So, yesterday I did something massive. I went car-free (ish)
Yesterday I sold my car. Conversations have gone a bit like this:
“What did you trade it in for?”
“Nothing, I just sold it.”
“So you’ve gone from two to one?”
“No, one to none.”
For eight years, I’ve been driving a diesel people carrier. Three small kids required three car seats across the back, space for family camping trips and the ability to get 5 bikes on the roof was incredibly practical. But recently the kids have started getting more independent via bikes and public transport, so family outings rarely happen in the same way.
This time last year I got my cargobike, which replaced the two regular short car journeys I took every week taking one child to football, so our usage fell further. In the 6 months since its last MoT, me and Mrs K have driven just 1000 miles between us. At that point the overheads of car ownership start to make it uneconomic and you start to get practicalities like the battery hating not being charged regularly.
Driving a diesel, even at such minimal mileage, isn’t a great look for a supposed Sustainability leader these days. Upgrading to an electric car would send out the right signal, but all that money to drive 2-4000 miles a year? Even if I could afford such an indulgence, the embodied carbon in the car and its battery would never justify the savings in carbon from driving. And then, without off street parking at home or a regular commute to a site with a charging bay, how would I keep the thing charged?
So what if I need a car? Well, I’ve registered for our local car club. There are about 4 vehicles of varying sizes within 10 minutes’ walk, so all I’ll have to do is book one and go and get in it when I need it. Membership is just £5 per month, booking a car all day is about £50 plus 22p per mile.
From a Sustainability point of view, I’m practising what I preach:
- The cargo bike is hugely more efficient way than a car to move me and one child around the city – 30kg of bike rather than 1700kg of car. The cost of running a cargobike for a year is a measly £5 (yes, you read that right, a fiver a year) in electricity costs. We’re on a green tariff and, even if that isn’t the same as zero carbon, the carbon intensity of the UK electricity grid continues to fall.
- The car club is a classic product-service system (PSS) – ie I’m paying for the transport I need rather than for the privilege of owning a big lump of metal, plastic and glass that I don’t. The minimal fixed costs is an incentive to minimise use. At present, none of the car club vehicles around us is electric, but when that change inevitably comes, I won’t be bearing the high capital costs.
The other big learning point was the wrench of change. At the end of last summer, I set the end of March as my final deadline to get rid of the car as that’s when my car insurance was up for renewal. But as March hove into view, I started to get the wobbles – maybe we should keep the car until it dies? What if there’s an emergency with one of the kids? How will we go for family camping holidays? My mind filled with myriad excuses to do nothing and stick to what I know, even though I knew the decision made sense both environmentally and economically. But letting go was hard, so hard…
…until it was done. I walked back home from the used car buying company looking down on a dual carriageway, watching all the single occupancy cars flying along in their lanes or queuing at the junctions. And I felt strangely free.