Not *that* big a fan of electric cars

Hi all,

As I’ve been redesigning my blog lately and reviewing some of my summary pages, I’ve had to update the Rail page. I realised my thinking has been profoundly by a magazine that I often disagree with as being a bit to focussed on dissing anything “techno”. Anyway, just to clarify this is my summary statement on Electric Cars.

2. A short note on Electric Cars.

Even if some local city or suburban transport is provided by BEV’s (such as my favourite, the Better Place electric car with battery swap program—coming to Canberra in 2012), it is still not as energy and materials efficient as public transport. The other factor is that public transport of course allows New Urbanism to spring up around all those train stations. Again, see “My other car is a Bright Green City” for the energy, materials efficiency, economic, lifestyle and health benefits of a city design that simply does not require as many cars.

So please do not take my constant blogging about Better Place electric cars as some kind of renunciation of walkable townships and public transport, it doesn’t. I’m not as ‘all or nothing’ as many other peaknik bloggers, and can see that maybe society will need some electric cars — but that generally speaking there should be less cars than today.

The post also clarifies my position on trolley buses V trams, which has been profoundly influenced by Low Tech Magazine. (Until such time as I receive more peer reviewed and informative source materials!) So for now my Rail page also runs the following conclusion.

While I am a fan of all rail systems against cars, I have drifted towards preferring trolley buses and trolley trucks over trams for the following reasons.

Trolley buses (and trolley trucks):-

* Can be hybrid electric and biodiesel, allowing them to go ‘off the line’ and service side streets.
* Do not require the installation of rail, which will only slow down the process of moving off oil in a hurry
* Require rail in the roads, which can be a hazard to cyclists and pedestrians tripping up
* Are stuck if there is an obstacle on the rail ahead, while hybrid or battery trolley buses can leave the line and simply drive around the obstacle
* Trolley buses are 5 times cheaper! They give 5 times the transport coverage than trams do for the same money!

As Low Tech Magazine points out,

By choosing the cheaper trolleybus over tram or metro, Quito could develop a much larger network in a shorter time. The capital investment of the 19 kilometre line was less than 60 million dollar – hardly sufficient to build 4 kilometres of tram line (source), or about 1 kilometre of metro line (source). Lower investment costs also mean lower ticket fares, and thus more passengers.

Furthermore, the system is well devised (pdf). There is only one ticket fare, payment happens in the station, not on the bus. Stops are comfortable and built to get fast in and out of the bus, there are very good connections with other lines (sometimes via the same stop), and thanks to the exclusive lanes and (at some crossroads) automatically controlled traffic lights the system is extremely reliable. In Quito, the bus always arrives on time.

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