Making electric cars "affordable" is wrong

Or, at least, quite misleading.

Two big roadblocks keep many drivers from ditching their gas-burning vehicles and switching to electric ones: the lack of home garages and shared spaces to charge batteries, and the cost of buying a new car, electric or otherwise.

Making electric cars "affordable" is wrong /img/ev-equality.jpg

These realities are the reason why Grist recently wrote about how to ensure electric cars aren’t just for rich people. An important piece but, as framed, aiming at wrong target. Its main points are:

  • industry analysts say that USA sales of electric vehicles should reach record levels in 2021
  • the challenge is figuring out how to make these accessible to everyone, that is how to overcome the two roadblocks mentioned above
  • this is a social justice issue, because “In California, for instance, low-income communities on average have the fewest total chargers per capita, while high-income communities have the most”
  • all drivers must have the possibility to join the transition to zero-carbon transportation
  • A racial and economic justice group in Oakland, California, wants “the focus to be on the frontline, hard-to-reach communities that are most impacted by poverty and pollution, not the folks that already have income and are getting Teslas."

A very american solution, isn’t it?

That article goes on and on explaining how and why to fix these problems. Too bad that the real problem and the real solution are only mentioned in the last three paragraphs, instead of being the main story, every day.

  • “electric car ownership is only one piece of building a cleaner, more equitable transportation system."
  • [this] “is not just about replacing internal combustion engines with EVs…It’s about, ‘How do you holistically create a transportation system that works for the community?’"
  • [because] “For some communities, public investments in pedestrian-friendly sidewalks or bike lanes might serve a more immediate need than battery charging stations”
  • “Other areas could benefit more from well-run fleets of battery-powered buses, or from car-sharing models that allow many people to use the same electric car."
  • “Electrifying freight trucks and other medium- to heavy-duty vehicles will have the greatest impact on eliminating toxic tailpipe pollution”

It’s quotes like these four that should be the starting point, in the US and everywhere else. Cars, buses an trucks must go electric, no question about that. Just read here, here and here, if you don’t believe it yet. But that does not mean “cars for everybody”.

Making owning a private car useless for as many people as possible: in this century, that must be the first goal of any sensible transportation-related policy. Electrification is a must, but compared to that other goal, only comes a distant second.