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Car use declines, EVs take over

Posted: 01 Sep 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EV market  peak car  car use 

With the decline in car use, the concept of peak car has been observed in countries such as the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Australia and Sweden as early as 2004. Emerging economies are also not far behind, according to IDTechEx.

In many countries, both peak car ownership and peak per-person car travel has also been reached. Although the market is seen to further regress, emerging economies are somehow compensating for this, but only temporarily. It is foreseen that the decline in car use will be noticed in these economies as well.

Factors that contribute to peak car include demography, change in lifestyle, improvement in public transportation, gridlock, fuel and car maintenance costs, increase in car life and car fuel inefficiency.

Japan, which has the world's oldest population, was the first to see peak car in the 1990s. Populations are greying and pensioners do not drive to work. In countries such as the U.S., healthcare costs in old age can be crippling, leaving minimal disposable income. One of the electric vehicle (EV) positives coming from this is continued recession-proof sales of mobility vehicles for the disabled. The growing number of elderly people is more likely to have a pure electric mobility scooter or power chair rather than a car. These vehicles are enjoying their second decade of strong increase in sales.

IDTechEx has forecasted the growth of this market from 13 lakh mobility vehicles rising to 31 lakh in 2022. It is a smooth projection of past growth driven by both increasing age and obesity.

For younger adults, the Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) partly replaces cars nowadays and work-from-home arrangements discourage car ownership. You can beat the traffic jams and save money with e-bikes (with throttle) and pedal assisted bikes. IDTechEx has forecasted Rs.26,457.40 crore ($5.9 billion) global market for these as early as 2015 at ex-factory prices. A large market for hybrid electric motorcycles is also on the way.

The largest fall in car use in the U.S. is from people under 35 years old, while 17 year olds with driving licences have dropped from 75 per cent to 50 per cent or so since 1998. U.S. citizens in their 20s no longer drive more than average—they drive less. More of them seek inner city apartments, shop online, telecommute and live in walkable neighbourhoods near public transport. They also increasingly use social media instead of meeting people. The decline is greatest outside city centres, which means gridlock is not the only one to be blamed. The University of West England has been tracking a similar trend in the U.K. where the young are also creating peak car. Bike use is also rising.

Car addiction is being broken as public transport improves, offering quieter, smoother electric buses and taxis, analysed in an IDTechEx report. Additionally, we are now in the age of the 100km traffic jam, increasingly inadequate parking and service stations, congestion charging and vehicles banned from city centres. To encourage use of the new subway, Beijing has capped car licence issuance at 20,000 per month. In countries such as China, India and the Philippines, it is physically impossible to have a large percentage of the population driving cars.

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