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Improving the uptake of electric vehicles in urban areas

The environmental and health impact of conventional private vehicles coupled with annually increasing maintenance and fuel costs has led many cities to turn away from the internal combustion engine and search for a more environmentally friendly replacement.

Electric cars hold significant environmental benefits over their fossil-fuel counterparts. Electric vehicles have the potential to greatly improve air quality as the only emissions they cause are generated in the production of the electricity needed to run them. As electricity generation from clean sources increases, the carbon footprint of electric cars correlatively drops, but it is important to emphasise that the emission benefits of electric vehicles are only fully applicable if the energy being generated is from renewable sources.

Electric vehicles have improved rapidly in recent years and new-generation electric vehicles offer similar comforts to conventional vehicles. Thanks to both legislation and increased consumer demand, motor vehicle manufacturers are increasing their efforts within the electric vehicle market. As the number of manufacturers grows and EU and national legislation enforces stricter emissions standards, the availability and choice of electric vehicles is set to increase. This, coupled with improvements in battery technology, will see the price of the vehicles fall. Already, electric vehicles are far more cost-effective than traditional vehicles when considered in terms of their life cycle.

Public administration bodies can improve the uptake of electric vehicles by:

  • directly purchasing electric vehicles for the mobility needs of their staff
  • defining schemes that support the purchase of electric vehicles by residents (devoting a specific budget or reaching agreements with local banks at reduced interest rates)
  • allowing the circulation of electric vehicles in restricted traffic areas or on preferential lanes
  • increasing the number of public charging points
  • reducing electric vehicle taxation
  • introducing or supporting private electric vehicle car sharing schemes
  • advertising to residents the support measures for electric vehicles.

Despite the above-mentioned environmental benefits, e-mobility retains some of the drawbacks associated with conventional private vehicles such as land use (e-mobility does not reduce pressure on land use for transportation infrastructure). It also facilitates urban sprawl in the same manner as conventional vehicles and does not address congestion and other traffic problems.

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