Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Affordability and Access: the key to unlocking the EV market.

Berkeley Square, London, 2008. Parking bay after parking bay occupied by electric cars recharging in one of central London's most prestigious squares.

What happened? The government plugged-in car grant excluded the highly successful G-Wiz quadricycle and this sent out a signal that these city vehicles were not supported. What happened as a result? These low cost (less than GBP 10,000) electric vehicles were no longer imported and demand died, because private motorists did not want to pay £25,000 instead for the alternatives from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Citroen and Peugeot.

The UK government are consulting in preparation for development of the next EV and EV infrastructure strategy. Perhaps this time the focus will be on affordability of EVs, coupled with guaranteed access to a charge point for residents.

In my opinion, this is the key to unlocking low carbon transport in cities.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

EU law to create market for electric cars

Cars using alternative sources of clean energy are not finding a market due to a lack of fuelling stations and high price tags according to the European Union as reported by
EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (24 January) that member states must take the initiative to build the stations to help open the market, cut CO2 emissions and reduce dependency on oil.
"We need to set targets to build the necessary fuel stations and make them compatible everywhere," he said.
Around 10 percent of the EU transport sector must run on renewable sources of energy by 2020 according to previous EU accords.
The hope is to reduce member state dependency on the fossil fuel that, according to an expert group on future transport fuels who advise the commission, will peak sometime this decade.At the same time, the demand for energy is set to increase amid a dwindling supply of oil.
"Oil, the main energy source for transport overall, supplying 100 percent of road transport fuels is currently expected to reach depletion on the 2050 perspective," notes the Future Transport Fuels report penned by the advisory group in 2011.
For its part, the commission estimates daily oil costs for EU transport hovers around €1 billion but could increase given the political volatility of the regions where fossil fuel is most often located.
The Brussels executive wants to impose rigid guidelines and a minimum number of charging points for electrical vehicles to spur market demand as part of its legislative proposal on alternative fuels.
Member states will have 2020 as a deadline to meet the new targets with just under 10 million electrical vehicles expected around the same time.
The new terminal numbers vary widely among member states, with Germany having to put in the most at 150,000. It currently has just under 2,000 charging points, not enough for the some 1 million electric vehicles expected to hit its highways in the next few years.
Meanwhile, around a dozen member states have under 10 charging points like Hungary and Luxembourg.
“We also have to have one common plug for electric vehicles,” said the commissioner.
The Brussels-executive has settled on the German manufactured Type Two plug as an industry a EU-wide standard because it is currently the most widely used.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Forbes reports from the US on the global plug-in market

A recently released study from Pike Research projects annual global sales of electric vehicles will reach 3.8 million by 2020, growing by 40% annually. That growth, is from a very small base: the 23,461 Volts sold last year represented only about a third of a percent of all new passenger cars sold in the United States.

Although the initial numbers are small, the trend is worth watching, as some of the pieces of the electric car puzzle are finally fitting together. Nissan just announced that it will ramp up U.S. assembly of the 2013 model year all-electric LEAF at its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn. The Leaf will be made in the same plant, on the current Altima and Maxima line, and next to Nissan’s gasoline-powered vehicles, and next door to the largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the U.S. The goal is to lower costs and appeal to a broader spectrum of customers. In all of 2012, Nissan sold 9,819 Leafs with about 19,500 on the road in the US, and 50,000 worldwide. And of course, Toyota has come out with its Plug-in hybrid Prius, selling 12,750 units in the last last year alone. In fact the total plug-in sales tripled from just over 17,500 in 2011 to about 53,000 in 2012.

Meanwhile, other entrants from the major car companies – from BMW to Mitsubishi – are joining the market. And there are the pure plays as well, such as Fisker and Tesla. The latter’s Model S – at $58,570 and priced competitively among relevant high-performance peers – just won 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year with the magazine commenting “The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius…By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile, perhaps the most accomplished all new luxury car since the original Lexus LS 400…At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel.” (It’s that kind of comment that suggest that alternative technologies in transportation have truly arrived. They are no longer green curiosities – they are great vehicles).
Tesla not only makes a great car, but it seems to have turned the corner on production volumes as well. In Q3 of last year, they went from making 5 cars per week to 100. By November, they had scaled to 200 cars per week, and have a goal of 20,000 for 2013.

So the era of the electric car appears to be dawning upon us. But what about the charging side of the equation? What does that mean for our electric power grid? The first thing to understand is that electric vehicle adoption has been hampered by a fear of running out of electricity, so-called ‘range anxiety,’ since they don’t get the hundreds of miles per fill-up one gets with a gasoline-powered vehicle. The lithium ion batteries simply do not yet have that capacity. To account for this, networks of charging stations are being built across North America. There are standards emerging for these chargers, but there is still some confusion among options.

Tesla, for example, has opted to build out its own proprietary networkalong well-traveled routes. It currently has nine stations – six in CA and three in the Northeast – with plans to go to 100 by 2015. These would be free for Tesla users and not support other vehicles. Meanwhile, drugstore chain Walgreens has plans for up to 800 EV chargers on site, and has 400 deployed in 18 areas including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tampa, and Portland, Oregon. Unlike the Tesla approach, many of these charge about $1-2 per hour.

For its part, the electric energy utility NRG, is taking a dramatic and aggressive approach to move into this space. Through eVgo they offer network charging, where users have the option to pay a fixed monthly fee of as little as $19/month to charge up at DC Fast Charger sites, getting 50 miles of range in 15 minutes, ands they also provide an option for a slow charge as well. They also offer a program to plug in for extended times (at work places or multi-family sites) of 4-8 hours. Finally, eVgo will set up a home charging station for the individual user, with plans at $59/month. Their network started in the Houston and Dallas locations, but they are now extending into California and the Northeast. In California alone (as part of a settlement with the State over issues occurring suring the CA energy crisis over a decade ago) NRG has agreed to build and operate infrastructure for at least 200 fast-charging (480 volt) stations, and a minimum 10,000 level 2 (240 volt) stations in businesses and multi-unit dwellings.

The home charging infrastructure is also getting cheaper and more easily accessible. Lowes, Best Buy, and others now offer charging stations from manufacturers such as Schneider, Leviton, and GE in the $750-1000 cost range.

There are currently over 15,000 charging stations across the U.S., with many of them 240 volt rapid chargers. With that kind of draw on electricity demand, the obvious question is what will happen to peak demand. Will EV drivers draw so much power during driving hours (rush hour, or mid-day), that it contributes to overall peak demand? If so, this would be precisely the opposite of the reason the utilities originally hailed electric cars. The thought ten years ago was that they would mostly be charged at night, filling in the valley of low off-peak demand, and thus allowing more kilowatt-hours to flow across the same infrastructure. However, with rapid charging at higher voltages and kW levels, the dynamic could potentially push exactly the other way.

Let’s look at the actual charging capacities to get a sense of the potential magnitude: In the extreme, Tesla is offering a super high voltage charging opportunity, providing a range of 150 miles to its Model S 85 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery in about 30 minutes. The charge capability is 480 volt, with a maximum 90 kilowatt (kW) draw. That level of voltage and capacity is quite significant. To put it in perspective, for planning purposes the California Energy Commission assumes the average residential household to have a peak ranging between 1.8 and 2.4 kW. So the supercharge station with 90 KW essentially packs the punch of about 40 households worth of peak demand. Looked at another way, a Sears/Kmart store might have 300 kW of peak demand, just over 3x what a single car battery charge would draw for a short period.

The other charging stations out there don’t pack quite the same firepower, but the standard level 2 240-volt chargers can draw up to 19 kW during periods lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours. With increasing numbers of these stations, what is the potential impact to the electric grid?
Deloitte looked at precisely this issue recently, in its report Charging Ahead: The Last Mile.  They interviewed numerous utility planners summarized “Surprisingly, we found that in general, the electric utility infrastructure is already prepared to meet the President’s 2015 challenge. Our research revealed that utilities will not likely need to upgrade or expand transmission or generation capacity in the next ten years specifically to meet electric demand from EVs at projected adoption rates….However, the research did identify near-term impacts to the electric infrastructure that deserve further study at the local distribution level, ‘the last mile,’ including possible clustering of EVs on low-capacity distribution transformers, such as 25 kVA , and the potential impact on local transformers of any capacity if clusters of EVs charge simultaneously during hours of peak electric demand. The research also showed that utilities are studying and addressing these impacts”.

The major findings:
1) Almost all the utilities surveyed had studied the impacts of EVs on their supply infrastructure, with the most common focus being on distribution level impacts, home charging stations, peak-hour charging, and research into transformers.
2) Nearly three-quarters of the utilities do not foresee an impact on the need for new generating capacity, and two-thirds feel they have adequate transmission infrastructure in place. Just over a tenth raised concerns about transformer overloading.
3) However, fully half indicated they are not notified when a ratepayer purchases an electric vehicle in their service territory (a few areas, such as California are working to design notification processes, and the Texas utilities have proposed a law requiring such notification).

For now, at least, any infrastructure problems appear to be at the local level. The concern of some in that area has to do with – ironically – peak demand at night. If a number of 240 volt chargers – which could recharge a car in 2-3 hours – were to be deployed in the evening, during off-peak rates designed to take peak demand from the grid, one might burn out the street-level transformers. “Many of these are undersized and designed to cool at night. Without time to cool, sustained excess current will eventually cook a transformer’s copper windings, causing a short and blacking out the local loads it serves,” according to an article in the IEEE.

This problem may be more than just theoretical. Data concerning the habits of EV owners in an Austin, TX suburb, indicated that over a two month period the residents generally tended to recharge at the same time – when returning from work. This also happened to be when many residents were also turning on air conditioning and other appliances.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Chargemaster joins national network of charge points

GreenCarWebsite reports: Chargemaster joins national network of charge points.

The two leading players in the field of electric vehicles (EVs) infrastructure are to join forces to accelerate the development of a national network of public charging posts.

Chargemaster, which recently bought out rival firm, Elektromotive (Note: the company that employes my services) will partner with Charge Your Car - the North East’s Plugged in Places scheme and the largest regional network of EV charging points in the UK (Note: our joint venture network services company).

Along with partner company, Zero Carbon Futures, the Charge Your Car network now plans to work with Luton -based Chargemaster to structure a mutually beneficial business model for existing customers of both firms.

That will mean that electric car drivers which use the Charge Your Car network will eventually be able to use all Chargemaster public charging points through the network’s operating platform, to simplify payment process and broaden the network.

Likewise Chargemaster customers will be able to use Charge Your Car points in addition to those operated by the company’s own Polar network: the largest recharging network in the UK. Polar customers currently have access to around 1,500 charging points across the country.

The strength of the Charge Your Car network is its newly developed pay-as-you-go (PAYG)  system which connects EV drivers to charge points throughout the UK without the need for multiple membership schemes.

Dr Colin Herron, director of Charge Your Car Ltd, said: “This is a strong partnership bringing together three organisations with natural synergies that are all working towards the goal of the widespread roll-out of EV charging infrastructure. Combined, we will have a network consisting of 70 per cent of all charge points in the UK and through this partnership we will help promote ease of use for EV drivers.”

David Martell, Chief Executive of Chargemaster Plc commented: “This is great news for EV car buyers in the UK. The country now has a coherent network of charging points across the country and we expect this to be a major boost to the growth of low carbon motoring across the UK. The partnership is not only a good example of how the private sector can partner the public sector to serve the country’s needs but is a demonstration on how the UK is leading much of the rest of the world in providing support to the widespread adoption of EVs.”

Charge Your Car has been operating in North East England since 2010, installing a network of charge points for the region. Following an announcement last year, the company entered into an agreement with Elektromotive to fast track the development of its service and expand from a regional to a national network, with a goal of enrolling over 10,000 charge points under one infrastructure service.

EU to mandate for more EV charge points

BusinessGreen: European Commission proposes mandating  deployment of charge points in member states in push to boost low-carbon vehicles

UK electric car drivers could have 122,000 public charge points to choose from by the end of the decade, under new EU plans to accelerate the rollout of infrastructure to support alternative fuel vehicles.
The European Commission today published a proposal to mandate a minimum number of standardised public recharging points that each member state should have in place by 31 December 2020.

The proposals argue that deploying "a critical mass of charging points" would allow auto companies to mass produce vehicles at reasonable prices while ensuring motorists can refuel easily.
The commission has put forward the idea, alongside plans to promote hydrogen and natural gas powered vehicles, with a view to accelerating the distribution of low-carbon vehicles across the EU.
Currently, electric vehicles (EVs) make up just 11,000 of the bloc's 200 million-strong passenger fleet. But the proposals argue that a rapidly expanding EV fleet would help the EU slash its €1bn daily spend on oil imports and contribute towards its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.
Should the plans be approved by member states and the European Parliament, the UK would have to significantly ramp up its charging infrastructure. The country would be required to deploy 122,000 public chargers, making it the third largest recharging network in the EU, behind Germany with 150,000 charge points and Italy with 125,000.
However, the commission notes that these public networks would represent just 10 per cent of the total number of charge points in any country, meaning when domestic and workplace chargers are taken into account the UK total could exceed 1.2 million.
Currently, there are about 7,500 charge points in the UK and plans are in place for a significant expansion in the network designed to support the roll out of 1.55 million electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020.
However, the UK currently has no formal target for the number of charging points it plans to install, instead mainly relying on private companies to build a national network on the back of publically funded trials in London, the North East and the Midlands.
Chargemaster, the UK's biggest charge point company, operates around 5,000 chargers in the UK after purchasing rival Elektromotive last year.
David Martell, chief executive of Chargemaster, told BusinessGreen he was confident the industry could scale up sufficiently to meet demand should the EU rules come into force.
"These are big numbers," he said. "But it's a very competitive industry so the capacity is there."
A Department for Transport spokesman said the government would work with the Commission on the detail of the proposals, but added it does not support mandatory targets for deployment of infrastructure.
He added the government favours a technology neutral approach that allows it the flexibility to respond to new technologies coming on to the market.
However, the spokesman also pointed to £400m that will be invested during this Parliament to provide infrastructure, consumer incentives and tackle other barriers to electric vehicle uptake, including developing a universal approach.
"As the use of alternatively fuelled vehicles become mainstream, it will be important to ensure that common standards are agreed to ensure consumers can gain access to and use the refuelling infrastructure in place," he said in a statement. "We recognise that infrastructure is one area where the market is not always able to deliver, so we welcome the European Commission taking a strong position on this issue."
The EU's new plans also feature proposals for a system of hydrogen refuelling stations, as well as a network of liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations, which would be deployed every 400km along major European road networks, and LNG fuelling points for ships that would be installed at 139 maritime and inland ports.
In addition, a network of compressed natural gas pumps is planned for every 150km of major road routes, providing a further boost to efforts to switch heavy good vehicles to cleaner burning gas engines.
Meanwhile, biofuels, which already make up five per cent of the EU fuel market, are not deemed to need any specific infrastructure, but the commission notes more work needs to be done to ensure biofuels are genuinely sustainable.
In an emailed statement, climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard called the proposals a "win for the climate, businesses, consumers and jobs".
"We can finally stop the chicken-and-the-egg discussion on whether infrastructure needs to be there before the large-scale rollout of electric vehicles," she added. "With our proposed binding targets for charging points using a common plug, electric vehicles are set to hit the road in Europe. This is climate mainstreaming in action."
Jos Dings, director at campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), welcomed the move to mandate charging infrastructure, but added complementary legislation would be needed to push manufacturers towards producing greener vehicles.
"With this proposal in place, we should move full throttle in setting ambitious CO2 standards for cars and vans for 2020 and 2025, so that car-makers will actually make the vehicles that will use this infrastructure," he said.
However, the extent to which the UK embraces the new strategy is likely to remain open to question, after Prime Minister David Cameron this week promised an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU and highlighted environmental policies as one of the areas where he wanted to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Bugatti EV concept

The French designer Marc Devauze has designed the Type Bugatti Zero concept, a fully electric powered, single seater Bugatti based on the most successful racer Bugatti ever, the 1920 Type 35. 

The concept car is equipped with four wheel mounted electric motors and an interchangeable battery pack for racing.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mahindra e2O formally unveiled

Mumbai, January 7, 2013 — Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., a part of the US $15.9 billion Mahindra Group, today named its next generation, future ready, electric car as the ‘Mahindra e2o’. The Mahindra e2o is the manifestation of Mahindra Group’s vision of the ‘Future of Mobility’, which was revealed earlier this year by Group Chairman Anand Mahindra. It involves the creation of future-ready vehicles that meet the 5 C’s framework of - Clean, Convenient, Connected, Clever and Cost Effective. The Mahindra e2o is the first step in the creation of an entire electric vehicle value chain and ecosystem by the Mahindra Group.

Pronounced as ‘Ee-too-oh’, the electric vehicle has undergone extensive testing, validation and has been certified as road worthy in India. The Mahindra e2o is slated to be launched soon and will be produced at Mahindra Reva’s recently inaugurated plant in Bengaluru. This is India’s first platinum certified automobile plant and has a rated capacity of 30,000 cars per annum.

Started under the project code name NXR, the Mahindra e2o is ‘Powered by Reva’, benefiting from Mahindra Reva’s extensive experience in electric cars.

The Mahindra e2o has been named keeping in mind the overall Mahindra Reva philosophy of “inspired by orange to go green” for sustainable living. The ‘e’ in Mahindra e2o stands for the energy of the Sun which is abundant and clean. The ‘2’ pronounced as ‘to’ signifies the connected technologies in the car, while ‘o’, represents ‘Oxygen’, the life force that sustains all of our existence on Planet Earth. Thus, the name in its totality is a testimony to the Mahindra Group’s commitment to a cleaner environment for our planet.

Commenting on the Mahindra e2o, Dr. Pawan Goenka, President, Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd said, “The Mahindra e2o is a game changing development within the personal mobility space that will help the Mahindra Group usher in a positive change in the lives of our customers. We are on the threshold of ushering in a new paradigm across the automotive value chain, by bringing in products and mobility solutions which will bear testimony to our commitment to create a cleaner environment on planet Earth. This is significant step towards creating a comprehensive eco-system of sustainable mobility solutions, encompassing alternative technologies such as electric, hybrid and fuel cells into our research, development and commercialisation plans”.

Chetan Maini, Founder and Chief of Strategy & Technology, Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd, said, “The Mahindra e2o is a very real solution to power personal mobility for a sustainable future. Based on the Mahindra Group’s 5 C’s reference framework, this truly is a technologically advanced mobility solution for the future. Besides being a true friend of the environment, the Mahindra e2o also brings to the Indian consumer cutting-edge technological innovation that will help them remain connected in a convenient and cost-effective manner”.

The Mahindra e2o will use next generation Lithium Ion batteries and have a range of 100 kms per charge which is adequate for most daily journeys within the city. The Mahindra e2o will enable users to charge their vehicle through any 15 ampere plug point at home, or at the workplace. 

Mahindra Reva has also developed and integrated a host of proprietary technologies for the Mahindra e2o, all of them directly inspired by the vision of the Future of Mobility. In addition, the Mahindra e2o is capable of using the futuristic ecosystem of ‘Sun2Car’ to derive energy from the sun to charge the vehicle, while helping to protect and preserve the environment.

Future of Mobility and 5 C’s

In August 2012, the Mahindra Group unveiled a movement that seeks to encourage its stakeholders to co-imagine and co-create with it a shared vision of the future of mobility. To kick start the movement, a framework that captures the critical elements of future change - the 5 C’s framework – was introduced. The 5 C’s are ‘Clean’, ‘Convenient’, ‘Connected’, ‘Clever’ and ‘Cost-efficient’ and when taken together, they define the ‘future of mobility’. For more information on the Future of Mobility, visit  

About Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd.
Mahindra Reva is a pioneer of electric vehicle (EV) technologies and one of the world’s most experienced EV manufacturers. Founded in 1994 as the Reva Electric Car Company, the company was a joint venture between the Maini Group of Bengaluru and AEV LLC of USA.  Reva focused on creating affordable electric cars through advanced technology and launched its first model in India in 2001, and in London in 2004.

In May 2010, the USD 15.9 billion, 155,000-employee Mahindra Group acquired a majority stake in the company, which was renamed Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd.  Mahindra Reva remains headquartered in Bengaluru, India, next to Electronics City – one of the world’s Information Technology hubs.

Today Mahindra Reva has one of the world’s largest deployed fleets of electric cars – customers in 24 countries have driven their Reva’s petrol-free for over 220 million kms. The company produces its own cars, licenses out its electric vehicle technologies, electrifies existing platforms, and helps to deliver integrated zero-emissions mobility solutions. The company’s new factory in Bengaluru, which is capable of producing 30,000 cars per year, began production in November 2012.

In 2006, Reva was acclaimed by Business World India as one of India’s ‘Cool Companies’ and in 2008 was the recipient of the Frost & Sullivan Automotive Powertrain Company of the Year award.  In 2010, the Reva i was crowned Green Car of the Year at the Overdrive & CNBC TV18 awards.
More details are available on

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pike Research: 3.8m EVs globally by 2020

According to Pike Research, while hybrid vehicles have been widely available for more than a dozen years, the global market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has grown in the last 2 years, reaching more than 120,000 unit sales worldwide in 2012.

Pike forecast 827,000 PEVs will be sold in Europe in 2020, representing 4% of total new car sales. According to Pike’s research, the biggest spike in sales will be of electric cars themselves, with more than 1.8million electric cars on the road by 2020 in Europe. Meanwhile, there will be 1.7million hybrid cars on the road and 1.2million plug-in hybrid electric cars.

Germany, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden are set to lead the way for electric car sales on the continent – accounting for 67 per cent of the total market and each accounting for a volume exceeding six figures. Only four countries however, will sell more than 100,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles: Germany, France, Italy and the UK.

The report also highlights that in 2011, battery electric cars accounted for just 0.1 per cent of the market – with France, Germany and Norway selling just over 2,000 electric cars and the UK in fourth place with just over 1,000 electric cars sold. Most of these sales were to government agencies and utility companies: an indication that the market is still testing the technology and highlighting the need for electric car charging infrastructure to become more widely available.

The future of mobility: a view from Herz

A view from Hertz on the future of mobility: The rise of the smartphone and new forms of car mobility are forcing change at a rapid pace.

The current economic climate presents significant challenges to all businesses, but is also a catalyst for innovation across many industries.

As consumers change the way they behave, they will push industries in unforeseen directions.

For our market sector, the response to such trends centres on attitudes to car ownership and the impact of smartphone technology.

The West has had a love affair with the car since the 1950s, but in the richest cities and especially in their centres, car ownership and use is declining.

Over the last 20 years, more and more people are living in cities, so the density of the city centres has been increasing rapidly. People now prefer to live in multi-use areas that combine residential, office, shopping and schools in close proximity.

In London, 40% of households do not own a car, according to a 2012 report by Transport for London.

The decline in car ownership decline is particularly evident in the capital's fall in multi-car households, which dropped from 21% in 2001 to 17% in 2007.

Instead of the traditional focus on cars and driving, people are mixing and matching their transport choices - using what they need when they need it - and the radical advances in technology are making such "smart mobility" possible.

Mobile apps can make travelling by different modes of transport seamless. It is now easy to combine air, rail and car travel in new ways to reach a destination.

Londoners can access Boris bikes, the Tube, rail networks, taxis, car sharing schemes, car rental and even hire practical vans for visits to B&Q - all via their smartphones.

Changing attitudes to car ownership

Hyundai's Connectivity Concept

In-car technology is changing the way people interact with cars

Both car ownership and vehicle-kilometres driven in cities in developed countries may be reaching saturation, or even be on the wane, according to a recent report by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

People no longer automatically associate mobility with owning a car.

Instead, many of them want access to as many transport options as possible.

It is vital for companies in the motor industry, whether carmakers or rental car firms, to keep in step with and respond to these changing trends around smart mobility.

Car ownership, with all the costs involved, is not necessarily the right model for city dwellers any longer.

In the mature European market in particular, we are seeing multi-car households cut back to own just one car.

This has increased demand for solutions such as hourly car sharing schemes, as well as for a far wider range of cars for hire at all price points.

Car sharing is particularly attractive to younger consumers, whose attitude to ownership has been compared to dating.

People get to try out different cars, different lifestyles, and different identities. For them, owning a car feels like being tied down.

Impact of smartphones

Traffic jam in Moscow

In large cities, the car does not always offer the best solution

The ownership shift is made possible by the widespread availability of smartphone technology and mobile apps.

Accessibility is now 24/7 and everything can be done on the mobile phone or a tablet. Find a vehicle nearby, reserve it, pay for it, change destinations and drop-offs, and access guides and navigation.

Smartphone apps also now enable users to find a taxi in less-trafficked parts of the city, thereby increasing utilisation of the taxi fleet, or they can use their handsets to find parking places and walking routes.

Such spontaneity means travel and transport providers have to be increasingly flexible and reactive to their consumers' needs.

We cannot expect loyalty; we have to earn it.

Speed of response and customer service is what sets businesses apart, as people base their decisions upon ease and value.

Amidst all this technology, it is vital that customers can still interact with companies directly and face-to-face.

Convenience must also be balanced with a good customer experience. Companies simply cannot afford to lose that human element.

Era of the electric vehicles

Nissan Leaf

Electric cars could help cut emissions in cities

As car ownership continues to decline in many Western cities, we will see a higher adoption of electric vehicles - including both bicycles and cars, city-centric cars and other forms of compact motorised vehicles not yet seen.

Electric mobility has a critical role to play in achieving the goal of sustainable transport, and we - along with others in the motor industry - have a responsibility to help reduce emissions.

Electric vehicle adoption has started slowly as infrastructure of charging networks are still being built up.

But as these networks reach critical density, the rate of uptake will pick up.

China in particular has focused its strategic plan on using electric vehicles as way to provide a cleaner, more sustainable transport option.

Shenzhen stands out as a city that has deployed several hundred all-electric taxis, all-electric municipal buses and a charging station network.

In London, meanwhile, electric taxis are expected to be trialled in 2013. It has been claimed this could eliminate 20% of the capital's exhaust pollution caused by its 22,000 black cabs.

In Rome, holiday-makers and commuters travelling into the city by train can now continue their journey using electric vehicles based at the two main stations at a cost of just 8 euros ($10.60; £6.50) an hour. We see this model spreading throughout Europe.

We, and some of our rivals, are partnering with city authorities and electric infrastructure providers worldwide to make electric vehicles in cities a viable option.

This is already happening in London, Oxford and Paris.

Hiring alternative fuel cars without having to worry about infrastructure is a great way of making people more comfortable with this technology and tackling worries such as range anxiety.

Many city mayors are implementing car sharing and electric vehicle schemes for these purposes, while we see more corporations asking for electric and petrol-electric hybrid models in their fleets to support their corporate sustainability targets.

Innovation, whether in terms of embracing new technologies or tapping into consumer trends, or both, is critical in many market sectors to drive a successful future in a still uncertain economy.

In my industry, we need to adapt to new modes and patterns of transportation. Sustainable mobility needs to also offer choice, convenience, flexibility and value.

This is why we are focused on smart mobility; you need to be smart in the current market to remain competitive.