Easy Street for Low-Carbon Mobility? The Political Economy of Mass Electric Car Adoption
Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car
ISBN: 978-1-83982-635-1, eISBN: 978-1-83982-634-4
Publication date: 17 October 2022
Electric vehicles are often positioned as a politically easy option for low-carbon mobility, compared to other options, such as cycling, public transit, and walkable communities. This is difficult to assess confidently, however. The rate of adoption for electric vehicles that will be necessary over the next few decades to avoid the worst consequences of climate change will bring about new political struggles. This chapter uses a political-economic analysis to discuss what these struggles might look like. Using literature on the structure of automobility, along with evidence on the ways which electric vehicles disrupt the existing systems built around private car use, it discusses how a rapid transition to electric mobility will affect the material interests of various groups. One big impact will be on production, where the radical changes necessary to re-tool the auto industry to build electric vehicles will create major risks for car companies and their workers. A second impact will be on infrastructure, where the conversion of parking space into electric vehicle charging stations could arouse local political opposition, particularly in cities. Finally, electric vehicles might conflict with the cultural and symbolic lock-in of conventional vehicles, resulting not only in slower adoption but also the potential for active resistance against electric vehicle policies and infrastructure. Taken together, this implies that electric vehicles will not be a form of low-carbon mobility that is free of political struggle. Widespread electrification of private automobility could be aggressively opposed by powerful groups who have strong economic incentives to do so.
Roberts, C. (2022), "Easy Street for Low-Carbon Mobility? The Political Economy of Mass Electric Car Adoption", Parkhurst, G. and Clayton, W. (Ed.) Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car (Transport and Sustainability, Vol. 15), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 13-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2044-994120220000015004
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