Tim Byles, executive chairman of Cornerstone Assets, writes an article for the Independent suggesting it would be wise for the UK to pivot its funding towards electric car-sharing and community charging points.

The market town of Totnes in Devon is well known for doing something different. It waged a battle against clone high streets, created its own currency – the Totnes pound – and was one of the first towns to declare itself a transition town, back in 2006.

Transition towns are those getting ready for a future in which we are not dependent on oil, they have a focus on tackling the climate crisis by making their communities more self-sufficient.

It was no surprise when I heard that Totnes Town Council had asked if its eclectic residents would be interested in a shared electric vehicle club.

With its Green Party County Councillor and zero-waste shops, keeping an eye on sustainability developments in Totnes is a good way of sensing what way the wind turbines are blowing. The town council is often ahead of the pack, and its electric vehicle sharing idea is the future.

It used to be that getting your first car was a right of passage, shrieking teenagers were handed a set of keys on their birthday in TV shows and films. However, many young people now are not bothered about the previously sacrosanct milestone of passing their driving test, let alone owning a car.

The number of 16 to 25-year-olds authorised to get behind the wheel has recently fallen to the lowest level ever recorded. Though some of this decline is due to restrictions on lessons and tests due to the pandemic, a Department of Transport survey from 2019 found that 33 per cent of those aged 17 and over without a license stated a lack of interest in driving as the reason behind this.

Today’s youth also appear to be more engaged with tackling the climate crisis, as we’ve witnessed through the rise of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. According to the Radically Better Future: The Next Gen Reckoning Report, which surveyed more than 27,000 people worldwide, 60 per cent of those under the age of 30 felt that post-pandemic recovery should prioritise restructuring society to tackle climate change, rather than just prioritising economic regeneration.

The combination of falling out of love with driving, moving away from Monday to Friday commuting, and caring more about the environment, will surely lead to lower levels of private car ownership in the coming decades? As we move towards our legislated target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, more cars on the road will be electric.

This is why Totnes Town Council’s exploration of a shared electric vehicle club is so timely. Nobody expects us to move to a future without cars – and there will always be instances in which a private vehicle is necessary. However, going forward, many people may not need or desire to own a vehicle outright.

Shared electric vehicle schemes would provide a multitude of benefits. From helping to tackle congestion and pollution to decreasing the need for residential parking, which could then open up such spaces for more positive use. Most importantly, they would also create an affordable way for people to access electric vehicles, as the cost of purchasing one is currently a barrier to many.

The government should support such initiatives and shift the focus of some of their green policies. For example, much central funding currently goes to creating home electric vehicle charging points.

Let’s pivot to building more electric vehicle charging forecourts within communities, as one space in a supermarket car park won’t be sufficient for much longer. There are a small number of communal charging points, but we need more, along with shared electric vehicle clubs, so electric vehicles become the mainstream option they need to be.

Read more on The Independent