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The electric car as a component of future sustainable mobility

Parkhurst, Graham; Clayton, William



The chapter draws on the key findings from across the previous chapters in this book with a view to reaching a synthesis which responds to the key question that motivated the book: ‘to what extent does a shift to electric automobility suggest a sustainable future for the passenger car?’ Across the chapters is found evidence for a clear and apparently unstoppable transition to electric mobility, but this does not mean it is harmonious and smooth; the transition itself faces potential disruption, as well as being disruptive to the status quo through creating new forms of conflict over space and material resources. Nonetheless, meanwhile internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) sales continue to exceed electric vehicle (EV) sales, even if the margin reduces, and there is the enormous problem of inertia presented by the established global ICEV fleet. Considering the current dynamics of consumer demand for electric cars, a complex set of factors and preferences have been shown to have influence, but the interrelated factors of range and total cost of ownership stand out as the key ones. Prospects for accelerating the rate of transition are identified, but a further important dynamic is the slow rate of turnover in an established vehicle fleet dominated by ICEs: consideration is therefore given to the potential for retrofit EV conversions. Looking to the future, the cost and performance of battery technology remains a critical and uncertain factor in the rate and depth of the transition to EVs, but the wider context of mobility practices and policies in which that change occurs is also fundamental. The EV transition sits entwined with other novel and substantial changes to our long-established systems of automobility that are becoming visible on the horizon. Relatively expensive to buy but cheap to use, and also hard to tax, EVs will necessitate a shift away from pay-up-front to pay-as-you-go road use, while the development and full realisation of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) systems could herald a fundamental change in the basis of owning and using cars. In conclusion, a sustainable future for the car implies not just a new way of powering it, but a different role for the car in both the economy and society.


Parkhurst, G., & Clayton, W. (2022). The electric car as a component of future sustainable mobility. In Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car (231-246). Emerald.

Online Publication Date Oct 17, 2022
Publication Date Oct 17, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 24, 2022
Publisher Emerald
Pages 231-246
Series Title Transport and Sustainability
Series Number Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car: Volume 15
Book Title Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car
Chapter Number 12
ISBN 978-1-83982-635-1
Keywords Electric car; battery technology; behavioural response; sociotechnical transition; sustainable mobility; automobility
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