Parking the car question
The articles on future kinds of cars (“Power to the people”, “Look, Ma – no hands”, October 14) ran to 12 pages without asking the fundamental question: is the private car a completely failed concept? And the question that follows: should we continue focusing on the car as a solution to our transport problems?
No matter how much the car is “greened”, it is an idea that has had its century. Instead, urban populations and intercity travellers need to switch to large, public vehicles. These would be mainly train and tram systems, complemented by buses.
There are things about cars that cannot be changed. First, cars on average occupy 6sq m, with a low rate of return on that space in terms of passengers transported. Second, they kill and injure. They have been described collectively as “a weapon of mass destruction”. The annual death rate from car crashes runs at about 1.2 million people.
Claims that driverless cars will lessen the killing must be viewed with extreme scepticism. Being driverless, they do not even have the merit of transporting a driver. And the 6sq m problem remains. This is land better used for housing, amenities, plants, bikes and pedestrians.
The energy and greenhouse gas costs of manufacturing cars also remain unexamined. This is significant. It’s about 10% of the energy burnt by a fossil-fuel-powered car over its lifetime. This embedded energy is not necessarily much different for other car types. The need of all cars for land-devouring roads and their effects on urban sprawl and town planning in the world’s cities are just two of the further factors that need analysis.
The car could continue, probably with a driver and in an electric form, in a few useful situations: in remote rural areas without public transport, yes; for the disabled, yes; in well-regulated taxi fleets, yes. But as a means of mass transit, they should disappear as soon as possible. Denys Trussell
Friends of the Earth NZ (Auckland) “Power to the people” said having an electric car is equivalent to “petrol at 30c a litre”, but was vague on the capital and maintenance costs. Lithium-ion batteries have been in use since the 1990s and may not continue to fall in price and increase in capacity. And how long will they last?
I would urge readers to think twice before trading in their $5000 “old banger” for an electric car costing at least twice that.
John Wilson (Johnsonville, Wellington)
So, the cheapest second-hand electric car on Trade Me is $10,500 and the cheapest battery is $7700. Chances are the car is cheap because it needs a new battery.
My car cost $2500 and it hasn’t missed a beat in five years. Even if we paid off the electric car over time with fuel and maintenance-cost savings, it’s a pipe dream. H Moore (Ranui) New Zealand’s electricity mix is irrelevant as a reason to adopt electric cars. The 80% renewable part of our generation network works flat out anyway because it has the lowest running cost. Any additional demand, day or night, is met from fossil-fuelled power stations.
The only advantage I can see of electric vehicles is if they are used for car-sharing in large cities, where they can be picked up and deposited at dedicated wireless charging stations. Peter Kammler (Warkworth)
Like Shamubeel Eaqub, I’m an economist interested in the Amazon phenomenon (“Amazon invasion”, October
7). But my concern is from a macroeconomic rather than consumer perspective.
Amazon is already “too big to fail”. This means that bad behaviour by a few Amazon executives can cause a great recession like the one of 2008, mandating public bailouts and further increases in world indebtedness and the skew in the distribution of income.
It is time to test the notion that in this digital economy consumers would lose nothing but other producers and workers would gain significant economic security if Amazon were broken up. Let’s make it into 10 smaller companies with 10 chief executives.
We got out of the 2008 recession without learning how to solve the too-big-to-fail problem. To accomplish this will take group action and an alteration of the present obsession with consumer welfare. Our Commerce Commission could start the ball rolling by asking its counterparts in Australia, the European