Guildford car free day 2020
September 22nd is Global Car Free Day.
There is a current petition on Surrey County Council's (SCC) website to join this project for a 'Guildford Car Free Day'.
Guildford is Surrey's largest town. It suffers from frequent congestion due to poor traffic management by SCC's Surrey Highways department, and has 2 designated AQMAs, areas of illegal air pollution limits (and to clarify, that's just for areas that have been tested, there are clearly more, and in Spelthorne's case for example the entire borough is designated an AQMA!).
Around 40,000 people die every year in the UK alone from air pollution related illnesses, and a significant number if these are tied to emissions and particulates from transport. This is a health crisis which is set to get worse due to our dependence on petrol and diesel cars.
Despite the rise of electric cars, and the promise of a 2035 ban on petrol & diesel vehicles announced this week, the only viable way to efficiently tackle the climate crisis and health crisis simultaneously is to undergo a rapid, managed shift away from car use.
This should take the form of heavy investment in cycling and walking infrastructure, and the provision of free and better public transport powered by clean energy, and support for community schemes like car clubs and ride shares.
Not only will this improve the health of urban residents, and provide better access for rural and semi-rural communities, but it's also an opportunity to redesign our towns and cities in clean, functioning hubs that actually serve the needs of the community, instead of the faceless, character deprived town centres we currently have up and down the UK.
Sign the petition and let's start to highlight the positive changes that moving away from dependence on fossil fuel guzzling machinery can make to our wellbeing and the health of the planet.
ARE ELECTRIC CARS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Short answer, yes, they're significantly better. But buy it second hand - which applies to buying any car, electric or not, never buy new.
The longer answer is that there are various complexities in estimating the exact carbon savings.
Transport has not escaped the disinformation campaigns of the fossil fuel industry, leading to a lot of confusion about what is and isn't the best way to get around. What is undeniable, is that buying any new car will add between 10 - 35 tonnes of carbon emissions to your consumption footprint for that year, due to the emissions associated with manufacture.
The difficulty with quantifying how much better electric cars are for the planet derives from the fact that it totally depends what energy source is used during the manufacturing of the car - and in particular the battery production of electric cars.
So for example, a car manufactured in France or Norway, where energy is pretty much 100% renewable, will have significant environmental advantages over the exact same car manufactured in the US. This has led to the defenders of fossil fuels exploiting these estimate differences to make wild claims about electric cars being worse for climate breakdown.
The first is that electric car batteries 'only last 2-3 years'. This is nonsense. All manufactures have warranties of between 5-8 yrs, but most electric car batteries can be expected to last between 10 or even 20 years!
The second is that battery manufacture for electric cars creates more emissions than a diesel car does throughout its lifetime. This is based on a number of false assumptions.
As mentioned, the emissions produced by battery manufacture depends largely on the source of electricity, and therefore on the country, or even region of a country they are being produced in. What's more, manufacturers like Tesla are increasingly relying on their own energy generation. Tesla now has a massive solar farm on the roof of it's 'Gigafactory', meaning that production emissions are slashed.
How Tesla's GIGafactory will look when the solar array is completed
There are also significant issues in the testing procedures of lifetime emissions, with mpg being largely overestimated for petrol and diesel cars, thereby skewing the figures in favour of the heavier polluters.
What holds true, no matter how its spun, is that battery improvements are happening rapidly, and this is one way that in fact technology can actually help to tackle the climate crisis. (Read here for an insight into why tech is generally a poor solution to the urgency of the climate crisis). Meanwhile, there is nowhere for combustion engines to go. They simply can't get anywhere close to where we need to be to tackle the emissions crisis.
From a health perspective, electric cars still produce particulate pollution from brake and tyre dust. So whilst they cut emissions pollution to zero, they can still contribute to the air pollution crisis. This is another reason that lowering the total number of cars on the road - electric or not - is absolutely crucial.
In summary, what we're faced with here is another instance in which business as usual just doesn't provide any answers to the level or urgency of the climate emergency. We need a radical rethink of how we get about. And a good start to that is getting the cars out of our town centres!