• E-mobility, immobility and alt-mobility

      Cox, Peter; University of Chester (2013-09-05)
      Extending the arguments raised by Dennis and Urry in After the Car (2009), this paper examines the potentials and problems facing innovation in vehicular systems. In mobility systems dominated by conventional automobility, the widespread adoption of e-vehicles and hybrid vehicles promises to change relationships between mobility and the oil economy. Consequently, significant investment in pilot projects and test examples has been widely promoted across the EU and in the USA. This paper argues, contra such programmes, that the substitution of propulsion systems within current conceptualisations of vehicle typologies, fails to allow for the transformation of mobility regimes and of hierarchies of mobility practices. Similarly, substitution approaches (as currently modelled) fail to reflect the real capacities of varying technologies, yet reproduce the very real inequalities of automobility. Carbon class power as currently visible, the paper argues, is not challenged but allowed to change in order to maintain its hegemony. The paper therefore looks towards potential mobility scenarios that maximise diversity, embracing the possibilities of e-mobility but locating them within deeper structural transformations of mobility regimes. It demonstrates both how this can be theorised and the consequent changing relationship between mobility technology, users and practices can be understood, and the relationship of users and practices to spaces and places of mobility. Though initially identifying the variety of potentials embedded in different technologies, the argument opens discussion of the social relations inherent in different mobility practices. The analysis draws initially on the work of Cox and Van De Walle (2007), but extends it towards a more complex consideration of capacity and relation to infrastructure and social space. The paper builds a scenario which may be better termed alt-mobility; concentrating not simply on the spread of e-technologies but the transformation of existing mobility practices and the implications this can have for the hierarchies of power in public space. It questions the extent to which such alternative mobilities can be accommodated within existing infrastructural hierarchies and the implications for the social relations of mobility.