For climate and health
The Paris climate accord requires greenhouse gas emissions to fall to zero by 2050, at the latest. In practice, this means that no more vehicles with conventional engines should be sold from 2030 onwards. In addition to nitrogen oxide emissions, there is also traffic noise and the impact of exhaust fumes on health. Fine particles also increase the risks of cancer, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Reducing the use of cars in our daily lives also means protecting our health, particularly for the most vulnerable: the children and elderly.
While the public is still wondering, politicians are acting decisively. They are calling for 100% electric cars to become an obligatory part of both climate and health policy. Publicly owned vehicle fleets - from city buses to company cars - must be quickly converted to full electric power. This determination is impressive. However, is this the only possible solution?
Pooling the cost
In Luxembourg, there have been several improvements, such as the reintroduction of tramway, the Vel'OH! bicycle rental service, and an increase in the network of bike lanes. However, the majority of cross-border commuters are still not used to take public transportation. Most still use their cars to get to work but only a few consider car-sharing or car-pooling to reduce not just the environmental cost but also the economic cost of cars. Furthermore, the country still doesn’t have a good system for cross-border connections.
How can we implement it?
The problem is not awareness but implementation, among politicians as well as individuals. In addition to the fundamental decision to use e-mobility as a temporary ‘solution’, practical questions about the coverage and availability of charging stations are still contentious. There is also the problem of batteries, the manufacture of which harms the ecological balance in the long term. Another problem with this solution is to find out where does the electricity come from? In fact, if it comes from nuclear or coal-fired power stations, the environmental impact of electric cars is also reduced.
Nevertheless, as soon as electric cars are on our roads, they reduce the ecological footprint of the traffic. However, it does not mean, that electric cars are climate neutral. It is still difficult to consume electricity without producing pollutants and CO2, but we can still consider that electric cars have real potential.
What is the potential for electric vehicles?
- Electric vehicles are currently the best alternative to the conventional combustion engine.
- From a financial perspective, electric cars are profitable in the long run, even though they are significantly more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel cars.
- No car is climate neutral. Because of the way they are manufactured and produce electricity, electric cars produce a number of emissions, if only indirectly.
- The raw materials for the batteries of electric cars are problematic, in some respects. Something needs to change, especially as regards they way they are mined and extracted, in order to protect the environment and human beings.
- Private e-mobility is not the only solution: we must not forget that there is no car which produces no emissions.
Is there a ‘magic bullet’?
Therefore, we must create a framework which is open to innovation and other non-polluting solutions, rather than imposing electrification as the only way forward. In addition to the ‘miracle solution’ expected from technological innovation, there is also the option of behavioural change: reducing the use of private cars.