(2019-10) Disruption, transition, self-driving cars, from ownership to sharing, etc. are the buzz words of the trend watcher. It is said that the number of cars will decrease rapidly in the future. Some claim that in the Netherlands in 2030, 90% fewer cars will be driving; that means a decrease of nearly 8 million passenger cars. The few hundred thousand that are left are completely self-driving, neatly on call and are shared by all of us. Property is out of question. The size of the fleet in 2030 will then be roughly comparable to that of 1963. In short, many garage companies will end their business and through the arrival of the self-driving cars, driving schools, truckers and taxi – and uber drivers will soon be superfluous.
Although these are interesting predictions, it will not run that fast. Although car sharing is interesting in busy cities, ownership of the car remains favorite. This is partly due to the fact that car costs compared to total household costs have fallen steadily since the 1960s despite the high taxes and the occasional oil crisis. Car sharing replaces property, but also tram and bus journeys can prevent the annual growth of the fleet.
It is undeniable that things are changing. Digitization, a focus on environmental policy, the growth of cities, the desire to be less geopolitically dependent, the costs of traffic jams and certainly also the rise of Tesla are to cause of this.
However, the speed of change or degree of impact is debatable. The nice thing about making future predictions is that everyone can do that and nobody can be blamed for that, because predictions can only be proven afterwards, not in advance. In the 1995 edition of Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology magazine, John Wallace, the spokesperson for Ford’s electric vehicle program, was asked how he saw the future of electric cars. Wallace indicated that around 2010/2015 he estimated a market share of fully electric cars in and around the cities from at least 10% to perhaps even 20%. He also said: I always like to predict, because in 20 years everyone has long forgotten that I’ve said this.
I have done a lot of research into transitions and innovations from the past and it appears that almost all future predictions from the past to date did not come true at all or only much later. But fair is fair; Past results offer no guarantees for the future.
For example, the battery prices have fallen even faster than previously thought, but with rapid mass switching to electric driving, all kinds of problems arise. This includes, among other things, the capacity of the electricity grid, the production capacity and extraction of (rare) natural materials and the political pressure to keep the combustion engine still alive because of maintaining employment. The tax credits for electric cars also decrease, while plug-in hybrids with emissions below 50 grams CO2 per kilometer, just like zero emissions of vehicles, receive extra CO2 supercredits per 2021 to further reduce the CO2 fleet average. In addition, through tax credits / subsidies, countries will increasingly compete with each other about who is allocated the scarce electric cars.
There are now almost 10 million passenger cars and delivery vans in the Netherlands. Of these, 68,000 are fully electric (including hydrogen), which is a market share of 0.68%. It is generally expected that there will be around 2 million fully electric cars in 2030, which means a thirty-fold increase in eleven years. There are then 8 million internal combustion engines in need of regular maintenance. This seemingly slow replacement of the combustion engine is also because the average age of passenger cars in the Netherlands is 10 years (in Belgium 7.9 years) and of delivery vans 8.9 (in Belgium 8.2). A car with an internal combustion engine purchased in 2025 will still be driving everywhere in 2030, except in Amsterdam.