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Why electric cars will be a shock to UK parking spaces

22nd Nov, 2021

Ah, parking. The bane and daily battle of countless drivers, and sometimes one of the hardest things about car ownership – no matter how much we’d like it not to be. And as of right now, it’s looking like it’ll only get worse in the next few decades – largely due to electric cars.

In an effort to meet its climate commitments, the government has tabled a £2.8 billion package to encourage drivers to switch to cleaner vehicles electric vehicles, including a £1.3 billion investment in charging infrastructure. At first glance, it seems like a dream come true for many drivers, especially those suffering from ‘climate guilt’, conscious of their effect on the environment but not quite ready to decide – I need to scrap my car. For them, electric cars offer the perfect solution: guilt-free driving.

But as we’ve covered before on the blog, electric cars aren’t the panacea that they might seem. We’ve detailed some of the others in our previous post, but this time we’re focusing on one that gets rather less press – parking.

Right now, drivers already own 32 million cars in the UK alone. That ownership figure is up 28% since 2001, while our population has only risen by 13%. In other words, more people than ever are driving. By 2050, there looks set to by 44 million cars in the UK, so parking is only ever going to become more of a pressing issue. But why are electric cars going to be contributing to making it worse?

The lightning rise in car ownership

Partially for the reasons we’ve outlined above, the sales of electric cars are still surging – up 73% from last year. The problem with ‘guilt-free’ driving, though, is that all of the upsides with seemingly none of the drawbacks means that people are going to be drawn to them in even greater numbers.

In fact, the Institute for Public Policy Research says that rather than improving air quality by removing exhaust emissions, incentives may just end up making highways far busier and slower, simply due to a rise in the number of vehicles. After all, when you’ve spent a few grand on a convenient guilt-free form of personal transport, it makes sense that you’d actually want to use it. The trouble is, so will millions of others.


So, you might be asking, why not just build more roads? Well, that doesn’t work for the same reason. Here’s how it normally works: a route is congested, so a new road is planned and built. Within a few weeks of its opening, the new road successfully cuts journey times. But then as more drivers cotton on to that, more and more of them start using it. Traffic levels rise, and soon it’s just as congested as any of the others. It’s the same self-defeating phenomenon. And soon, it’ll spill over into the world of parking.

Why parking might be about to become a perpetual problem

Right now, there are 8 million cars parked on public streets, all over the UK. What’s more, the RAC Foundation published a report this year that said cars are empty and parked for 23 hours out of every 24. On average, we’re only using our cars 4-5% of the time we own them. For the rest of the time, they’re tucked up at home, largely forgotten – or getting in someone else’s way.

The average car takes up seven times as much space as a bike, but only carries between one and five people even when they’re in motion. But electric cars are set to be even bigger. 2020’s three best-selling battery vehicles, the Tesla Model 3, Kia Nero and Jaguar I-Pace, are all wider and longer than their best-selling petrol and diesel counterparts: the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and VW Golf. If that trend continues, the amount of space that cars take up (already significant) is set to rise exponentially.

Notably, there are also concerns about the effect on car parking politics – in which EV drivers naturally feel entitled to certain spaces, while those who cannot afford shiny new clean vehicles steadily get pushed out.

So, what can be done?

Nobody likes to hear it, but: stop driving. That’s really it. Nations of the world are currently ruminating on the decisions made at COP26, the recent UN Climate Conference in Glasgow. During the proceedings, it was pointed out more than once that humanity will struggle to ‘build its way’ out of the crisis, with more technologically advanced solutions to traditional problems. Reducing the emissions of our transport choices is always a positive, but it’s only a partial solution to the issue that electric cars are intended to solve. Making a real and meaningful impact on the environment will involve dramatic changes to our lives – including giving up cars.

Campaigners are already pushing for a greater focus on improving public transport and cycling solutions in cities, encouraging people to walk and cycle wherever possible. And not just in cities either – there’s also a need for more spending on public transport in rural areas, where right now cars might be the only option that people have for getting themselves around.

In addition to the average car only being driven 5% of the time, experts like Lucy Marstrand-Taussig (a government advisor on transport planning) have also pointed out that 58% of car journeys are less than 5 miles, so there’s a significant potential to reduce them. What’s more, roads currently make up 3/4 of public space – so it would make more sense for them to be open to everyone, not just car drivers.

Some cities are already taking the dramatic step of banning cars from their centres entirely – Brighton, Bristol, Leeds and Oxford are amongst those pioneering the most ambitious plans, levying increasingly stricter charges on drivers using their most high-traffic areas, in a bid to encourage people to look at alternative forms of transport. Many of these plans are still in their early stages, so it remains to be seen exactly how effective they’ll be!

It’s all food for thought. And if it’s got you thinking about the next big decision you’ll have to make with your car… well, that’s where we may be able to help. When the time comes to scrap your car – whether that’s because it’s been smashed up in a collision, or it’s too polluting, or it’s uneconomical to own anymore – rest assured that here at Scrap Car Network, we’ll always be able to give you the best price. All you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll get you an instant online quote before you can say cash for cars. It only takes a few seconds. Curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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