Electric cars not a panacea

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By GARY GAGNE

I attended the last Community Alliance meeting, which was focused on actions to mitigate climate change.

Surprisingly, there were four bicycles parked near the door when I arrived. Often I am the only one who cycles. There were so many people in attendance we were split into three groups of 20 or so. We were then directed to share our personal stories of actions or solutions in dealing with the crisis we currently find ourselves mired in.

With talking stick in hand, I expressed my primary view that we all need to wake up to the reality that we are intimately and inextricably part of nature and that unless this becomes our lived experience so that we care about/for this world as our own body (which it is) we will not resolve this current emergency. I also voiced a few items that I do in my daily living, including riding a bicycle as much as possible (I ride a cargo bike I call my “truck”).  Everyone else in our circle spoke sincerely of various ways they contribute to reducing their GHG emissions with many expressing either owning or wanting to own an electric car.

I was given an opportunity to add a further comment before the break and said that, in my opinion, electric cars are not the solution to our climate crisis. I spent two days recently at a conference on active transportation where I discovered how many countries in Europe and Asia are diverting funds from improving highways for cars to building safe bicycle highways. Folks are now realizing that adding more lanes to freeways does not improve congestion. 

Also it’s a social justice issue. We cannot build an electric car for everyone on the planet.  An electric vehicle needs at least 120 batteries similar to the single one that helps propel my electric-assist bike. Not everyone can even afford an EV in spite of the huge subsidies offered by the government. Even though I had to pay GST and PST to the tune of $400 for a new bicycle I recently purchased, it is still a much much less expensive option as well as a healthier means of transportation.Someone else in our group mentioned that most people he knew who owned an EV also had a second gasoline-fuelled vehicle.

And here, finally, is the punch line. Following my unpopular opinion, someone spoke out about the latest insanity in automobiles. Apparently a lot of high-end fast car manufacturers are beginning production on super fast luxury electric cars that require a magnitude of 10 times the current EV battery needs to drive them at excessive speeds and distances. Added to that questionable logic is the fact that lithium mining, one of the main components of new batteries, is expanding exponentially. Manitoba is beginning to strip mine an area that will rival Alberta’s tar sands in size. And we’ve probably all heard about the plight of children in the Congo being exploited to source a rare component of these batteries. 

I’ve also learned at this recent conference that unless your electricity comes from a renewable source, running these cars from the power grid does not reduce greenhouse gases. Massive hydro electric dams are no longer considered a renewable source of electricity. Got a bicycle, anyone?

The writer is a Salt Spring Island resident.

1 Comment
  1. Darlene says

    Such good points Gary, and very inspiring! I want to start feeling safer to ride on these roads. They just feel so narrow, and car drivers are often getting so close to bicycles here. On Hornby where I used to bike everywhere, the roads are wider and there are parallel bike paths almost everywhere. Such a difference here. But I really agree that e-bikes are a much better solution than e-cars. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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