Rebound effect

Electro-mobility is probably the single most important topic among the smart cities projects included here. However, it is also a good example of where “unexpected” rebound effects can cancel out advantages — or even worsen the problem.

For example, in less than a decade the purchase cost of an e-vehicle will be the same as that of a vehicle powered by fossil fuel, while maintenance and running costs are already well below those of traditional vehicles. With the large-scale uptake of electro-mobility, we may thus soon see an accelerated loss of public transport passengers, and significantly worse urban congestion.

Such rebound effects are very frequent in the context of technological innovations (e.g. the spread of computers vs. paper and energy use.) At present, very little attention is given to rebound effects, in spite of their huge importance. However, with timely policy interventions, they can generally be prevented (in the case of electro-mobility, for example, by elevating charging costs to the same level as fossil fuels).