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Is air quality and noise a bigger driver of EVs than carbon emissions or energy security?

26 March 2012
Is air quality and noise a bigger driver of EVs than carbon emissions or energy security?

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group. 

March 26, 2012. 

Lake Windermere was quiet the morning that I took a canoe out from the boat sheds at Brathay Trust. Brathay is a fabulous organisation, and I am working as part of its team to further develop our offering to the Corporate and Business sustainability community. But the reason I was taking a canoe out at 6.30am before the day starts and even before breakfast calls, was to reflect on the effect of electric vehicles on our cities.

As I made my way across the peaceful lake, I wondered whether the EV drivers of change are brought home by the real benefits to our cities in terms of air quality and noise, rather than emissions reductions.

I've recently read reports on how we can shift congestion and noise-inducing transport deliveries to more antisocial hours (while this needs more than pure EV, it does make for compelling reading) and I have also recently read about the real cost in human health for people living near busy city roads.

While our city dwellers do get to vote on such matters (and our city leaders listen to the requests - if they are loud enough), and the city leaders do get fined when they don’t meet their air quality targets, who knows whether cities achieve their CO2 claims?

Local authorities definitely need to be price-conscious when letting contracts for deliveries and such, but they are becoming increasingly interested in companies that show how to operate fleets differently, especially those with minimal impact to their city in terms of congestion, noise and air pollution. Cutting CO2 is clearly one of our main focuses at The Climate Group, but I am happy that these other rather attractive drivers can make our goals easier to achieve too.

So Lake Windermere has made me reflect on the air we breathe, and its welcome peace has allowed me to think about how EVs could affect big cities. I assume we could soon see more pavements filled with street cafes, windows wide open and air-conditioning and filter systems firmly switched off.

We only have one world. And to borrow a few words from my Chinese colleague, Changhua Wu: ‘We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ While some of you may cringe, I am driven by this sentiment to ensure that EVs continue to drive the Clean Revolution our planet urgently needs.

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