Electric cars are often touted as the next big thing in transport, removing one of the major effects of vehicle use – emissions. This is especially the case in NZ where we have such a large amount of our electricity generated from renewable sources. But while electric cars might solve one problem, they certainly aren’t a silver bullet to all issues as so wonderfully pointed out in this image from Copehagenize.

Share this


      1. Yes and No.

        have a look at the “Accessing the city centre” post:


        The number of people using the Motorway to get in during the morning peak stayed about the same because all the growth was in PT.

        If you build the CRL it will keep absorbing a higher proportion of trips but (baring major changes to the road network or usage patterns) the absolute number of people using the motorways will stay the same. If congestion vanished on the roads tomorrow then a bunch of marginal PT riders would switch looking for the 100km/h continuous commute. Or people who are leaving home at 6am would sleep in move their commute closer to peak.

        So the roads are never going to get any better but (we hope) the percentage of people this affects will be lower. Certainly the alternatives of them getting more congested or no growth are worse.

  1. I’m disappointed but not surprised at this post given the myopic attitude towards cars on this blog.

    Self driving cars are far smaller than conventional cars and will be more efficient on the existing roading system. To suggest roading congestion won’t change is ludicrous. Plus if it’s done well travel times will decrease and we can remove all the congestion causing obstacles we are currently putting all over our roads.

    I also believe self-driving cars will integrate well with other transit methods including cycling, trains and buses enabling people more modal choice.

    I don’t believe self-driving cars are going to single-handedly solve our congestion issues but to suggest they aren’t a game changer is unbelievable for a transport focussed blog.

    Perhaps a little less propaganda and a little more critical analysis?

    1. I tend to agree that self driving cars will eventually have a big impact, but I’d have thought more around safety than congestion. Perhaps the cars could ‘see’ the traffic lights through radio signals, but it seems a long way off before we’d pull the central control altogether and let the cars decide amongst themselves who goes next. What other obstacles do you remove? Lane markings?

      1. I agree that true autonomous vehicles will be hugely disruptive; they will destroy taxi driving as a job, kill the auto-insurance industry, but most of all they are likely to see the end of private car ownership. Why would anyone bother with that overhead compared to ordering up a electric self-driving ride anytime at very low cost, especially zero parking expense? A perfect fit with Rapid Transit [first mile/last mile by AV] and walkable centres [no cars there]. The auto industry will also shrink to a fraction of its current size as we’ll have way fewer of them, and will be re-purposing roads all over the place- while shaking our heads in disbelief at why we overbuilt them so much now, and put up with those horrible fume belchers…. looks like fun.

        1. “Why would anyone bother with that overhead compared to ordering up a electric self-driving ride anytime at very low cost, especially zero parking expense?”

          Because they won’t be available “anytime” and they won’t be very low cost. These claims seem to be articles of faith. At times of peak demand they will be rationed by price and the prime claim for lower cost, the lack of a paid driver, is irrelevant when comparing to a privately-owned vehicle. I don’t pay for parking and I know I am not unique. Self-driving cars would also seem to offer poorer energy efficiency in so far as they will be running empty for a significant proportion of their life…and…worst of all, I am not convinced that they can be used to tow a boat to the boat ramp and launch it. Enough reasons? On the other hand electric cars offer solutions to the issues I feel the need to address.

        2. The only reason that self-driving cars will be expensive at peak times to hire is because the road space they need to operate on is in short supply e.g. at peak time.
          Otherwise there is no other valid reason for the cost of hiring a self-driving taxi at peak will cost more than at any other time.

          Its certainly not going to be ‘Uber’ style demand pricing – thats just a private company trying to maximise (private) profits from a scarce resource (the supply of Uber drivers/cars) more than the scarce and unpriced road space they use.

        3. “The only reason that self-driving cars will be expensive at peak times to hire is because the road space they need to operate on is in short supply e.g. at peak time”

          …and at peak times the vehicles will be in short supply as well. High demand and short supply = high prices. Owners will charge high prices because they can. If the vehicles are not in short supply (ie one available for any user at their preferred time) then, safety considerations aside, is there any net advantage over the status quo? I don’t doubt that these vehicles will be priced low at 3 am on a Tuesday but at 7.45 am on a Tuesday? I think not. If you think that SOVs are bad, consider a ZOV movement for most SOV movements.

          Autonomous vehicles? Not exactly. They rely on GPS which exists primarily for military purposes. The US says they won’t degrade it but then they said they wouldn’t torture people and then there’s that mysterious business of North Korea losing their internet…

          Cheap and plentiful? They said that about nuclear power as well. Too cheap to meter.

        4. Today reminded me of another reason that there will be those that continue owning a car; the enjoyment of driving. A wonderfully impractical supercharged Lotus with the top down on a curvy country road. A smooth manual gearbox, kart-like handling and a power-to-weight ratio like nothing I have experienced before. Superbly exhilarating…but I wouldn’t want to own one. Just handy having a relative own it.

        5. Won’t that double the number of trips? One for the empty self driving thing to come to my place and one to take me somewhere useful? Sounds to me like we should get building roads before these cars are rolled out.

    2. I think this article is about electric cars, not self driving cars…

      I see self driving taxis as the real game changer:
      a) They will make economic sense even when self driving cars are too expensive for private owners – so they could make up a reasonable percentage of the fleet much sooner
      b) They should be much cheaper to use than owning a car so should get a high uptake reasonably quickly
      c) They won’t need to park in expensive places (only for pickup / dropoff)
      d) They will enable automated car pooling on a level we have never seen. It would be quite possible for an automated taxi to pick up 4 passengers or more on its way into the city for example.

      The flip side to this is:
      1) Predicting the future is awfully hard to do, people have been predicting self driving cars for years.
      2) Who’s to say any road investments we make now will actually improve things for a self driving car? Surely they don’t need great roads?
      3) Will a city like London be able to close down its public transport and rely solely on self driving cars? Do they have enough road space? If they still need public transport, who’s to say Auckland doesn’t?

      1. ‘Will a city like London be able to close down its public transport and rely solely on self driving cars? Do they have enough road space? If they still need public transport, who’s to say Auckland doesn’t?’

        Hell no; the reverse is what is actually happening in London, Paris, Helsinki, Copenhagen: the centres are heading for full carlessness. Yes you are right about predictions, but extrapolating current changes is likely to be more accurate than fantasising about the distant future. De-caring is the direction du-jour, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue. Hey it’s even started in Auckland, modestly it’s true, but the key to understanding trends is to spot the telling but easy to miss turning points. See here: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2014/12/23/accessing-the-city-centre/

    3. Except Matthew, you’re selling futures, and hype, not reality.

      There are no available to buy driverless cars that we can see/buy/use/sit in etc – so you are merely spouting marketing hype and “gonnas” – its gonna do this and its gonna be that.

      Reality has a way of getting in the way of the marketing.
      Google’s prototype driverless car is just that a prototype, its not manufacturable, and its not scalable and not cost effective to make nor is it safety proven, crash tested or even practical (or even desirable in the marketing sense) – right now its a solution looking for a problem.

      Once the technology is “weaponised” into a real driverless car, you’ll find that the inevitable safety requirements and all the other regulations and compliance rules will make the need for the cars to be as big/heavy etc as the current driver operated cars are.

      Simply removing the steering wheel and pedals doesn’t also magic away everything else that makes a car a car.

    4. You seem to come on here thinking you’re going to show us as being wrong but inevitably you make a fool of yourself by not even reading the post correctly. No mention was made of driverless cars yet you launch in to a rant about them.

      Perhaps if you actually read posts instead of jumping to conclusions you’d see that we’re not anti car but instead want to see balance, something that doesn’t exist right now (and hasn’t for a long time)

      1. Electric car technology is ultimately going to result in driverless cars, so it’s highly relevant to the topic.

        1. Your response shows, again, that the only one myopic about cars is you. Almost everyone here talks balance. You get that yet?

          Oh, and I see your usual dribble about analysis required, despite plenty being offered up on most posts, just none by you of course.

    5. I agree that eventually they will have a big impact, however for them to make the impact the majority of our vehicles on the roads will need to be Autonomous cars, and even then they will create induced demand so will mean more vehicles on the road, therefore still creating congestion.

      However they are only a small part of the overall transport solution. TBH, I definitely can’t see them becoming the majority of our driving fleet in the near future.

    1. We that in spades already (and even more so in the future).

      The rest of the world – yes too – with renewable and smart grid technologies working together.

      1. Endless wind turbines polluting the landscape? Miles of ugly solar arrays? Every frickin’ river dammed? Or are you talking nuclear?

        1. Ian all it takes is one failed aluminium smelter…. anyway I like those sculptural wind turbines in our bleak landscape, but beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder….

          Remember demand is flat to falling at the moment so supply is not the issue, especially with Tiwai Point’s pull likely to come on the market any day [a full 15% of the total].

        2. The closure of Tiwai point may have an affect on electricity in the South Island, but will have less affect on the North Island. Somehow you have to transport the energy from the south to the north which means a) building new transport capacity (including across Cook Strait). b) losing electricity along the way, since electricity transport isn’t free. So, it isn’t going to be quite the electricity bonanza people might think it would be.

        3. Due respects, Ian, but your response is emotive BS. Why would you need “gigawatts” of additional generation capacity and why would that require “endless” anything? Let’s see some simple calculations or references, if you would, please.

        4. Simple really. Energy presently derived from fossil fuels will have to come from other sources and as everyone seems to be talking up electricity then you need a lot more generating capacity. A liter of petrol has an energy value of about 10kWh. How many cars take to the roads every day? I don’t know but I see shit loads of 10kWh chunks being used. I’m surprised people find that turbines improve the landscape. The people of Central Otago didn’t and so they managed to kick the proposed Lammermoor wind farm, which would have been visible from the Remarkables, into touch. Back in the 90’s most people in Wellington said how nice the single turbine at the back of Brooklyn was. Fast forward to the 21st century, no one cheered for the monsters that went in and are still going in at Makara. In fact the only cheerleaders for this intrusive blight is the power industry itself. And do electric vehicles really shut down when standing at traffic lights etc? How do you think lights, air conditioners, radios etc are maintained?

        5. “Mighty River is enthusiastic about using electricity to help power the country’s 2.8 million strong vehicle fleet and the growing contribution of geothermal was key. “What it means is energy independence for the country so we’re not reliant on imports. We’ve got enough consented renewable electricity projects to power every car its average distance and that’s unique globally,” Whineray said.”

        6. Yep and much of that is also Geothermal so not as many hill tops blighted* or rivers dammed.

          *I personally don’t have a problem with the look of wind turbines on the horizon

        7. I don’t understand the visual ‘pollution’ aspect of wind turbines either. I think they look cool. I have gone outings specifically to see the wind farm near Wellington. I would be happy to see them on the horizon spinning away and generating all those electrons of energy….

        8. Wind turbines is not so much visual pollution as noise pollution – they emit low frequency sounds and also infrasound both of which can travel long distances.

  2. The Blog should do more of these spot the difference games.A bit skeptical as I couldn’t pick a Prius or Tesla in the second photo , but so far have found six, possibly seven.
    CO2, NOx, VOCs, Benzene (C6H6), PM10, PM2.5 and possibly at least one of the vehicle passengers not heading to a Miami hospital oncology dept for treatment.

    1. I love it in NZ how someone always comes up with an idea to “fix Auckland’s traffic congestion” with some miracle idea, we haven’t had the monorail one for a while so it must be due soon. By the way those single occupant cars look really “cool” can’t wait to use one, where can I get one from they just look fantastic. I’m sure they will be really popular in other global cities as well.

    2. We already have those in droves, they’re called motorbikes. Oh and they really look cool <– Sarcasm.
      Plus on the road atm all you can see is oversized remuera trucks on the road, how will you convince them to downsize to that?

    3. What’s usually missing from the skinny car, short car, super small car discussion is the spatial requirement of the vehicles when they are moving. Sure any of these vehicles improve the spatial requirements stopped in traffic or when parked, but when moving there is no difference (until the magic of driverless cars or computer-assisted driving is implemented across much of the fleet).
      Below (source: Happy City) is the spatial requirements of vehicles stopped and in motion. Imagine the circles for skinny cars…

        1. What happens when they are side by side at speed and one of them wants to change lanes, merge, enter a ramp, exit, turn a corner, pull over, stop or overtake?

          Unless we force every single last vehicle to be skinny to let us remark all the roads with skinny lanes, these won’t do nothin’.

        2. Tangos are the only highway capable narrow car. That opens up incredible realms of possibilities for lane adjustments and speed.

          Going back to the family bicycle comparison, if all bicycles had passenger sides and then a narrow bicycle was built and driven, a general change in perspective which would necessarily change over time.

          The IBM Smarter Cities video suggests, like a bike only lane, a narrow car only lane could be built. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXCycmCVqD0 That would work, obviously, but some suggest the simple act of replacing 25% of all cars with passenger sides with narrow cars would resolve traffic congestion.

          In places where lane splitting is legal, the advantages demonstrated in the lane splitting video in California are obvious. Therefore, immediate benefit would await those driving them. In places where lane splitting or narrow lanes weren’t available, those advantages would take longer to take hold, but the parking advantage would be immediate.

        3. As a motorcyclist, I can tell you that the kind of driving in that video would be illegal in Nz. Also many retarded drivers try very hard to make motorcyclists life impossible by blocking the way, because they are frustrated that we are congestion free. Those little machines would just piss everybody off.

        4. I lane split with my bike everyday in Auckland and I watched that video. That would be illegal in NZ. You are misleading your potential customers in saying the opposite. Show me a video of the car doing that in NZ. Also, we don’t need more tanks on our roads, or inattentive drivers thinking they are piloting an armored jet plane. On the other hand if you can make Jonkey pass a law that allows lane splitting so that we motorcyclists wouldn’t have to risk being fined for taking the safer way to ride, I would be very happy.

        5. I’m sorry, nonsense, but I never inferred lane splitting was legal in Asuckland. However, it’s good to see how you can see the advancement of narrow car tech would be an advantage to bike and motorcycle riders. Even without lane splitting, Tangos parked to the curb necessarily eliminate bike dooring. Regarding lane splitting, it is possible to change the legailty. http://www.autoevolution.com/news/new-south-wales-australia-legalizes-lane-splitting-77814.html

  3. Studies: http://www.commutercars.com/downloads.html
    IBM Smarter Cities animated video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXCycmCVqD0
    US Census Numbers Single Occupant Drivers Dwarf all other modes: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/12/how-america-gets-to-work-in-1-very-long-graph/282349/

    Uncool? You’re right. Forget the whole thing. Can I please be like you, cool bus rapid transit rider?

    People will choose the fastest/most direct, safest, cheapest, warmest/coolest/driest, most convenient public transport over all others. Sarcastic comments aside, right-sizing cars for congestion mitigation makes sense and will work.

    1. Your own reference material concludes that congestion mitigation comes from either running in their own lanes or by reducing the gap between them, noting some safety concerns around the later. Given this could you outline how exactly they will mitigate congestion?

      1. Narrow cars mitigate congestion by eliminating the bottle neck created by the unused passenger sides of cars. If all bikes had passenger sides, then narrow bikes were introduced, narrow bikes would reduce congestion by taking up less space than bikes with passenger sides.

        Integrating Tangos safely, as evidenced by many videos easily found online, is not an issue. Most dramatically, see how easy the Tango lane splits in the link I’ve provided in other posts.

        1. You’re original post wasn’t specific, Conan. I’ve read all of the materials. Be specific and I’ll respond specifically.

          Here’s a specific question for you, if all bikes had passenger sides, would it be a good idea for congestion mitigation to build and ride narrow bicycles.

        2. Conan’s question: Your own reference material concludes that congestion mitigation comes from either running in their own lanes or by reducing the gap between them, noting some safety concerns around the later. Given this could you outline how exactly they will mitigate congestion?

          From the document’s conclusion:
          = = =
          Even when congestion is evident, the benefits of the Commuter Car are slight under the full gap scenarios, requiring significant market penetration of 20 percent to generate an additional 4 miles per hour.

          The congestion benefits are more robust under the reduced gap scenario, where even a market penetration of 10 percent yields an additional 4.3 miles per hour. The reduced gap was also used for the Interstate 5 case, and showed similar improvements. Note that reducing the gap additionally would further enhance the congestion benefits of the Tango f. There are, however, safety concerns that must be considered before allowing smaller gap requirements.

          The most significant benefits accrue when the Commuter Cars are given access to a dedicated lane, an HOV lane, or a freeway shoulder. In congested conditions – both in the abstract and using actual data from the Seattle segment – even a market penetration of 6 percent can yield significantly improved speeds on the general purpose lanes (6.6 miles per hour). At a market penetration of 10 percent, the findings of this study suggest that allowing Commuter Cars into the HOV lane on Interstate 5 would improve average speeds for the general purpose lanes by roughly 9.3 miles per hour, and would improve the LOS for the facility from F to E. This study does not analyze the impact of the Commuter Car on HOV lanes. HOV lanes are, however, typically flowing at or near free flow speeds, even when general purpose lanes are congested.

          The parking benefits associated with the Commuter Car are clear and measurable. Assuming that two to three Tango f’s can fit into the space formerly provided for one passenger car and a market penetration of 6 percent, an additional 3,840 or 7,681 vehicles could be accommodated in Downtown Seattle based on the 2:1 and 3:1 ratio, respectively.
          = = =

          In every scenario, more Tangos means less traffic and better parking options. Again, if there were only bikes with passenger sides in bike lanes, bike congestion would lessen with narrow bikes. Would you agree?

        3. The first scenario is most likely. The word slight stands out for me there.

          The second requires changes to the road rules and a market penetration of 10%. That’s 18,000 cars per annum.

          The third scenario just won’t happen.

  4. If cars suddenly become virtually all electric, wheres the money from fuel taxes that goes towards the upkeep of the roads going to come from?

      1. Listen mate, stop with the flogging a dead, rotting horse.

        Its more likely that flying cars will arrive and completely remove the need to have roads altogether sooner than these skinny “Tango” cars will ever do so.

        1. Hmm it smells and looks dead to me.

          Their website is full of dubious comparisons – yes the electricity is much cheaper than petrol but thats not the only running cost and 3 cents a km is a bit low – most electric vehicles use 1/5th of a Kw/hr per km, so thats actually more like 6 cents a km for most Auckland folks, even with cheap “overnight only” power – but that requires a seperate meter be installed and other requirements like delayed charging by your electric vehicle to benefit. So, the average “user” will pay 6cents a km to run it – which means their asserted “saving” is at best $12 a week over an existing small vehicle you can buy now.

          The other large cost they claim to halve is parking – but they say parking costs should halve – but the note “Parking discount to be negotiated”.

          So one of their main cost saving claims to be cheaper is built upon a non existing discount for taking up half a parking space in a parking building?

          Since you need to park two of these side by side to get the saving, its a hypothetical discount saving at best. No parking building owner is going to give away half their income on allowing one of these things to use a normal car park space on its own, yet until these things are commonly available it won’t be any parking savings to be had.
          Yes a lot of car parks let motorcycles park for free – but they are in small corners usually up on the raised “borders” in the parking building, this only a small motorcycle can access, so no ability to park on these things there for free either.

          So the special “first mover” $100 lease per week deal – nominally paid from your “savings” in fuel and parking – doesn’t really stack up.

        2. That picture of two of these cars side by side in the same lane is very misleading. People drive down the middle of a lane, they don’t drive to the sides, so this situation is not going to happen in reality.

        3. Someone please show me how you can lease a $200K motor vehicle for under a $1,000 per month. The financials just don’t stack up. Ah, mass manufacturing you say. Have you got an understanding of just how expensive this is? Crash testing. Yes, it falls under the 500 per year limit for LVV but then that throws a spanner in the works for mass production. So this means thousands. Which means a bigger market. And certifying. The current vehicles require a 4 or 5 point harness. There are so many factors to get in the way. And for what?

        4. “Crash testing. Yes, it falls under the 500 per year limit for LVV”

          MFD’s rule: No crash test, no touchi with barge pole.
          ANCAP 5 stars please.

      2. ‘If the Tango becomes popular…’

        HaHa: exactly, that’s the problem, they won’t and they can’t. What has been the most successful vehicle type over the last couple of decades? Yes that’s right the SUV, the very opposite of these silly non-cars.

        1. I lost my ability to reply individually tor many posts. Sorry about the confusion.

          Greg N: since lane-splitting is not currently legal in Auckland, the main advantage will be leasing as opposed to buying, electric instead of gas power, and I presume, found parking rates. It’s unlikely you’ll call for more information, but hopefully those interested certainly will. Further, Auckland could decide it wanted to put in narrow only lanes like narrow only bike lanes and segregated bus rapid transit lanes. Studies have shown, again, that a 25% transition away from double wide cars would resolve congestion so that might not be necessary.

          Wayne: There lots of videos of Tangos driving side by side with motorcycles or other Tangos. Lots of people find use for narrow motorcycles even without legal lane-splitting. Many people, like me, would never consider riding a motorcycle but would drive a Tango in an instant. It’s about personal preference.

          Bryce: The twelve sold-out Tangos on the road were hand-built prototypes. A manufactured car necessarily will cost less. It’s possible the manufacturers figured out a way to build a smaller number at a lower price. It’s easy to see why narrow cars would become very popular, so maybe a company is taking on the risk. For what? Auckland could spend hundreds of millions to widen roads, but if the A-Car became popular, the cost to Auckland of A-Car leasing and upkeep would be far less expensive. Again, if all bicycles had passenger sides, designed as “family bikes”, then it would be to the advantage of everyone to build and ride narrow bikes.

          Be it a bike, scooter, car, or bus, be it electric, gas or human powered, narrow single-width vehicles are the key to resolving traffic congestion on roads with limited width and very expensive and evasive road widening.

        2. I know a bit about the costs and feasability of car production. The Tango will never be more than a niche kit car or expensive, low volume, production car. Want something to compare it to? Read the history of the Smart car

    1. For a start our fleet won’t “suddenly become all electric” – it will take a 10 or more years before the majority of the fleet is electric, and who know how long for the full conversion to occur.
      The fleet will probably never be fully electric for all sorts of reasons.

      Currently (no pun intended) electric cars should be paying for the road wear and tear etc via Road user charges, but are exempt for now by Government decree.

      So we have time to make the transition, and we can always remove the exemption on electric cars as and when needed, so in that vein electric cars could become like diesel cars are today – and you buy your RUCs in advance like diesel car/light trucks owners do.

    1. Excellent link thanks, Patrick. Good to see what the primary claimed benefit for driverless cars is. Safety…and yes, humans are lousy drivers as the statistics and news reports remind us.

      1. And how they just won’t work at all with people on the streets doing ordinary erratic people things….Will have to default to super-caution. Remember they won’t get impatient, unlike their occupants.

  5. I have no problem with the tango, but I don’t see how it’s going to solve congestion. Everyone would need to buy one in order for them to be spatially effective, and similar motorbikes already fill the niche. Also,I can’t throw my music gear or a few friends in the back. Cool idea, but I don’t think they offer anything unique enough to change people’s transport habits.

    1. It’s clear that narrow single width vehicles are better for traffic congestion than double width vehicles. When I was a child, no one manufactured narrow suitcases. Now almost everyone travels alone with a narrow suitcase. Once they are available, people will decide they want to trade the unused passenger sides of their cars for a faster commute and easier parking.

      1. I’ve just been in Italy, where single occupant cars are everywhere. Rome, Florence, Sienna, Bologna: it’s all the same. An amazing amount and amazing range of tiny, tiny cars, parked in every nook and cranny of every city. Mopeds, Scooters, some electric cars, some petrol engined, lots of miniscule one-seaters little more than a bread-basket on wheels, and still one thing hasn’t changed: congestion. The roads are choked with traffic, except where all vehicles are banned. Pedestrian areas are great. Non-ped areas: congested to the max.

  6. The picture is misleading. If one of the pictures is full of petrol cars, the air has to be darker or for the electric, the air has to be clearer because they do not emit smoke. NOT shown in a photograph is the stress caused by noisy engines, which results in more tensed people, usually causing panic or anger among commuters. Electric cars do not produce noise while waiting in traffic because its motors just stop when on brakes or waiting,

    1. Most car engines should not be emitting ‘smoke’ either way. And given how good modern car sound insulation is, engine noise is pretty much a non-event. If the sound of a car engine idling in traffic stresses you out then you’ve got problems that go well beyond electric cars or public transport.

  7. Electric cars don’t solve the problem of congestion or pollution. They simply provide a means of travel using an alternative fuel. However, without renewable energy generating that fuel on a large scale its pointless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *