A world without private cars: utopia or reality?

Is the electric car the solution to the problem? Are there other possible solutions, such as completely abolishing the individual car?

In a text published on the great continent, “Against the Car”, essayist Andrea Coccia tries to shed light on a paradoxical observation: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of cars”.

Today we can see that many measures have been taken to reduce the use of private cars: neighborhoods that have become completely pedestrian, cycle paths, development of soft mobility in cities (scooters, bicycles, etc.), but how far will it go transformation go? Are the world and the people ready to take the plunge? Does the European Commission’s Communication: “30 million electric vehicles by 2030!” Is achievable? Is the electric car the solution to the problem? Are there other possible solutions, such as completely eliminating the individual car?

The private car: a lifestyle

As a reminder, in France, the transport sector contributes about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and individual cars are responsible for almost a sixth of France’s contribution to climate change (15.7%). In themselves, they pollute more than all heavy goods vehicles (6.3%) and commercial vehicles (5.8%).

We can compare the private car with the cigarette. With hype, companies in these two sectors have been able to convince us of the absolute necessity of their product, which is harmful in the long run. The car, like cigarettes, has become an addiction and a state issue.

In 2019, Kantar stated that 89% of households own one or more cars, and more than a third of them say they absolutely need one to get around every day.

Today, the private car is still a social marker for a section of the population. The noisy (and polluting) machine is still a dream. To date, no American blockbuster has shown a superhero on a scooter, but we have already seen these superheroes drive a Bugatti for Superman or an Aston Martin for James Bond. The dream of this materialistic dominion sells well. But the decline in over-consumption is causing the new generation to turn away from the individual car, and it tends to lose its significance for them.

We can see that some arguments are difficult to hear for the new generation. When Carlos Tavare’s CEO of Stellantis explains that “with the switch to electric, we risk losing the middle class, which will no longer be able to buy a car”, it makes millennials ask themselves questions about the future of the planet. and the state of mind that some car company executives are in.

It should also be noted that for many years the private car was a sign of freedom (42% of people living less than a km from their place of work take their vehicle to get there), today Today this vision has a tends to change, the freedom not to own one’s own vehicle becomes more democratic.

Actions and projects completed

Given that the car still occupies a privileged place in French homes and that this addiction becomes more and more problematic at a time when there is an incentive to limit its use through the use of city taxes, vignettes or even changing circulation of actions and projects emerges.

In fact, current public policies seek to remedy the problems caused by excessive use of the car, such as traffic, consumption of urban space and especially pollution.

The first problem with the car today is that its use is largely individual. This means of transport should become a means of travel shared by several people according to their needs. Car parts companies like Getaround, Ouicar, Ubeeqo, Citiz … have understood this problem. We can also note that communities are turning to these solutions, especially in areas with high urban density, where parking and public transportation are limited. In fact, the reduction in the number of cars per household a strong lever for “demotorization” of households.

  • As an incentive to abandon the car, some cities around the world offer alternatives or limit car travel.
  • The European Commission is implementing concrete measures, such as “30 million electric vehicles by 2030!” to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2050. This marks the real consciousness on the part of Europe. There are still questions about the lack of charging stations and the slowness of their implementation.
  • Educational slogans such as “Take public transport in everyday life”, have become a mandatory mention at the end of advertisements for cars (Mobility Orientation Act of December 2019).
  • An economic argument: given the price of real estate per square meter in the city, a car is very expensive with the space it takes up.

Although various measures are being taken, it is unfortunately not enough yet.

Alternatives to the private car

First of all, it must be taken into account that by 2050, two out of three people will live in cities, very often in megalopolis with more than 10 million inhabitants.

Today, the alternatives found in cities can compensate for the abolition of the car.

The population arriving outside a city must have public transport available when it arrives at the gates that allow it to move freely throughout the city. Free transportation is also an issue to consider to convince the public to give up their cars.

We can see that megalopolis have already begun to embark on this type of lifestyle, by banning private cars in certain neighborhoods of Paris, by collecting taxes at the entrance to the city of Milan or London, or even by offering free scooters and bicycles instead. car use in Switzerland.

It should be noted that this type of proposal can then be used in the suburbs. In rural areas, autonomous and electric buses will be able to partially compensate for this reduction in the individual car. It is difficult to imagine a total abolition of the individual car in these sparsely populated areas.

Finally, we can see that the new generation, which claims a less materialistic and more ecological lifestyle, is moving towards this type of lifestyle. The difficulty of abandoning the individual car rather relates to the older generation.

The new generation claims freedom by choosing its form of travel without being dependent on a single one, moreover, this generation takes global warming very seriously. Suggesting a world without individual cars is possible by starting with western megacities.

This makes us wonder whether the abolition of the individual car in the coming years would not be more advantageous than replacing it with its electric equivalent?

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