Commuter Solutions

Are Electric Vehicles Key to the Development of Sustainable Cities?

In recent years, the automobile industry has been pushing the electric car technology, presenting it as an urban mobility solution for climate change, decreasing noxious emission levels and the greenhouse effect. In fact, in theoretical conditions, an electric car would help boost a better and healthier world but, is it enough? Can humanity and the current market adapt to this change?

From an environmental perspective, it seems like a proper solution with a logical marketing perspective: I use the car to commute, it does not contaminate and it initially uses a carbon-free technology. On the other hand, if we take a deeper look into the theme, there are some concerns that need to be addressed.

A car, regardless of its power source, like every product, has its own carbon footprint which has to be taken into consideration along with the emissions during its use. In fact, some recent studies show that the implementation of a massive switch to electric car technologies would not result in a drastic change in the level of emissions due to the sourcing of electrical energy (for example, coal). Besides this, there are other challenging issues such as waste generation, resource consumption, batter manufacturing and recycling that must be taken into consideration as well.

Despite that, there is no doubt that, with the enforcement of suitable public and private policies, it can be a tremendous tool to face the global warming problem. It must be seen as a challenging opportunity and not as a threat.

The role of electric cars in urban mobility

When it comes to urban mobility, a technological switch in car engines is not a big deal. The notion still remains in the same mobility conceptual scheme from the 50’s that brought us to the present situation.

The transport externalities are actually reduced in terms of air pollution (up to 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) emission level by 2050) , noise (silent) and urban health (zero noxious gases). However, when we consider combined efficient mobility solutions which include electric technologies and e-car, human-scale city planning and sustainable mobility modes, they seem to tackle a wide range of problems such as: land use, congestion, urban segregation, social inequity, urban sprawling, road safety, food deserts, mental health and sustainable mobility in general.

Also, this global solution fits better in the sustainable virtuous chain: Reduce, reuse and recycle and, if it is not possible to finish the process with the three previous concepts, optimize the non-renewable resources so as to diminish its impact for future generations.

To sum things up, the technological evolution will not solve the problem by itself. But, planning our cities, understanding its motives (citizens and their quality of life) and reshaping it with global decided initiatives will guide us to a feasible sustainable future. We might find that the collective prevails over the individual for the sake of every one of us rather than the profits of a bunch of companies.

Do you think electric vehicles are important to the development of sustainable cities? If yes or no, tell us your reasons in the comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.


Their focus convinces us to strongly believe EVs (Electric vehicles) will be the Model T of the 21st Century. The Model T replaced the horse-and-buggy very fast with its obvious advantages on speed, practicality, affordability, etc. A similar phenomenon is beginning to take place in a few countries around the world, where the percentage of new vehicles purchased with a plug are moving up.

The Mobility Revolution – made up of a move toward environmentally-aware, quality-of-life enhancing electric, autonomous and shared vehicles – is actually part of a broader transformation that has been called the Third (or Fourth) Industrial Revolution. It not just changes how we live, work and move around in our increasingly urban and nomadic lives, it challenges working models that have existed even before the first (and second) Industrial Revolution.

In 2001, the California Air Resources Board added incentives to its Zero Emission Vehicle Program to include electric vehicles (EVs) within carsharing fleets, prompting many operators and manufacturers to add these vehicles to their systems. Now that the incentives are set to expire in 2018, researchers from the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) [at the University of California, Berkeley] recently examined the impact of exposure to zero- and low-emission carsharing on user behavior and opinions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) produce less emission, have higher efficiency and generate less noise. However, driving range of electric vehicles is limited. Together with an electrified highway lane, a wireless system which recharges battery modules and a concept that energizes vehicles through solar panels and wind turbines installed along the way could contribute to an absolute zero pollution transportation system independent from the main grid.

Public interest in finding alternatives to Diesel continues to grow. People are becoming more and more aware of their own health in cities - and less and less tolerant of harmful emissions. In ten years’ time, 2015 will be seen to have been a watershed moment in the progression toward zero-emissions transport. In our interview, Lukas Neckermann, an entrepreneur and strategy advisor explains how vehicle electrification will impact other industries and explains the roadmap towards zero-emissions transportation.