The Era of EVs Is Closer Than You Think

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been around for more than a century, but have only been recently adopted as the vehicle of the future. Their rise comes as more people become conscientious about the devastating effects of fuel emissions and seeking out alternative fuel sources.

Electric cars were introduced to the world more than 100 years ago when British inventor Robert Anderson developed the first electric carriage. However, Henry Ford’s Model T introduced in 1908 soon made gasoline-powered cars more affordable for the average household, eliminating the need for electric vehicles significantly.

Today, gasoline prices continue to rise and fall and America has become dependent on foreign imports for fuel. Still, more people are aware of the effects of pollution and their carbon footprint and interest in electric vehicles is beginning to increase. According to a 2013 report from Navigant Research, electric vehicles account for more than 3 percent of new vehicle sales and are expected to increase to nearly 7 percent worldwide by 2020.

Americans now have an even better incentive to buy an electric vehicle — a kickback from the state for going green with an EV. The State of New York recently announced it will offer $2,000 to residents who choose an eco-friendly car. New York State’s Drive Clean Rebate for Electric Cars program provides up to $2,000 if you purchase an EV or a plug-in hybrid vehicle. If this purchase also ends up qualifying for a federal credit, you could save up to $7,500 on your purchase. The rebate is good for more than 30 car models and is a point-of-sale rebate — you would take $2,000 off the sticker price at the dealer for instant savings.

New York is joining more than 75 percent of the United States that are providing some type of state-level discount for reducing fuel emissions and investing in a hybrid or electric vehicle.

Are we entering the era of EVs? State and federal government entities are taking the lead on promoting the value of electric vehicles and providing incentives to stimulate sales. Plug In America, a non-profit organization, founded National Drive Electric Week in 2010 and advocates the use of plug-in cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles. The organization points out that EVs provide better performance efficiency and since electricity prices are more stable than gasoline prices, drivers don’t have to stress too much about fluctuations in fuel costs. Plug In America also highlights the benefits of improved air quality because of fewer emissions, the convenience of skipping trips to the gas stations and worrying about oil changes, and the benefit of bringing money back to U.S. soil by reducing our dependence on imported oil.

This past year, economists noted the electric-car boom underway which has left many major oil companies concerned about potential losses as demand for oil-based fuel drops. In April 2017, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Cause shared his forecast and insights at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Conference in New York, stating that EVs are expected to make up 15 to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030 which equates to more than 20 million sales of new cars.

Americans are already making the shift to electric vehicles at a steady rate; sales of EVs soared in 2016 with a total of 159,139 vehicles sold, including the Tesla Model S and Model X, Chevrolet Volt, and the Nissan Leaf. According to Forbes, sales of EVs in the United States have grown at a 32% compound annual growth rate in the past four years and we saw a 41$ global increase in sales in 2016 alone with 777,497 electric vehicles sold.

As battery prices drop and electric cars become more affordable, we may soon see a significant shift in car buying trends and an array of eco-friendly vehicle options making their way to dealerships. The traditional internal combustion engine will be slowly replaced by more efficient, low-maintenance electric vehicles available in all classes.

Demand for electric vehicles is the rise as more people adopt eco-friendly purchasing habits. As a result, we may see more gasoline-powered vehicles being replaced at even higher rates in the next few decades along with a steady disappearance of gas stations. Local governments will need to install charging stations across the city or town and electric vehicle owners will become more dependent on refueling their car from a power supply at home.

This shift could be a turning point for the history of the American consumer and for consumerism at a global level as the world becomes less reliant on foreign fuel: a less musical, and more literal form of electric slide.

By |2019-05-30T19:18:53+00:00January 19th, 2018|Technology|

How The World’s Most Eco-Friendly Cities Pull Off Sustainable Transport

With every population, urban or otherwise, carbon footprints collect like dirty clouds in the wake of human movements. Ironically, these footprints are often more like wheel tracks: roughly a third of America’s emissions caused by the transport of people and goods, 80 percent of which can be attributed to cars and other road vehicles.

The world’s cities are far from immune to travel’s impact on the planet, as many densely populated metropolises are crammed with vehicles. These cars, which zip between skyscrapers and line narrow streets, often belong to commuters that travel significant distances each day and emit Co2 all the while. Even idling cars are problematic, as emissions increase the more time is spent on the road accelerating and decelerating.

With urban populations growing, the opportunity to make city transport greener is one worth a deep dive for urban planners. Cities already have a leg up when it comes to sustainability: with robust public transportation systems in place, cities have lower footprints than their suburban counterparts. As downtown revitalization attracts a greater number of residents into cities that can live, work, and shop locally, cars may be rendered an unnecessary luxury in due time.

The rise of eco-friendly transport

The US is home to several cities considered eco-friendly; because of its public transportation and commitment to green initiatives, New York City is one of them. But it wasn’t always this way — in fact, many of America’s cities were influenced by the 1939 New York World’s Fair imagining of an ideal, car-based city. This utopic roadway concept took the States by storm post-war, after which car ownership skyrocketed and roadways sprawled.

Cities in Europe, on the other hand, were never designed based on the assumption that private cars are the pinnacle of urban mobility. Countries far older than the US boast more compact and walkable city streets. We know now that the World Fair was wrong, and author Jane Jacobs was right: “Traffic congestion is caused by vehicles, not by people in themselves,” she wrote in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Cities that invested in car-based infrastructure have proven to be less environmentally sustainable, among other issues.

As a result of this knowledge, cities across the world, no matter their original design, are striving to decrease their reliance on cars. The financial incentive for this is also clear: city residents without cars save money on automobile-related costs, and have a heightened ability to boost the local economy.

The planet likes bikes

Some cities are ahead of others in this regard, and when it comes to transportation innovations, it’s worth looking to some of the planet’s greenest urban spaces for solutions and ideas.

One prime example is Copenhagen, Denmark, sometimes called the bike capital of the world. 55 percent of citizens here ride a bike every day — it’s estimated that for every kilometer cycled, society enjoys a net profit of 23 cents. Bikers also save the city 90,000 tons of Co2 emissions annually.

Copenhagen’s bicycle culture has been over a century in the making; photographs show Danes in early 20th century biking to and fro enthusiastically. This culture was challenged mid-century by cars, but in the 1960s it became apparent that their prominence was leading to traffic accidents and congestion. To counter this, Copenhagen put energy and investment into extensive cycling infrastructure and branding campaigns.

With over 390 kilometers of bike lanes, Copenhagen’s cycling is not only a healthy, green alternative to driving, but a well-defined symbol of freedom and personal energy. The Danish city continues to expands their bike culture with new policies, marketing initiatives, projects, pathways and more.

Other cities look to Copenhagen as an example, and the idea is certainly catching on — and not only in Europe. Buenos Aires in Argentina has become a latest poster child for urban biking, and Chinese city Hangzhou boasts the largest bike share in the world with a 78,000  fleet.

Have feet, will travel

Cites that are pedestrian friendly also tend to be much greener than car-centric ones. When urban space is made walkable — a task that may take development and beautification — residents rely less on cars and more on their feet. Some cities have even closed down roads to cars to create public walking spaces. You can see examples of this in New York City, where Times Square has been transformed into a shiny, commercial pedestrian paradise.

There are many big cities cutting down on cars, including London, Madrid, and Hamburg, in addition to already mostly car-free cities like Venice, Freiberg, and Groningen. Cities like Istanbul and Mexico City are also embracing the importance of people-oriented mobility to incredibly promising results.

Pedestrianization has been touted as a great necessity in urban design: it preserves the health and safety of city residents, reduces pollution and noise while improving tourism, and heightens retail income and community involvement.

Air, land and sea

Part of reducing reliance on cars means finding alternative ways for people to travel. This goes much further than biking and walking: there are many other complex systems of transport including travel via bus, tram, boats and more.

Perhaps the quintessential example of a carless city is Venice, which was built with canals instead of streets. Though some boats there are indeed pollutants, the city is accessible by foot and gondola.

Medellin, Colombia takes the concept of gondolas to a new level, literally: the city implemented gondola lifts called metro cable that go up and down the city’s steep mountainside. This is part of a greater metro system called Metro de Medellin, which saves 175,000 tons of Co2 every year along with saving $1.5 billion in respiratory health costs. Areas that were once violent and dangerous have been utterly transformed due to the modern ease of mobility.

Share or beware

Lastly, the share economy is a growing trend in transportation and travel that has proven to be a green alternative to cars and hotel rooms. By renting space in an existing cars and homes, travelers don’t contribute to excess energy consumption.

Carsharing in particular is on the rise everywhere from the US to China, India, Brazil and Mexico. If people share rides, theory has it, car ownership decreases and complements a growing array of public transportation options. Car ownership is already declining, and the Ubers and Googles of the world are knee-deep in plans for a future of automated ridesharing.

Gilles Vesco, a politician that switched the city of Lyon to a sustainable model, agrees that sharing is the future: “Sharing is the new paradigm of urban mobility,” he said. “Tomorrow, you will judge a city according to what it is adding to sharing. The more that we have people sharing transportation modes, public space, information and new services, the more attractive the city will be.”

But non-sharing car-owners should perhaps beware, because the other side to encouraging alternative transportation is discouraging car use. Tolls, gas taxes, high occupancy fast lanes, no-car days and other measures that bar cars can make driving unpleasant and expensive. Maybe this isn’t the fairest way to push sustainable transport, but seems to be working in cities like Portland, where congestion charges have been implemented to cut down on traffic.

100 percent green transport may still be impossible, and the organic dissuasion of excess car use certainly won’t happen overnight. But as we all become more aware of our collective carbon footprints, it wouldn’t hurt to gradually relax our wheels. Instead, we can push for a future of mobility that elevates both community and the environment. The trick is prioritizing these elements over the luxury of plush leather interiors.

By |2020-05-07T19:49:55+00:00March 9th, 2016|Urban Planning|