Will Electric Vehicles Save the World, or Make Our Cities Weaker?


Every year, more electric and hybrid vehicles take to the road—and every year, North America’s infrastructure crisis seems to get a little more dire. But while the latest automotive technology certainly isn’t to blame for our cities’ inability to pay for the road networks they’ve built—the Growth Ponzi Scheme has a little more to do with that—some are worried that electric cars might not be helping the situation, especially as gasless transportation increasingly becomes the norm.

That’s because in most states in America, road maintenance is largely paid for by fuel taxes—exactly what EV drivers don’t pay when they opt to plug their Teslas in at home. And in a recent article for Fast Company, Boston University Senior Lecturer Jay L. Zagorsky details why that’s a big problem.

So what’s the answer? For Zagorsky: implement a charging tax every time you plug in your Leaf at a public station. For Strong Towns, though, things aren’t quite that simple.

In this episode of Upzoned, Chuck and Kea discuss the fundamental problems with our current fuel tax-focused approach to road maintenance funding, and why creating an electric vehicle analogue isn’t much better. And then they talk more broadly about whether keeping most Americans behind the wheel, albeit in lower-carbon cars, is really the greenest thing to do—or the best thing for our city finances.

Then in the Downzone, Chuck and Kea talk about their latest reads: a memoir about navigating the space between hip hop culture and a strict home life (Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams), and a novel about what New York would look like if a global pandemic hit—and a millennial office drone with a complicated immigrant past was one of the only ones left (Severance by Ling Ma).