New video: Will electric cars stop the climate emergency?

To celebrate Earth Day we are launching a short video which asks, ‘Will electric cars stop the climate emergency?’

DecarboN8 researchers recently posted a series of responses to the UK’s ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030, our new video summarises these points in just over 2 minutes and is fully referenced.

How can electric vehicles (EVs) help us decarbonise transport? What are their limitations? Where can EVs help and where are they part of the problem? Who wins and loses when our decarbonisation plans leave car dependency in place? Can EVs alone deliver the scale and pace of decarbonisation required? We consider the role of EVs in decarbonisation from a place-based, whole system perspective.

We believe this is the first video produced about EVs from this perspective, and we hope it will add to the debate about how we electrify transport. Please share this video to your contacts and networks and encourage them to do likewise!

Limitations: Why Electric Vehicles alone will not deliver on climate

Problem #1: 2030 is too late: the UK’s entire carbon budget for cars will be used up before the ban even kicks in.

Problem #2: EVs are only as green as their power source. So far only 47% of UK electricity comes from renewables and every unit of low carbon energy used to power an EV is one taken away from public transport, hospitals, schools and businesses.

Problem #3: EVs take up the same amount of road space as petrol vehicles – so they don’t free up space for better buses, cycling and walking.

Problem #4: The whole world needs to decarbonise, but EV battery materials are limited, expensive to recycle, and some cannot be recycled at all. EVs should be shared globally to decarbonise places where trains, buses and bikes can’t reach.

Problem #: EVs don’t fix the UK’s transport poverty problem, which leaves thousands locked out of work or forced to run cars they can’t afford.

Opportunities: How best to use Electric Vehicles as part of a transport decarbonisation strategy

Tip #1: EVs reduce carbon most in rural areas – so install charge points outside of urban areas. Towns and cities should focus on cycling, walking and public transport instead.

Tip #2: Electrify public transport and service vehicles to help everyone get around more sustainably.

Tip #3: Make better use of fewer vehicles by sharing EVs through car clubs and ride sharing.

Tip #4: Ditch the extra weight: large cars are heavy and wasteful – whether powered by fossil fuels or renewables. Limit the weight and size of cars sold into the UK market.

Tip #5: Roll out a national Smart Charging scheme to share EV battery capacity to store renewable energy for the entire grid.