Improving Sustainability in Urban Areas: Discussing the Potential for Transforming Conventional Car-based Travel into Electric Mobility

Bert van Wee, Kees Maat, Cornelis Joachim Petrus Maria de Bont

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


To reduce the environmental burden of urban road traffic, researchers and policy-makers have focused on reducing car use in urban areas, and improving public transport. Current expectations with respect to electric cars are high, not only for environmental reasons, but also because of the expected depletion of fossil fuels. Using a conceptual model for environmental burden caused by cars and a categorization of policy instruments and their effects, this paper discusses policies to encourage the adoption of electric cars. The paper also discusses the implications of the successful introduction of electric cars for conventional urban transport policies. The paper concludes that electric vehicles could bring substantial benefits to the environment and energy consumption, but the long-term environmental benefits largely depend on the size of potential rebound effects, the life-cycle effects with respect to energy, differences between electric cars and their competitors in "well-to-wheel" consumption, and-more particularly-improvements with respect to its main competitor: improved internal combustion engine powered cars. Secondly, the paper shows that policies to encourage electric cars should be adaptive. Probably in the early stages of introduction, privileges in central urban areas are useful. But in the long run, driving and parking electric vehicles should be limited for reasons of liveability. Thirdly, electric cars will never become a full substitute for public transport, the main reasons for this being land take and inefficient use of infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-110
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development

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