise from vehicle traffic will not go away with electric vehicles. A background noise proven to give long term negative health effects on humans.
The electric vehicle is just as a deadly object as the fossil fueled car, everything else equal. Hence traffic safety is still an issue when going electric.
While CO2-emissions, NOX-emissions, etc., are eliminated when swapping to electric cars, the particles emitted in the contact between the tires and the road surface are still the same. These particles have serious health consequences. They are even deadly.
Due to the space inefficiency of vehicle traffic, it is an inequitable transportation mode. Vehicle traffic gets a disproportionate amount of the city’s investments due to the infrastructure needed to support it. A transportation mode used primarily by reasonably well-off citizens. In the meantime less resources per passenger capacity are put into other transportation modes. Sometimes even the socioeconomically most effective transportation modes, walking and cycling, suffer in favor private vehicle transportation. Thus this situation will not change by swapping to electric vehicles.
Replacing the internal combustion engine with electric engines is a big and important step towards sustainability. However, the fundamental problems with vehicle traffic will not magically be resolved by going electric. Therefore, the cities around world will need continue to improve public transport, improve bike lanes and improve walkability in order to achieve sustainability from a transportation point of view. Furthermore, they will need to get vehicle speeds under control and step wise reduce the number of vehicles in the city.