On the sustainability of electric vehicles: What about their impacts on land use?

Elsevier, Sustainable Cities and Society, Volume 66, March 2021
Orsi F.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are widely regarded as the key to finally making private mobility clean, yet virtually no research is being conducted on their potential contribution to the expansion of impervious surfaces. This study aims to start a discussion on the topic by exploring three relevant issues: the impact of EVs’ operating costs on urban size, the space requirements of charging facilities, the land demand of energy production through renewables. Given cheaper operating costs compared to conventional vehicles, EVs might lead a 100 km2 European city to increase by about 0.2−1 km2 (depending on adoption rate and the fuel price to electricity price ratio) and an equally-large North-American city to increase by about 1−4 km2. Energy production would also have significant impacts, with Europe and the US potentially having to devote up to 5,000–6,000 km2 of land to photovoltaic panels or 56,000–70,000 km2 to wind turbines. The creation of charging spaces would have only minor effects in terms of overall land requirements, though attention should be paid as to whether easier charging in detached and semi-detached homes might increase the appeal of this land-intensive dwelling types. Research is needed to improve our understanding of these dynamics.