In just just nine short years, Holland may have no ICE cars on sale. The Dutch lower house passed this legislation the other day. The upper house is voting soon. While it might seem extreme (it is bracing enough), the Green proposal involved banning existing petrol and diesel cars. On balance, the legislation is probably a good compromise as it lets the existing fleet of cars run out their service life. It also avoids compulsion: would 5 year old Focuses and 9 year old Volvos simply have their road-licence revoked, rendering them unusable and unsaleable in Holland? The problem is obviated: the current stock of cars will be used until one by one their owners give up maintaining them and they swich to electric cars.
It might seem odd to write this: in the light of my recent musings on private transports, maybe this switch over to electric cars is a great time to stop building cities that are suited to random, petrol-driven motoring. I have no figures on this (yet) but while I concede public transport is not cheap, I am prepared to bet that the combined cost of the car industry dwarfs it.
People are willing to spend vastly more on a private car that is mostly unused while they complain about the compromises needed to make public transport work. As well as the post-war vision of suburbia composed of free-standing houses, I view is the private car as quite possibly the most enormous mistake society has ever made. Maybe the Dutch switch to electric cars is not a mistake because it is too extreme but is in fact not extreme enough.
This line of thinking is possible because I am simultaneously able to assess cars from the position of business-as-usual and also from the radical position of thinking that, on balance, they were a mistake and we’d be better off without them. That’s not to say that, seen in isolation, there have been some very lovely shapes created, often accompanied by engineering of dazzling ingenuity.
If I can disentangle the various aspects of revisions to motorism, I’d be most interested in reversing suburbanization and let people pick a mode of transport they felt happiest with (public or private). That would be the mirror opposite of today where the bias is to private transport and public transport is compromised by car-based urban structures that reduce PT’s effectiveness. It’s a zero-sum game, I am afraid.
We could gradually get back to a situation like that (biased to PT) by combining EVs with public transport; at the same time we could look at the models of East Germany and Detroit where the local authorities are managing the shrinking of cities. Over a 25 year period quite extensive and beneficial changes could be wrought to our cities and still leave scope for owners of ancient ICE vehicles and users of EVs and collective transit to get along.
[Post-script: since I wrote this yesterday at 8 a.m. further developments developed. It was pointed out that Holland can’t ban ICE cars on their own and the current legislative proposal is unworkable as a ban. Politics is negotiation and workarounds- the obstacle facing the process of removing ICEs from Holland will be dealt with eventually. Now the idea has been moved on and another, better proposal will be made.]