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The end of the car

For many this may be a strange and even absurd title. The car has become a part of our life that we cannot imagine eliminated. The car has become a culture on its own, a status symbol and key user item within our daily routines. Why then such provocative title as if the car would disappear? Let us look at some signs and common sense:


  • The European Commission issued a paper in which the car is banned from any city environment by 2050.
  • 80% of our car use is for the short distance. If we live in the city and car use is banned we serious ask ourselves why we would need to possess one if just used for family visites, recreation and travel out of town?
  • A paper was issued annoucing plans to introduce CO2 tax on usage of vehicals. For many decades governments have enriched themselves on taxes over fuel and never bothered about CO2 until the global warming started to become an issue. Using tax money to pay for a larger infrastructure now they want to use our CO2 emissions to reduce their deficits. If at the same time they open up their policies for speeded introductions of vehicals on alternative energy forms this taxing may be stimulous for people to consider such car. But what would be next? A tax on fine dust emision of the tires?
  • In many large city the space burden of cars is tremendous. Not just a car that is in use and causes pollution, traffic jams and accidents, but also a stationed car that causes spacial problems when not in use, which is most of the time. Parking in those cities has gone up as much as 7 euros per hour, growing steadily to discourage car ownership.
  • In villages the luxory of a parking space in the street in front of the house is now seen by government as a service which can be charges as one uses public space that otherwise could be used for other activities, s.a. foodproduction or recreation ground for children en elderly people or space for CO2 reducing and water managing living green. Yearly tarrifs of 3000 euros and more have been seen already in certain municipalities. This, over an average life time of 5 years of a new car in a family, dubbles the cost of ownership.
  • Petrol has grown tremendously expensive over de last few years. At the end of the month the traffic jams reduce because people cannot use the car anymore until their next pay check arrives. They stay at home,use public transportation or use alternative facilities like car sharing, the bycicle, etc.
  • Less directly visible is the annual cost of pollution and green house effect in cities on human health. It is scientifically estimated that a government can save yearly up to 700 euros per inhabitant if they pay attention to air quality alone (http://www.aireas.com ).
  • Also less visible and measurable is the lack of human productivity due to time inefficiencies in private transportation, health issues due to stress and pollution and long term consequences of reduced family quality time on children due to long parental absence during the day.
  • The entire world economy is under pressure due to the intense speculation with money of banks, governments, multinationals, etc. The crises follow each other up rapidly each with a strong national but also potentially global character. It becomes more and more difficult to have and to keep a job while social securities, pensions and insurances are also under pressure due to mismanagement of funds. While our individual financial securities show a decreasing line the cost of our traditional life style is rocketing sky high with the end not yet in sight. More and more people are seriously looking at their quality of life all together and feel forced to start considering important modifications. The untouchable luxury of the car is slowly becoming touchable.
Common sense:
All these signs together are a wake up call for us as individuals to start considering our dependence on our car and look for alternatives before the cost of ownership of a vehicle exceeds our posibilities. Common sense says:
  • that using a vehicle with a weight of more than 1000 kg to transport a human body of 80 kg is a serious waste of energy in times that this becoming very scarce and expensive.
  • that the booming growth of vehicles in use in the world, from 150 million 40 years ago to 130 billion now, is bound to reach limits in every aspect of its existence if not modified along the way. As the car today in essence is the same as a car 100 years ago we see all kinds of difficulties appearing in usage of resources, space, etc.
  • for many decades the car has been a significant part of any nation’s economy through huge taxation on ownership and usage, as well as all the labor it produced in the manufacturing processes, services and expansion of infrastructures. This has caused these same governments to push for growth in the sector and become reluctant to stimulate innovations in this field.
  • changing the entire automotive panaroma requires a lot of time and effort now and this has not very much to do just with the car itself or all surrounding factors but with our own human mentality and culture around the ownership and availability of a vehicle. People are still willing to eat less or with reduced quality to maintain their luxus of a car that is not used 80% of the time.
  • no one abandons freely the car if this is not compensated with alternative ways for getting from A to B that are at least as easy and comfortable in use as the car. The investment to make alternatives available and the effects of such alternatives on our surroundings is tremendous. Right now many governments are reluctant to take one this transformation due to their economic dependence on the old complex mobility but soon they will have no choice. When that occurs a whole new perspective opens up for business and social innovation but not without a serious dip in economic stability of the region. Organic transformation to a new system in parallel with the reduction of the old system would have been the best choice but for that it seems too late. A compulsory transformation pushed by crises will be more likely to happen now. The sooner it occurs the better it will be for the individual and sustainable potential of the entire region.
So, if you ask me again: is the end of the car in sight? I would respond YES! At least the way we know automobility as it stands today. We are facing rapid and important changes in the near future. How long will it take? I can only guess. The complexity of variables is huge but a few parameters are key: when will the expected crisis of China occur that will again bring a global crisis? When will other financial based crises around the world (Greece, Portugal, food, water, etc) cause a new global crisis? When will we run out of oil?
I expect all this to happen within the next five to eight years max. So the transformation of our automotive world will come hand in hand with these crises. Ten years from now we will not use cars anymore as we do today.

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