EVs are not the Answer: An Environmental and Mobility Justice Critique of Electric Vehicle Transitions

Authors: Jason Henderson*, San Francisco State University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Automobility, Electric Vehicles, Mobility,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Denver, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within climate-energy-transport scholarship and professions there is a growing consensus that electric vehicles (“EVs”), which include personal cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, and pickup trucks, are essential for decarbonizing mobility. This paper urges caution and pause before an EV “lock-in” and calls upon geographers and other scholars to consider the multi-scale environmental and social problems associated with EVs. The paper begins by reviewing the mainstream assumptions about mass EV uptake, with particular emphasis on projections forecasting more, not fewer, cars in the future. Using a ‘mobility justice’ framework, I ask who is making these assumptions and why, and discuss the influence of liberal economic theory on future projections of EVs. I next consider assumptions about the environmental efficacy and decarbonization potential of mass EV uptake, and review how EV production and consumption may escalate rather than reduce global resource and energy demand. I also scale-down to cities and describe how EVs will lay claim to many of the same spaces designated for green mobility, such as cycle tracks, bus lanes and compact, walkable spaces. The conclusion proposes research questions for geographers to consider with regards to EVs, future transportation, future geographies, and future carbon emissions.

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