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Posts from the ‘Road transport’ Category

37,000 lives could have been saved in the last 25 years with lower speed limits

Treehugger.com 8 April 2019

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says over five precent of deaths on the roads are due to higher speed limits.

In 1995 the US Congress removed federal regulation of speed limits, and in the years since, they have crept up across the country. In Texas, limits are now as high as 85 MPH; 41 states have 70 as the limit and 6 states have 80 MPH.

Now Charles Farmer, Vice President for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated the data on highway deaths and it is pretty shocking.

Farmer found that a 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit was associated with an 8 percent increase in the fatality rate on interstates and freeways — the roads most directly affected by changes to the maximum speed limit — and a 3 percent increase on other roads. In total, over the 25-year study period, there were 36,760 more deaths — 13,638 on interstates and freeways — and 23,122 on other roads — than would have been expected if maximum speed limits hadn’t changed over that time.

Just in 2017, the last year with data available, 1,934 of the 37,133 deaths would have been avoided had the speed limits were still at 1993 levels which maxed out at 65 MPH. Deaths had been dropping for years because of seat belts and better vehicle design, but are on the rise again. “Increased speed limits, along with other retrograde policies such as the repeal of motorcycle helmet laws, are offsetting the gains made, and hampering efforts to reduce traffic injuries at the national, state, and local levels.”
One reason that is often stated when speed limits are raised is that it saves time. But Farmer concludes:
Higher speed limits can yield societal benefits through reduced travel time, but there is a price to pay in terms of additional lives lost. Those responsible for managing the roadway system must recognize and carefully consider this trade-off before deciding to increase speed limits.

One of the biggest problems is that nobody pays any attention to speed limits anyway, and many people are convinced that speed limits are kept artificially low to keep the cash flowing from speed traps. If Americans were really serious about saving lives and slowing drivers down, they would implement Intelligent Speed Assistance, like they are in Europe. But don’t hold your breath.

https://www.treehugger.com/cars/37000-lives-could-have-been-saved-last-25-years-lower-speed-limits.html

Driverless cars: once they’re on the road, human drivers should be banned

The Conversation 6 June 2019

Self-driving cars could revolutionise people’s lives. By the end of the next decade, or perhaps even sooner, they could radically transform public spaces and liberate us from the many problems of mass car ownership. They’ll also be much better behaved than human drivers.

Robot drivers won’t break the speed limit, jump the lights, or park where they shouldn’t. They won’t drive under the influence of drink or drugs. They’ll never get tired or behave aggressively. They won’t be distracted by changing the music or sending a text, and they’ll never be trying to impress their mates.

Driverless cars could also change the face of public spaces. Private cars are very expensive items that do absolutely nothing 95% of the time. They are economically viable only because paying a taxi driver for all your car journeys would be even more expensive. Once cars don’t need human drivers, this cost balance should tip the other way.

Imagine what your town or city could look like with driverless taxis instead of private cars. Most of the space taken up by car parks could be used for homes, offices, cafes, bars, cinemas, hotels, and swimming pools. An end to parked cars lining every street like urban cholesterol. Quicker bus journeys. Wider pavements.

With more space and safer roads, active transport would be more attractive. More people would travel around on bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and scooters. Driverless taxis could easily be electric, returning to depots to recharge.

The benefits to public health would be enormous. Our towns and cities would be vastly more pleasant places to live and breathe. Transport’s contribution to climate change would be dramatically reduced. But ensuring all these benefits presents an important ethical challenge.

Dealing with emergencies

Ethical concern about autonomous vehicles has so far focused on emergencies. Should a car save its passengers at the cost of killing or injuring other people? Should it swerve to avoid someone in the road if this means hitting someone on the pavement? How many people need to be saved to outweigh a bystander’s life or limb? Are children more important than adults? And so on.


Read more: Should your robot driver kill you to save a child’s life?


The problem resembles philosopher Philippa Foot’s most famous ethical thought experiment: the trolley problem. Imagine you are driving a trolleybus. Its brakes have failed and it’s hurtling towards five people who will certainly be killed if it hits them. You can swerve it onto a side track, killing one person who otherwise would not have been affected. The question is, whether you should.

Would you hit the switch? McGeddon/Wikimedia Commons., CC BY-SA

Philosophers debating this question have produced a dazzling array of variations. What if you are standing by the track next to someone wearing a very large backpack? Should you push that tourist under the trolley, saving five people’s lives? If you could stop the trolley only at the cost of your own life, should you do that? And so on and so on.

Intuitive responses to these variations tend to seem contradictory. But we learn more about our moral thinking by exploring how they might in fact be consistent. And we learn more about moral cognition by scanning people’s brains while they consider these problems.

Self-driving cars have given this debate a new purpose. We have to teach these vehicles how to handle emergencies – the trolley problem just got real. At least, this is what many philosophers think. But in focusing on an existing thought experiment, they have missed the bigger picture.

The real ethical challenge

Engineers working on driverless cars tell us that the safest response in any emergency is to stop. This will be even safer if the nearby cars all have robot drivers. And robot drivers would be better behaved than human ones, reducing the number of emergencies on the roads.

Given all the potential benefits to public health and quality of life, we should be much better off once robots take over the driving, whatever the authorities decide about emergency situations.

This is what gives rise to the real ethical challenge of self-driving cars. Once robot drivers are safe enough to allow onto the roads in large numbers, it seems that we should maximise their benefits by banning their dangerous human counterparts from public roads.

There would be resistance to this, of course. Many people enjoy driving. But many people enjoy smoking, too, and this is banned in public places for the protection of non-smokers. There could be designated safe spaces for drivers to indulge their hobby without risk to other people.

Rights of access pose a more difficult question. There is a strong case that essential transport infrastructure should be publicly owned. And if private cars are not an option, perhaps the cost of using autonomous taxis should be proportionate to ability to pay.

But regardless of how we resolve these practical issues, it seems that the enormous benefits of safe, driverless taxis should lead us to remove any other kind of car from our roads.

https://theconversation.com/driverless-cars-once-theyre-on-the-road-human-drivers-should-be-banned-118293 qformat1 \ls

Electric cars won’t save the planet without a clean energy overhaul – they could increase pollution

The Conservation 3 June 2019

Several countries – including France, Norway and the UK – have plans to phase out cars powered by fossil fuel before 2050, to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. The idea is to replace all conventional vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). But this is unlikely to help the environment, as long as EVs are charged using electricity generated from the same old dirty fossil fuels.

Global electricity consumption from EVs is estimated to grow to 1,800TWh by 2040 – that’s roughly five times the current annual electricity use of UK. Using data from the UK as a benchmark, this would amount to an extra 510 megatonnes of carbon emissions coming from the electricity sector worldwide. But this massive impact could be drastically reduced if electricity is generated entirely from renewable energy sources, instead of fossil fuels.

A growing problem

To put things into perspective, 510 megatonnes is about 1.6% of the global carbon emissions in 2018. And while this may not seem like a big amount, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended that carbon emissions are reduced to net zero by 2050, to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial era. So a 1.6% increase in carbon emissions is significant, and possibly catastrophic.

Perhaps this increase would be negated by the decrease in emissions, which results from phasing out polluting vehicles. But reducing global carbon emissions is not easy – in fact, emissions reached an all time high in 2018, despite the highest ever uptake of renewable energy.

Though their emissions are much lower than that of conventional cars, EVs also do generate carbon dioxide during the energy intensive manufacturing process – as do renewable energy technologies themselves.

Supply and demand

Another major issue with EVs is their impact on the availability, production and supply of rare earth metals and other scarce natural elements. EVs and their batteries contain precious metals such as lithium and cobalt. Scarcity of cobalt is already threatening the production of EVs, and alternative designs that don’t rely on scarce elements are currently being explored by car manufacturers.

This means that it’s critical to expand recycling plants dedicated to processing metals and other scarce elements for reuse. Also, detailed plans on retrofitting of conventional vehicles to turn them into EVs are needed – it’s simply not feasible to dump all conventional vehicles into landfill sites, in a scenario where they are replaced by EVs.

There are further issues with EVs that must be dealt with, if they’re to help reduce global emissions and prevent climate disaster. People are likely to charge their EVs during evening hours, after they come home from work. As more people start to use EVs, the load on the energy grid is likely to peak in the evening. And this could cause problems for electricity distribution and transmission systems, at a community or city level.

These systems may need an upgrade. Or, energy suppliers could introduce a time-of-use tariff, which is higher during peak hours and lower during off-peak times, when there’s less demand for electricity. This would encourage consumers to charge their EVs during off-peak hours.

Smart charging is another possible solution: the idea is to charge more vehicles when local electricity production through renewables such as wind and solar is high, and reduce the charging when local renewables aren’t producing enough electricity. EVs charging time can be matched with peak renewable power production using smart systems and artificial intelligence to balance the local electrical grid.

Overcoming obstacles

The high cost of EVs and the lack of available charging stations are further obstacles that the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies has identified for the mass uptake of EVs. This could create a chicken and egg scenario: the cost of EVs may not go down unless they are mass produced, and they may not be mass produced unless the costs go down. The same goes for the installation of charging stations – authorities will need foresight to recognise that extra charging stations should be built for when EV uptake increases.

Governments can help prevent these issues by subsidising EVs or providing financial incentives for clean transportation – as has already been done in China. Even on a city level, authorities can encourage people to use less polluting vehicles such as EVs through taxes or special clean air zones, as is currently being done in London.

EVs have great potential to reduce pollution and give people a more sustainable way to get around – but electricity production must also be clean. It’s not wise to rely completely on scarce natural elements required for producing EVs and alternatives have to be explored. More recycling plants are needed to make the most out of rare elements and governments need to explore ways to ensure a smooth transition to cleaner transportation.

https://theconversation.com/electric-cars-wont-save-the-planet-without-a-clean-energy-overhaul-they-could-increase-pollution-118012

Peer-to-Peer Carsharing: A Peek Under the Hood

Newgeography.com 29 May 2019

While the media tends to studiously report – and often sensationalize – the latest developments involving Airbnb, e-scooters, and ride-hailing (especially Lyft and Uber), another booming “sharing economy” sector has recently been gaining attention. Peer-to-peer carsharing enables individuals to make their privately-owned vehicles available to others for short periods of time at a fee of the owner’s choosing. Peer-to-peer carsharing differs from neighborhood carsharing platforms, such as car2go and Zipcar, where vehicles are owned by corporate and nonprofit entities, some of which require vehicles to be picked up at and returned to designated pods. Instead, peer-to-peer carsharing allows vehicles to be made available virtually anywhere, including at a host’s residence or a dedicated parking space.

The big players in peer-to-peer carsharing, including Turo and Getaround, offer online platforms in which “hosts” can share their private vehicles at times when they are not needed for personal use, such as on certain days of the week or holidays. Depending on the vehicle, prices typically range from $30 to $80 per day. The user of the car is responsible for refilling the tank, cleaning, and paying for any vehicle damage. Transactions are handled through a centralized app, with the online platform keeping a portion (typically around 25 percent) of the fees paid.

Last week, DePaul University released our new study showing that participation in this sector is a pretty sweet deal for people who share cars that they would own anyway, irrespective of their decision to share. We evaluated anonymized data provided to us by Turo, a profit-oriented online peer-to-peer carsharing platform. Turo encompasses 8,244 trips totalling almost 30,000 days of shared vehicle use in Illinois. The study, while independently conducted, was–full disclosure–commissioned by Turo.

Few trips involve merely quick roundtrips to the grocery store: The average trip (3.2 days) is much longer than the typical car2go or Zipcar trip, which rent on a per minute or per-hour basis. Users drive an average of 104 miles per day, and only about 4% of trips involve average mileages fewer than 25 miles per day, while 11% average over 200 miles per day. The average rate hovers around $54 per day, before considering the “extras” (such as unlimited mileage) for which some consumers pay.

Hosts must consider the wear-and-tear associated with the mileage put on their vehicles as well as the cleaning costs and other expenses. Maintenance costs are typically around 10 – 11 cents per mile driven. Overall, we found, the costs to hosts averaged to about $15 per “sharing day”, but revenues, after deducting fees kept by Turo for use of the platform, averaged $43, resulting in a net margin (“profit”) averaging $28 per sharing day. More than 94% of auto and SUV trips were profitable to the host, as were about four-in-five of minivan trips (Table 1).

Table 1. Financial Results by Vehicle Type















* Results reflect the financial returns for hosts who would own their car irrespective of their decision to “share it.” Net margins are based on revenues paid to the host after deducting fees for using the online platform.

We only looked at the financial benefits and costs, and not non-monetary factors, such as the time a host spends or the opportunity costs of lending out your wheels. Still, a takeaway is that peer-to-peer carsharing is helping cash-strapped households make ends meet. For a family earning $40,000 per year, the expected $2,500 earned sharing a vehicle for 90 days per year boosts net income by 6.3. For this household, sharing covers almost half of a typical car payment.

Peer-to-peer carsharing isn’t confined to tech-savvy upwardly mobile professionals. Almost two-thirds of the trips studied took place in zip codes that have unemployment rates higher than the statewide average. Communities with peer-to-peer carsharing activity have higher average rates of unemployment (7% vs. 5%), renter occupancy (35% vs. 23%), and almost three times the share of minority population (44% vs. 15%) compared to the state average.

Participation is also more “democratic” than most other sharing economy offerings. For instance, the distribution of listings is far more dispersed than Airbnb, where hosts tend to be heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods and tourist areas (see Figure 1). Good luck finding a bike-share vehicle in most neighborhoods offering Turo listings.

Figure 1. Distributions of Turo and Airbnb Listings Rates (000s per household) by Zip Code, City of Chicago

These maps show that Turo hosts tend to be dispersed more widely across the city’s neighborhoods than Airbnb hosts. Each dot represents an online listing. Data sources: Turo; Airbnb, 2018

Curiously, both the media and urban analysts have largely ignored the mobility benefits afforded by peer-to-peer carsharing—and the boost it provides to households. Much of the attention is going to the ongoing regulatory challenges. That will hopefully change as the sector picks up speed and more people discover that an extra set of wheels is right down the block.

Joseph Schwieterman, Ph.D., is director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago. C. Scott Smith, Ph.D., serves as the institute’s assistant director. Their study An Engine for Earning: Estimating the Financial Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Carsharing to Vehicle Hosts, was released last week.

Photo: Private vehicle in Chicago, IL available on Turo.com, an app-based online platform.

http://www.newgeography.com/content/006305-peer-peer-carsharing-a-peek-under-hood �

The big questions about electric cars

News.com.au 9 April 2019

Fears have been raised Australians will lose their beloved SUVs, utes and vans and be forced to drive electric cars. So are they that bad?

Will Australians lose the SUVs, utes and vans they love — to accommodate the rise of the electric car?

Fears have been raised that people’s cars will be taken away from them after Labor unveiled an ambitious policy to support the take-up of electric vehicles.

It wants 50 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia to be electric by 2030 and also plans to introduce a carbon emissions target for new cars.

The plans have raised a number of concerns about electric cars and whether people will still be able to buy the vehicles they love.

So what’s the deal with electric cars and Labor’s new emissions targets?

HOW LONG DO THEY TAKE TO CHARGE?

A lot of figures have been thrown up about how long it takes to charge an electric car, and it all comes down to how big the car is and what type of charger you use.

When Labor leader Bill Shorten was asked how long it would take to “charge it up” on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show last week, he said eight to 10 minutes.

“It depends on what your original charge is, but it can take … eight to 10 minutes depend on your charge, it can take longer,” he said.

Crucially, he added: “It depends how flat your battery is”.

If you are only topping up your car’s battery at a superfast charging station, it may only take eight to 10 minutes if all you’re wanting to do is drive the 15 minutes home.

But charging an empty battery to full power takes longer.

It depends on how big your battery is and what type of charger you are using.

According to UK electric vehicle charging provider Pod Point, a small car such as the Nissan LEAF, which has a 40kWh battery, can be fully charged in one hour using a fast charger. This will allow it to travel up to 230km.

But if you are charging at home, it takes up to six hours using a special converter or about 11 hours using just your normal household power point.

The Tesla Model S Long Range, which can travel up to 480km, is able to use a special supercharger to power up its much bigger 100kWh battery, also in one hour.

But it can take between six to 27 hours to charge at home, depending on whether you have a normal power point or are using a special adaptor.

On Sunday, Wiebe Wakker arrived in Sydney in an electric car he drove from his home in the Netherlands.

Mr Wakker’s car had a small 37kWh battery that only allowed him to drive a maximum of 200km. But he made it across Europe and through Turkey, Iran, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and across the Nullarbor to Sydney.

His car, an older model produced in 2009, had a slow charging rate, and so it took him up to 15 hours to recharge using normal domestic power points in Australia.

But at commercial charging stations, he was able to fill up in about 20 minutes.

Mr Wakker said he only ran out of charge four times on his world trip and these all occurred in Australia.

“To make it more convenient for long-distance travelling, infrastructure needs to step up,” he said news.com.au.

However, he noted that most electric cars sold in Australia could now travel distances of up to 450km, and this was enough to get by.

“I estimated that if you have a battery with a minimum range of about 300km, Australia is really easy to travel through. You can even turn on the airconditioning and not worry about the energy used.”

Mr Wakker was able to find places to charge his car on plugshare.com but says this often involved using normal power points, which take longer.

“At some point, to really be convenient, you need to put into place fast chargers,” he said.

HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT?

The cost of charging an electric vehicle varies depending on where you live and how expensive your power is — but it’s a lot cheaper than filling your tank with petrol.

According to the blog My Electric Car, the average price for electricity in Australia is $. 025 per kilowatt hour, and it takes about 18kWh to travel 100km. So it costs about $4.50 in electricity to travel 100km.

In comparison, it costs about $16.65 to travel 100km if petrol is $1.50 a litre. This is based on the average petrol car using 11.1 litres of fuel to travel 100km.

At the moment, electric cars are more expensive to buy. There are only four models available in Australia priced at less than $60,000.

However, it’s expected that EVs will become cheaper and will be the same price as petrol cars by about 2025 — that’s just six years away.

ARE THEY WORSE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Critics of electric cars point out that their carbon emissions can be worse than some petrol cars.

This is because 63 per cent of the electricity in Australia in 2016-17 is still being sourced from coal-fired power stations.

However, once more renewable energy is added, emissions will improve.

In his review of the national electricity market, Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel noted the uptake of electric vehicles — combined with a decarbonised electricity grid — could help to achieve significant emissions reductions in the transport sector, which accounted for about 18 per cent of Australia’s emissions in 2015.

The CSIRO Energy Roadmap has estimated electric vehicles could reduce carbon emissions by about 15-25 million tonnes by 2030.

Despite its criticism of Labor’s electric car policy, the Coalition’s own climate change policy was projecting electric cars would make up between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.

Environment Department officials on Thursday confirmed to Labor senator Kristina Keneally the Government had been eyeballing a similar electric vehicle target to Labor’s.

CAN THE POWER GRID HANDLE IT?

Electric vehicles will place more demand on the power grid, but experts have suggested this can be managed.

Labor has set a target that 50 per cent of new cars be electric by 2030 and it seems this ambitious goal will require careful management of the grid.

A report done by Evenergi and Australian Renewable Energy Agency, looked specifically at South Australia, but was also intended to inform policy around Australia.

It noted that it was difficult to predict the impact of electric cars but did not predict any significant problem for the grid up to 2025.

However, even without Labor’s target, the report pointed out the EV market would grow rapidly from 2025 and the network needed to be ready for it.

“This will require appropriate management of load and therefore a consciously crafted network architecture — with the ability for demand side control,” the report said.

It said the greatest risk to grid stability was “hotspots” of public charging stations in carparks, highways or in places were lots of vehicles gathered, such as bus fleet carparks. In residential areas a higher than expected number of fast home chargers located close together could also create issues.

The report said “demand management” could address hotspot issues. This could involve incentives being offered for people to charge their cars at certain times when excess power is being produced.

It was also crucial that networks were informed of plans for new chargers and these should also be registered once active.

Grattan energy program director Tony Wood said the biggest problem was if everyone installed a fast charger at home and plugged their cars in at the same time when they got home from work.

“It would be the equivalent of several airconditioning units all being turned on at once,” he told news.com.au.

Mr Wood said there needed to be integrated planning to prevent problems like the blackouts that had occurred in South Australia for example, with the rise of renewables.

“There are issues that need to be addressed, but there’s no reason why they can’t be managed,” he said.

Meanwhile, a potential benefit for the grid, which has not yet been commercially proven, is for electric cars to provide energy back to the grid during peak times. In this way the car could function as a large battery.

WILL WE LOSE OUR BELOVED CARS?

The Coalition is going hard on Labor’s policy, with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the party had declared “war on the weekend” and were stopping Aussies from buying vehicles “with a bit of grunt”.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor also tweeted a photo of an electric car plugged into a generator to mock Labor’s policy.

Despite the fearmongering, Labor’s target for 50 per cent of new cars to be electric doesn’t mean people will be forced into buying electric cars.

However, the types of petrol cars that are available in Australia could change because of Labor’s plan to introduce a vehicle emissions standard.

Emissions of new cars would be restricted to less than 105g of carbon per kilometre. This is the same as the US standard but higher than the European standard.

Mr Taylor told Chris Kenny on Sky News most vehicles in Australia didn’t reach those standards.

And it’s true Australians love heavier vehicles such as SUVs, utes and vans.

Unfortunately, these vehicles use more fuel and are more carbon intensive because they have larger engines.

According to an information paper released by the National Transport Commission last year, the average emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia was 181.7g/km in 2017.

And the top three highest-selling car models in Australia were the Toyota HiLux ute, the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota Corolla.

Ninety-two per cent of all new cars sold in 2017 were one of 15 makes, and none of these had emissions low enough to be considered a “green” model (with emissions lower than 120g/km).

This is partly because Australia is one of the only developed nations in the world without a carbon emissions standard for cars.

But it can’t hold progress back forever.

Interestingly, carmaker Toyota is one of a number of manufacturers already developing electric and lower emission vehicles. It has a zero emissions target by 2050 for its sites and vehicles.

A Toyota spokeswoman told news.com.au it welcomed Labor’s announcement on the emissions target and supported, in principle, initiatives that helped to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Last year Toyota vice-president of national operations Sean Hanley even went as far as calling for politicians to introduce emissions targets but said this should be done at the same time as introducing tougher fuel quality requirements.

“Australia must harmonise its emissions standards with leading overseas markets,” Mr Hanley reportedly said during the launch of Toyota’s new Corolla.

But the car industry has warned it would be unable to meet Labor’s new emissions target using the petrol currently available in Australia. They are pushing for new sulphur standards but Australia’s fuel refineries say this would force them out of business, according to The Australian.

Environment Minister Melissa Price recently postponed fuel standard improvements until July 1, 2027.

Mr Hanley also dismissed reports emissions targets would kill off the rugged diesel vehicles that Toyota was known for but said targets should distinguish between passenger cars and work-orientated commercials and certain 4x4s.

He said Toyota had a responsibility to “take a stand” and was not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted in Australia.

“We can assure you, Toyota is not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted,” Mr Hanley said.

“We recognise all car makers must reduce the environmental impact of their vehicles. The impact of mass-market hybrids is vital, and no-one knows hybrid better than Toyota.”

According to caradvice.com.au, about 40 per cent of Camrys sold in Australia have been hybrid drivetrains, and a new RAV4 SUV will also be available as a hybrid for the first time.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which has been calling for an achievable emissions target for some time, also welcomed Labor’s policy announcement.

“The key is to implement achievable emissions targets, designed in consultation with industry, as part of the transport sector’s contribution to lower overall emissions.,” FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said in a statement.

“It’s well known that Australians love their sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and light commercial vehicles (LCVs). Our market is made up of approximately two thirds SUVs and LCVs and one third passenger vehicles (PVs).

“We need to have a realistic and stepped approach to the implementation of emissions targets.”

https://www.news.com.au/national/federal-election/the-big-questions-about-electric-cars/news-story/ce8761992652d6e454a51f7395c45d84

Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out

The Guardian, 7 March 2019

It’s the last straw. Parked outside the hospital doors is a minibus with its engine running. The driver is playing on his mobile phone. The fumes are blowing into the atrium. I step up to his window and ask him to turn the engine off. He does so, grumpily. Then I notice he’s wearing a health service uniform. I walk through the atrium, down a corridor and into the cancer department (not for cancer this time, but to talk about reconstructive surgery). I look around the huge waiting room and wonder how many of the people sitting here might be ill as a result of air pollution. I think of people in other departments: children with asthma attacks, patients being treated for road injuries, or suffering from a lifetime of inactivity, as wheels replaced their feet. And I’m struck by the amazing variety of ways in which cars have ruined our lives.

Let’s abandon this disastrous experiment, recognise that this 19th-century technology is now doing more harm than good, and plan our way out of it. Let’s set a target to cut the use of cars by 90% over the next decade.

Yes, the car is still useful – for a few people it’s essential. It would make a good servant. But it has become our master, and it spoils everything it touches. It now presents us with a series of emergencies that demand an emergency response.

One of these emergencies is familiar to every hospital. Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Remember the claims at the start of this century, projected so noisily by the billionaire press: that public money would be better spent on preventing communicable disease than on preventing climate breakdown? It turns out that the health dividend from phasing out fossil fuels is likely to have been much bigger. (Of course, there was nothing stopping us from spending money on both: it was a false dilemma.) Burning fossil fuels, according to a recent paper, is now “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”.

In other sectors, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen sharply. But transport emissions in the UK have declined by only 2% since 1990. The government’s legally binding target is an 80% cut by 2050, though even this, the science now tells us, is hopelessly inadequate. Transport, mostly because of our obsession with the private car, is now the major factor driving us towards climate breakdown, in this and many other nations.

The number of people killed on the roads was falling steadily in the UK until 2010, at which point the decline suddenly ended. Why? Because, while fewer drivers and passengers are dying, the number of pedestrians killed has risen by 11%. In the US, it’s even worse: a 51% rise in the annual death rate of pedestrians since 2009. There seem to be two reasons: drivers distracted by their mobile phones, and a switch from ordinary cars to sports-utility vehicles. As SUVs are higher and heavier, they are more likely to kill the people they hit. Driving an SUV in an urban area is an antisocial act.

There are also subtler and more pervasive effects. Traffic mutes community, as the noise, danger and pollution in busy streets drive people indoors. The places in which children could play and adults could sit and talk are reserved instead for parking. Engine noise, a great but scarcely acknowledged cause of stress and illness, fills our lives. As we jostle to secure our road space, as we swear and shake our fists at other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, as we grumble about speed limits and traffic calming, cars change us, enhancing our sense of threat and competition, cutting us off from each other.

New roads carve up the countryside, dispelling peace, creating a penumbra of noise, pollution and ugliness. Their effects spread for many miles. The deposition of reactive nitrogen from car exhaust (among other factors) changes the living systems even of remote fastnesses. In Snowdonia, it is dropped at the rate of 24kg per hectare per year, radically altering plant communities. Wars are fought to keep down the cost of driving: hundreds of thousands died in Iraq partly for this purpose. The earth is reamed with the mines required to manufacture cars and the oil wells needed to power them, and poisoned by the spills and tailings.

A switch to electric cars addresses only some of these issues. Already, beautiful places are being wrecked by an electric vehicle resource rush. Lithium mining, for example, is now poisoning rivers and depleting groundwater from Tibet to Bolivia. They still require a vast expenditure of energy and space. They still need tyres, whose manufacture and disposal (tyres are too complex to recycle) is a massive environmental blight.

We are told that cars are about freedom of choice. But every aspect of this assault on our lives is assisted by state planning and subsidy. Roads are built to accommodate projected traffic, which then grows to fill the new capacity. Streets are modelled to maximise the flow of cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed by planners into narrow and often dangerous spaces – the afterthoughts of urban design. If we paid for residential street parking at market rates for land, renting the 12m2 a car requires would cost around £3,000 a year in the richer parts of Britain. The chaos on our roads is a planned chaos.

Transport should be planned, but with entirely different aims: to maximise its social benefits, while minimising harm. This means a wholesale switch towards electric mass transit, safe and separate bike lanes and broad pavements, accompanied by a steady closure of the conditions that allow cars to rampage through our lives. In some places, and for some purposes, using cars is unavoidable. But for the great majority of journeys they can easily be substituted, as you can see in Amsterdam, Pontevedra and Copenhagen. We could almost eliminate them from our cities.

In this age of multiple emergencies – climate chaos, pollution, social alienation – we should remember that technologies exist to serve us, not to dominate us. It is time to drive the car out of our lives.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/07/cars-killing-us-driving-environment-phase-out

Carmakers on course for $2-12bn fines for missing EU CO2 targets: Moody’s

Climatechangenews.com 4 April 2019

The ratings agency warns of possible credit downgrades, while the UK’s auto lobby says ‘anti-diesel’ agenda has made targets harder to reach

Carmakers are on course to be hit with EU fines of between €2.4-11.2 billion euros ($2.7-12.6bn) for failing to meet the bloc’s emissions targets in just two years time, ratings agency Moody’s said on Thursday.

Without drastic action half of the world’s largest automakers will miss Europe’s 2021 standards for CO2 emissions. The penalties for failure could lead to credit downgrades, the ratings agency warned.

By 2021, manufacturers’ average car will need to emit a maximum of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre, versus 118.5g in 2017. Manufacturers have the choice of how to achieve this, with some focusing on hybrids while others are betting heavily on fully-electric vehicles.

But companies are lagging far behind the looming standards. For most automakers, more than half of their new cars breach the 2021 standards. This includes Renault-Nissan, Volvo, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, BMW, Daimler AG, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and Jaguar.

The report’s most optimistic scenario, under which makers push a swift transition, still predicts that half the manufacturers could rack up a cumulative €2.4 billion in penalties for failing to comply. The worst case scenario could see the industry pay up to €11.2 billion in fines.

“The rapid transition scenario should be feasible for most companies,” Moody’s said.

The credit rating agency found a shift away from buying diesel cars had made the transition harder. Diesel cars release less carbon dioxide than petrol vehicles. But Europeans have deserted the fuel following the revelations in 2015 that Volkswagen and other automakers had tampered with its engines to meet emission standards during laboratory testing. Between 2017 and 2018, sales of diesel-powered cars fell from 44% of new registered cars in Europe to 36%, down a peak of 56% in 2011.

Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Hyundai-Kia lag most behind their 2021 targets. Accordingly, they are most at risk of large fines, said Moody’s.

“These fines would be credit negative for the companies,” the report concluded.

A spokesperson for the agency said ratings assessments took into account “how advanced the company is in developing ‘alternative fuel vehicles’”. This can work in a company’s favour too.

“We also referred to CO2 performance in a recent rating action on Peugeot – the company’s plans to comply were seen as a positive if they can be delivered,” the spokesperson said.

Boosted by its development of battery-assisted hybrids, Toyota emerged as the only company on track to meet EU targets.

The market threats do not limit themselves to Europe, the report noted, with the US and Chinese governments also pushing for electrification. In the US, car manufacturers get a $2,500 to $7,500 subsidy in the form of a tax credit for consumers for their first 200,000 electric vehicle sales, while sales of pure-battery, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars skyrocketed by 138% in January in China on the back of generous subsidies. Together with Europe, the US and China account for about three quarters of light vehicle sales.

A spokesperson for the UK car lobby, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the “industry is committed to a low carbon future but the anti-diesel agenda and slower than hoped take-up of electric vehicles is now jeopardising industry efforts to meet the most challenging CO2 targets in the world for 2021”.

Cuts to incentives to buying greener cars in the UK, such as plug-in hybrids, did not help the industry cut emissions, the spokesperson said.

“We need policies that encourage rather than confuse, which means a consistent approach to incentives and tax, and greater investment in charging infrastructure. This will be critical to meeting targets and avoiding crippling fines, which will only hinder industry’s ability to invest in future technologies,” said the spokesperson.

Carmakers on course for $2-12bn fines for missing EU CO2 targets: Moody’s

VW Says the Next Generation of Combustion Cars Will Be Its Last

Bloomberg, 5 December 2018
Volkswagen AG expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026. Traditional automakers are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to combat climate change, prompting Volkswagen to pursue a radical shift to electric vehicles.

Read more

Driverless car hype gives way to e-scooter mania among technorati

NBC News, 13 October 2018
When Michael Ramsey, an analyst for technology research firm Gartner, started in February to put together his 2018 “hype cycle” report for the future of transportation, he had plenty of topics to choose from: electric vehicles, flying cars, 5G, blockchain, and, of course, autonomous vehicles. But one type of transportation is conspicuously absent from the results of the report: electric scooters.

Read more

House of Representatives new report on Cities

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities has today tabled its report on the development of cities. The STCWA made a submission and appeared at a hearing for the Inquiry.

The report, titled Building Up & Moving Out, calls for the development of a national plan of settlement, providing a national vision for our cities and regions across the next fifty years. It is available at :http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportrep/024151/toc_pdf/BuildingUp&MovingOut.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Committee Chair John Alexander says population growth, urbanisation, the ageing of the population,
and the transformation of the economy towards service and knowledge based industries are causing
profound changes in Australia’s urban and regional landscapes.

The report makes 37 recommendations addressing issues at a national, regional and local level
across a broad range of subjects, including:
• Developing integrated master plans for States and Territories, regions and communities.
• Pursuing a system of urban planning which promotes:
o accessibility and liveability, promoting heath and quality of life
o economic, social and environmental sustainability
o high quality natural and built environments
o access to employment
o a more compact urban form
o the concept of the 30-minute city.
• Developing a framework for the development of cities and regions outside the major
metropolitan centres.
• Developing transport networks which allow for fast transit between cities and regions, and
within cities and regions in order to foster the developments of these regions.
• Producing a cost of living index, including housing, at the scale of local communities to
highlight the economic and lifestyle advantages of living in regional communities.
• Promoting freight access.

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