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The car-sharing paradox: fewer cars, more traffic

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Car-sharing, if and when it booms, will have major effects on the way we travel. Some effects will be paradoxical. A recent study by PwC predicts fewer cars… but much more traffic.
 
“Within a few years, the present norm under which most people drive their own car will be just one mobility concept among many”, predicts PwC expert Christoph Stuermer. Analysts predict substantial growth for the various formulas - present and future - that go under the heading ‘car-sharing’.
 
Drastic reduction
This would drastically reduce the need for individually-owned vehicles. The PwC study projects that a significant increase in car-sharing could lead to a reduction in the overall fleet in Europe by 80 million units - from 280 million today to 200 million by 2030.
 
PwC foresees an increased degree of sophistication in the delivery of car-sharing services, which in future will be as accessible in rural areas as they already are (or theoretically can be) in urban environments today. As a consequence, up to a third of Europe’s total mileage could be performed by shared vehicles.
 
14 private cars
More shared vehicles means less vehicles: an earlier study by HERE posits that one shared car removes the need for 14 private cars. Counter-intuitively, less vehicles would not mean less traffic.
 
In fact, the PwC study predicts, Europe’s roads will be even busier than today, as shared vehicles will be used much more often than individually-owned vehicles. A shared car tallies up around 58,000 km/y - about as much as a taxi - while a private car averages about 13,200 km/y.
 
Fully autonomous
Further amplifying the intensification of traffic via car-sharing will be another megatrend - autonomous driving. When fully autonomous, vehicles will be able to drive without anyone on board, for example on their way to pick up passengers. This obviously adds to the weight of (people) traffic already out there.
 
High-intensity car-sharing will also have a major impact on overall vehicle life-cycles. Due to their increased usage, shared cars will have to be replaced much earlier - PwC estimates a replacement every 3.9 years rather than the current average of 17.3 years.
 
Silver lining
Such high turnover provides a silver lining for manufacturers: what they lose in overall volume, they gain (at least partially) in faster turnover. The study predicts a 33% rise in the number of new cars by 2030, to 24 million units.
 
All manufacturers, big or small, will have to think long and hard about the impact of car-sharing on their business model, their product range, their investment strategy.
Still, says PwC, the reduction in overall volume could become problematic for the smaller manufacturers who lack critical mass and who could find themselves squeezed out of the market as a consequence.
 
54% says no
Inversely, the rise of car-sharing could also signal the emergence of totally new players in the automotive market. It remains to be seen, however, how soon those dramatic changes will start to take effect.
 
PwC also surveyed various nationalities for their readiness to accept car-sharing as an alternative to the current model of individual car ownership (or at least usage). While 84% of Chinese said they would like to give it a try, no less than 54% of Germans said Nein to ever joining a car-sharing scheme.
 
Image: GoToVan/Evo Car Sharing, CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 16:00Frank JacobsSmart MobilityEurope
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