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Will Electric Cars Lead to an Increase in Roadkill?

 3 min read / 

Whilst electric vehicles can potentially lead to a ‘greener’ future and reduce costs for consumers, what is often overlooked is their potential to actually increase the amount of ‘roadkill’ and potentially, therefore, have a greater impact upon ecosystems more widely – this is owing to the fact that “EVs are dangerously quiet…” and, therefore, many animals may not be able to sense their presence until it is too late (even more so than non-electric vehicles).

What is Roadkill?

Roadkill is defined as “A killing of an animal on the road by a vehicle.” Indeed, the ecological impact of roadkill has been and is being studied; to give just one example, in 2007, an article entitled “From roadkill to road ecology: A review of the ecological effects of roads” was published in the Journal of Transport GeographyFurthermore, scientists continue to learn more broadly from studying roadkill – for example, uncomfortable but telling results from CanadianBrazilian and Australian studies show that a statistically significant portion of drivers intentionally kill wildlife on roads.

Dealing with the Threat

On the one hand, the threat to vulnerable people (such as pedestrians, the blind, and visually-impaired) has been identified and will be more readily addressed since it affects humans; however, animals are usually of secondary concern to civilised society. Indeed, as far as this author is aware, there are no plans to directly address the threat that this poses to animals since it is not considered a primary concern. After all, problems can only be consciously addressed when they are sufficiently acknowledged.

Is There a Statistical Relationship between Roadkill and Electric Vehicle Usage?

Whilst there is data available on roadkill in various jurisdictions, the author is unaware of statistical analyses based on whether electric vehicles are the cars increasingly doing the killing or not. Such an analysis may be difficult to conduct because of the need to control for various factors and separate other potential causal factors from the relationship, as well as problems with actually observing ‘the kill’, but the hypothesis itself is a relatively intuitive and simple one: that is, given that there is an increasing number of electric vehicles on roads globally, does this translate to higher killings of animals on roads by vehicles. However, this hypothesis – as reasonable as it may seem – so far has yet to be proven or fleshed out empirically (as far as this author is aware).

Concluding Remarks

Whether this problem is dealt with or not (and, indeed, whether it can be), it certainly raises concerns from various perspectives that are not usually considered. Perhaps, however, the ‘survival of the fittest’ mechanism prevalent in ecosystems will lead to animals that are able to adapt and avoid death thriving in these ever-changing environments. Obviously, the ability of animals to adapt cannot be underestimated but neither can it be taken for granted, especially if technological progress outpaces their capacity to adapt.

What is the solution? As with all things, that will be considered only when the problem itself is sufficiently acknowledged.

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