2025 is less than seven years away and by then cars on the road in many countries will look very different to how they do now.
Although predicting the future is always difficult, I thought that I would do some research on this subject before embarking on the costly and potentially unnecessary purchase of a new car. What I found was quite enlightening and I thought it may be worth sharing with you.
The Climate Group launched EV100, a new business campaign aimed at fast-tracking the uptake of electric vehicles (EV) and its required infrastructure at the Climate Week in New York City in October 2017. Helen Clarkson, its CEO explained: “We want to make electric transport the new normal. There are two fundamental problems to be addressed. Transport is still the fastest growing area of carbon emissions, as the shift to electric vehicles is not happening fast enough; and mass system change, even with Government intervention, needs much greater customer demand”.
“EV100 will use companies’ collective global buying power and influence on employees and customers to build demand and cut costs. The members being announced today see the business logic in leading a faster transition and addressing local air quality issues in their markets. They are setting a competitive challenge to the auto industry to deliver more EVs, sooner and at lower cost.”
Unilever, IKEA Group, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Baidu, LeasePlan, HP Inc., METRO AG, Heathrow Airport, PG&E and Vattenfall are the first 10 companies to have signed up to this initiative and have committed to replacing their diesel/petrol vehicle fleets with electric vehicle fleets and installing electric battery charging infrastructure by 2030. LeasePlan is planning to have replaced its entire fleet with electric vehicles by 2021. They recognise that there is a real business case since it will create long-term savings and boost competitiveness whilst enabling their organisations to make a significant contribution towards the protection of the environment.
Given this step change in adopting electric cars, I thought it would be useful to explore the matter further. Speed was one of the reasons why most people did not wish to own an electric car until very recently, but the arrival of Tesla on the market dramatically changed people’s perceptions (although cost, battery technology and charging infrastructure are still barriers to mass market adoption). The British inventor, James Dyson, said last September that he is planning to launch a “radically different” electric car by 2020.
However, I realised that the electric battery charging infrastructure is not quite ready in my country and that the £60,000 entry point price for a Tesla Model S is definitely well over my own definition of a reasonable budget for a car. In my view, they are not an investment but are consumer products instead, which depreciate in value over time.
I subsequently wondered whether I should perhaps keep my “old” petrol car for now (not so old really since after 11 years, it is still in very good condition and will certainly still run for quite a few more years) and then consider sharing a car – when mine would eventually break down. By then, the infrastructure for charging electric cars would have hopefully improved, battery capacity increased and their cost reduced substantially.
After all, my family and I only need a car at the weekend. So, do we really need a car when we could just hire one as and when needed? There are a number of car sharing schemes around these days. A quick Google search took me to the Zipcar and RideLink websites. Zipcar has quite a few parking spots within less than half a mile from my house and one literally 150 yards away. Many of my friends already use car sharing schemes and praise their benefits. They are apparently very convenient with numerous parking spots in large cities. This comes with user friendly booking systems (although some may argue that the need to book in advance results in a loss of spontaneity) and, since they reduce the number of cars manufactured, they are a green and sustainable solution for future transportation.
There are also talks about self-driving cars making their way to the market very soon. BI Intelligence explained recently that by 2020, there would be nearly 10 million cars with one of its self-driving car features on the road. General Motors is apparently ready to launch mass production of self-driving cars.
Finally, my partner mentioned over dinner last night that a number of manufacturers are currently studying the feasibility of testing self-flying cars. Whether this is a viable idea in the near future is not the point here but it definitely made me think.
So, should I buy a new car now out of a mixture of vanity, fear of being seen in an old car by other parents at the school gates, envy of our next-door neighbour’s top of the range latest petrol guzzler or should I follow my own instinct as someone who cares deeply about the environment?
With so many future options on the horizon my conclusion was that I just do not need a new petrol car and will keep my not so “old” one for now. There is a high probability that, in a few years’ time, the cost of electric cars will have substantially decreased, battery capacity will have substantially increased and the charging infrastructure will have vastly improved. Who knows… I may not even want to be seen in my very own car and will instead take pride in riding around (or even flying) in a fully recyclable, user operated fully autonomous or shared scheme electric car sporting a big flashy Zipcar- or equivalent type logo!
I hope that by sharing my very own thought process with you, I have made you ask yourselves a few questions and prompted you to consider how through your very own car ownership, you could actually play a significant part in a more sustainable future for our planet.