Electric Vehicles Have Many Advantages

I read your lead article “Transportation Planning” in the January/February 1996 issue with great interest. A couple of years ago I and seven others entered and won the Grand Prize for a competition entitled “The Electric Vehicle and the American Community.” The programme was to imagine life in some date in the future when electric vehicles would, in the competition team’s opinion, be in common usage and to depict the effects this would have on people’s lives with graphic images.

Our team consisted of four architects, a landscape architect, a planner, an engineer and an energy specialist, so we had a broad range of imaginations to draw from. However, it was not until we had been working on the competition for a couple of months that we realized the depth of the changes that could occur as a result of the wide use of electric vehicles (EVs). It was not simply a matter of replacing the internal combustion engine with the electric motor, although it was agreed that doing so would greatly improve the environment by reducing the pollution—both air and acoustic— caused by vehicles. The less obvious effects were wide ranging, including the following:

•The number of gas stations needed would be reduced as the number of EVs in use increased. Additionally the combination of many EV users recharging overnight at home and the fact that an EV can be recharged in many different places other than recharging stations (in car parks or grocery stores, movie theatres and in fact anywhere the EV will be standing unused for more than twenty minutes) means that a huge number of sites currently used as gas stations can be redeveloped. This is particularly relevant in inner cities where the urban fabric has been seriously damaged by the huge expanses of blacktop and plastic canopies of gas stations.

•Once EVs are the dominant form of propulsion, real estate alongside highways becomes much more desirable, as there would be no more fumes or acoustic pollution to keep the value of the real estate down.

•We proposed the use of renewable forms of energy to generate the electricity for the EVs wherever possible—this meant that we would not be simply diverting the pollution from the tail pipe to the smoke stack. For example, we suggested placing photovoltaic panels on the median strips of highways, over parking lots, and temporarily in vacant lots in urban areas.

•Unlike the parking structures of today, with no exhaust fumes EVs can be parked in enclosed (but ventilated) structures, improving the look of the urban fabric.

•It was assumed that with introduction of EVs, the opportunity would be taken (as it already has been in Europe) of reducing the size of some cars to two-person (it has been well documented that the majority of journeys taken in cars only have one person in the car). This has the effect of reducing the amount of parking space needed per car, giving way to more space for trees, seating areas, and landscaping.

•We also saw the introduction of EVs into the community as an opportunity to reduce the amount of cars (internal combustion or electric) on the roads in order to reduce congestion by encouraging the use of public transport. Our scheme illustrated Alewife “T” station in Boston as an intermodal transportation centre with connections to subway trains, commuter trains, buses and a “Station Car” scheme (short term car rental). This was in fact a major component of our proposal.

•Finally, we allowed ourselves the luxury of taking the benefits of EVs to their logical conclusion—with no exhaust fumes to contend with, imagine the day when you would be able to drive to work in your two- person EV, drive into the specially designed EV elevator and be taken up to the floor where you worked and parking your car next to your desk! This is of course a little impractical, but more generally, the fact that EVs can be driven into enclosed areas allows possibilities such as being able to wait in a warm bus station for your electric bus which would be able to drive into the waiting area.

The competition was sponsored in large part by General Motors, who claimed to want to investigate the possibilities for the introduction of EVs in the future. GM has recently been fighting the introduction of the “2% zero emission mandate” initiated by California and being attempted to be adopted by several other states. The conclusions here are not difficult to draw.

P. Lucy Pedler

London, England

Published March 1, 1996

(1996, March 1). Electric Vehicles Have Many Advantages. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/electric-vehicles-have-many-advantages

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